Jeff Simon, founder of the mobile and web-based app, and an aviation mechanic, announced a strategic partnership at EAA AirVenture July 28 that allows aviation industry experts to help guide online conversations in new chat forums.
SocialFlight’s new chat forums allow and encourage pilots to talk about news, fly-ins, safety, maintenance, and other issues in a very informal manner.
The difference, said Simon, was SocialFlight’s buy-in from “industry-leading general aviation companies” including Piper, Jeppesen, Lightspeed, FreeFlight, Bose, CamGuard, and Aspen.
Those companies, he said, will have representatives “participating as experts on the SocialFlight-moderated forums to answer questions about technology, training, products, and more.”
Simon hopes those industry experts will keep off-topic rants commonly called “trolling” to a minimum so that good information can be traded with the credibility and the expertise to back it up.
He said one of the goals was to keep the forums a “safe playing field” where people could feel free to discuss issues without the personal attacks that occur in other online venues, including social media.
“We’re on it 24-7 and that won’t happen,” Simon told AOPA. “We simply won’t allow it.” If a user has a beef with a specific manufacturer who participates in the forum, “they’ll take care of the user offline and contact them directly and that’s the end of it.”
Simon pointed out that he is an A&P and an avionics expert and is capable of pointing people in the right direction, too.
“One of the biggest challenges was the pilot-to-pilot interaction,” said Simon. “It’s a complete free-for-all” in many cases, “but that doesn’t mean you’re getting accurate information.”
The new forums on SocialFlight’s event map will have headings for aircraft ownership and maintenance; pilot training and safety; headsets, cameras, and pilot products; and travel, rentals, and community.
He said the idea for SocialFlight itself was to make flying fun and engaging by offering local events, destinations, and attractions to pilots based on their preferences, including the type of events they wanted to see, and how far they wanted to travel to see them.
When he noticed a crossover between pilots and motorcyclists, Simon aimed a similar free online community at two-wheeled travelers called Where2Ride, which has quickly gained speed since its November introduction. Simon said about 20 percent to 25 percent of pilots are motorcycle enthusiasts and “with 10 million motorcyclists in the United States, there’s a real good potential to create more pilots.”
Simon’s online aviation community hinges on SocialFlight’s ability to gather together “tens of thousands of aviation events” and then send out an email reminder once a week that spurs pilots to fly.
“If we can get that engagement then we can get pilots from thinking about flying to getting out there,” said Simon. When aviation enthusiasts have a destination in mind, he explained, they are more engaged in the flying community. “We all benefit and it’s the healthiest thing for our industry.”