Last month I participated in the Annual EASA Safety Conference in Bratislava. The talks focused on emerging business models and new technologies in aviation. The six panels included a wide and interesting variety of topics- including 3D printing of aircraft parts, flight automation, big data and the role of General Aviation as an incubator for new technologies. As a pilot of small airplanes and gliders, the GA part especially caught my attention. One of the most interesting talks was by Emeric de Waziers – co founder of Wingly.
Wingly is an online platform for connecting GA pilots and passengers. The idea is that pilots holding a PPL can offer to share free seats when they make a flight. Different types of flight are catered for including point to point trips and simple leisure flights for people who want to experience something new.
One may ask – can I make money from it? The answer: Not really. The pilots are allowed to share the costs, but they are not allowed to make any profit from the flight. The platform’s policy is that the pilot and each passenger pay an equal share of the cost of the flight. EASA has issued a written confirmation, stating that flight sharing and advertising flight shares is legal, as long as the price for it is equally shared between pilot and passengers. Using Wingly will support GA pilots by making it more affordable for them to build up their flying hours and create the opportunity to share their passion with others.
The platform wants to make sure that all the users have safe and secure flying experience. Wingly allows passengers and pilots to share impressions about each other and a user rating system has been created to make it easier for the users to identify a trustworthy flight companion.
However there is something for the passenger to be aware of. When booking a ride, passengers should accept that the risk related with general aviation flight whilst not high, is significantly higher than commercial aviation. There are many reasons for this – altitude of operations, pilot training, maintenance requirements – but the key issue is that historically the acceptable level of safety is lower for general aviation and pilots are aware of the additional risks.
After the presentation, I had mixed feelings. How trustworthy is a “5-star-rated” pilot with 60 hours of experience? How do I know that the machine I would be flying in is well maintained? There will be a lot of trust required for this business. On the other hand, building up flying experience as a private pilot is really difficult and expensive. This concept makes it more affordable for GA pilots. Moreover it gives the opportunity for people that have never flown a small airplane to experience something new and maybe it will encourage more people to take up the hobby I enjoy so much.
Wingly is not a form of transportation similar to an air taxi service. The initiative of performing a flight comes from the pilots, not the passengers and the pilot must always feel able to cancel a planned flight if they are concerned about the weather. So let’s leave the transportation side to professional air carriers and embrace Wingly as an opportunity for us GA pilots to share our hobby.