April 9, 2013
By Jim Moore
Where2Interactive Founder and President Jeff Simon said SocialFlight now includes social networking capabilities that allow pilots and other aviation enthusiasts to connect based on their interests and location.
In just nine months, more than 15,000 pilots and aviation enthusiasts have signed up for SocialFlight, a networking tool created by Where2Interactive to get pilots out of armchairs and into their cockpits in search of adventure, friendship, and fun.
Founder and President Jeff Simon announced a new version April 9 at the Sun ’n Fun International Fly-In & Expo that incorporates social networking functions that allow users to find each other, not just the thousands of aviation events listed in the database—a number that is also growing fast.
Free to all users and available on nearly every mobile device and computer (Blackberry users must rely on a Web browser, but Android and Apple phones and tablets support the application directly), SocialFlight was launched in 2012 with thousands of events already in the database.
“That generated the excitement that allowed it to spread like wildfire, quite frankly,” Simon said. Users have reported that they are flying more, headed to pancake breakfasts, seminars, fly-ins, and other events they otherwise might not have known about. “That, to me, that’s all I need.”
The business model is supported by advertising, though Simon said care is taken to avoid bombarding users with product pitches. The fast-growing community has taken advantage of an easy-to-use function that allows any user to create an event listing at no charge, and more than 2,000 events are listed for the balance of 2013, a number that also increases daily.
Simon announced new partnerships with three aviation publications— AVweb, General Aviation News, and Kitplanes that are all carrying SocialFlight’s calendar online and in print editions. He hopes to make the system an industry standard aviation event calendar.
Version 3.0 allows users to enter information about what they fly, ratings they hold, and interests they have related to aviation. That social networking profile is used by other users seeking contact with people who share similar interests or knowledge about a specific aircraft or product.
“My goal with doing that is to bridge people from the online world into the real world,” Simon said. “This makes a big difference in being able to make that happen.”
Users can opt out of the social networking feature, just as they can opt out of a weekly email listing events in their area, though Simon said the opt-out rate has been miniscule. He has heard anecdotally from pilots who report flying more often because they have an interesting destination, and event organizers who have drawn attendees they might otherwise have never seen—such as a pancake breakfast organizer whose event drew a stop from a pilot passing by on a long cross-country.
Simon said events are being created specifically because SocialFlight offers a free and effective way to spread the word, and he expects more of that to come.
Getting more pilots in the air, and getting more people interested in aviation and flying, is “to all of our benefit,” Simon said.
AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
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