I ran across an interesting website recently, Sky Pool. The idea is intriguing and offers a bonafide alternative to flying commercially. Imagine the convenience of owning your own small plane and being able to avoid the hassle of going through airport security, finding a parking spot, waiting for your flight time, and then the whole boarding and disembarking process... I get tired just thinking about it. The problem with owning a plane is, well, the cost of owning a plane. But, what if you could enjoy the convenience of flying privately without the cost of buying your own plane?
Sky Pooling - What Is It?
Think of it as 'car pooling' but with a plane. The owner of a small private plane may already be planning a trip to your destination and if you ride along and pay a share of the expenses it makes a win-win for everyone involved. Legally, a private pilot can not charge passengers a fee for a plane trip, but they can collect a pro rata share of the actual expenses of the trip. This loophole opens up the chance for plane owners to be legally paired up with prospective passengers through such arrangements. Here is a more detailed explanation of the FAA rules on expense sharing with passengers.
We spoke with Jim Turner, who founded SkyPool twelve years ago. The biggest question we had was what the cost would be to share expenses on a typical flight. Turner wasn't able to answer that question since he said that his website matches up pilots and passengers and that they don't collect data on what the passengers are paying. He did tell us that many are surprised that the cost may be the same or more as a commercial plane ticket. He added that most passengers are not saving much if any money, but it is the convenience that is the attraction.
Maybe you don't need to get from point A to point B but you simply want to ride along for an afternoon and return to the same airport. The SkyPool website offers passengers a chance to find pilots available for such opportunities as well. Turner shared with me his own experience of being able to ride along on a vintage aircraft recently finding the 'ride' opportunity through his own site.
Doing Your Due Diligence
If you know a little about aviation you can do your own due diligence. Available information on each flight includes the type and age of aircraft, number of hours of flying time the pilot has, and whether the trip is planned for 'visual flight rules' and whether or not the pilot is instrument rated (IFR).
Sky Pooling - How Big Is It?
We found dozens of available trips posted on the sites below.
We also understand that matching between pilots and passengers takes place in aviation forums and chat rooms and through word of mouth at general aviation airports as well.
If you have ever shared a ride with such an arrangement, please use the comments section below and we can start a conversation.
Helping you make the most of God's money!