August 3, 2013
By Alyssa J. Miller
For many pilots, it’s hard to justify a simple $100 hamburger flight with rising fuel prices. But they are ready to lift off if they know they can attend a safety seminar or airshow, meet up with fellow pilots, and get a meal all at one event.
Those are what SocialFlight.com founder Jeff Simon calls perishable events—events that aren’t always available at a nearby airport on any given day like a restaurant is. Pilots feel the need to attend those events and get the educational benefits from them since they are only available at certain times, he explained.
Simon launched the SocialFlight Web and mobile app just after EAA AirVenture last year to show pilots the events near them and give them a way to connect with other pilots in their area or with the same type of aviation interest. Think of it as a calendar of events with Facebook attached to it. Since then, the social group has grown to more than 20,000 members and includes 4,000 aviation events for 2013 in the United States and Canada. The app has the ability to accept international members and a future upgrade will make it easier to search and add international events, Simon said.
On Aug. 2, SocialFlight announced that it is looking for volunteer ambassadors in each state to give presentations to organizations such as Cub Scouts or local EAA chapters to show the number of aviation-related events in a given area and, hopefully, get more people flying. So far, 30 ambassadors, including FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) members, flight instructors, pilots, and aviation enthusiasts, have signed up to help.
Simon said that since the site launched, pilots have contacted him telling him that they are “flying twice as much now” because they are aware of events near them. Small fixed-base operations and flight schools are using the site to market their events and are seeing an increase in attendance, including those who say they heard about the event through SocialFlight. The app, which has been developed for the iPad, iPhone, Android tablet and smartphone, and Web is free to download and use to post or search events or connect with other pilots. That’s particularly appealing to small aviation businesses.
“It’s not like they have a marketing budget,” Simon said.
Those who join the social group can search for other pilots by location or interest and send anonymous invitations to connect similar to that of Facebook. Invitations can be accepted or rejected, and those who can connect can chat and share photos.
In addition to a searchable database and social media features, SocialFlight sends an email every Wednesday to members based on preferences they have set to alert them of events in the coming week they may be interested in attending.
Pilots can search and download the app or visit SocialFlight.com.
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Miller has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.
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