On The Record: Making Aviation More Social

By Robert Mark on July 28th, 2008

From AirVenture 2008 – There’s nothing quite like meeting up with a bunch of pilot buddies on a Saturday morning for a great breakfast. The social aspect of flying, in fact, is one of the best ways for newer pilots to learn from more experienced aviators.

In PR lingo, that’s called sharing tribal knowledge and is worth more to the industry than many often would like to admit because aviators talking about what they do and how they do it is how the new folks learn how and where to fly, for instance, as well as more about what airplanes and headsets to purchase. In the sales world, this is called personal referrals and is what every company lives for.

However … flying – in fact most of aviation – can be a tough sport/hobby/passion/profession to break into if you don’t already know someone who belongs to the club. Take a look at the barbed wires fences and the “Keep Out” signs posted around most airports for a bit more on why many never get that close.

Bringing people together has taken new directions the past few years as Social Media – of which Jetwhine.com is a part, try to use technology as an engagement tool to grab pilots, air traffic controllers as well as the wannabes to these groups. Another term often heard around the social media world is “conversation,” hence the engagement idea. Can’t have a conversation about flying by yourself.

Supporting the continuing evolution of conversations about aviation is a cutting edge piece of social media, a Facebook-like networking tool called MyTransponder.com, the acebrainchild of Chicago-based Rod Rakic, himself a pilot and confessed techno-geek. Rakic is ably assisted at MyTransponder by his alter-ego “Ace.”  ——>

Rakic believes the need to learn from others is what actually drives people to want to be more social around airports. “imagine MyTransponder as a sort of electronic airport restaurant or crew room,” Rakic told me. “This is a great way for us to share those things we all love about flying that are eminently sharable.”

Rakic sees MyTransponder as an aggregator of aviation experiences. “MyTransponder is the place where we can truly share that tribal knowledge.” Rakic explained the often vexing term.

“Imagine that I’m preparing for a flight from Midway and I have my charts spread out all over the table at the FBO,” Rakic said. “If another pilot passes by, they’ll almost always ask where I’m headed or what airplane I’m flying. The conversation begins about the best airplanes, the best route, the best stops along the way. MyTransponder will be the online version of those conversations except that someone from Florida can help someone in Wichita thanks to the technology.”

Rakic made it clear that no one is trying box the older pilots into a technology corner. “We’re not trying to create new behaviors for experienced pilots, but rather to simply tap into the resources they already have in their heads. The social behavior is already there actually. It just hasn’t been online until now.”

Currently MyTransponder is not supported by advertising, but plans exist to take the site in that direction some day.

Since MyTransponder.com just emerged from Bata last weekend, Rakic is taking small steps at first. I took the liberty of signing up a few days ago and already have a few dozen friends almost none of who share the same background as do I. I even formed a group for pilots learning the intricacies of flying Glass Cockpit aircraft.

Can a social network truly add value to the aviation experience or is this merely a bunch of techno-geeks – of which I must admit to being one – offering up a new technology smoke and mirrors show? If I manufactured goods and services to the aviation industry and took a look at the qualifications of the people joining the kind of network being formed on MyTransponder, a network of truly dedicated people who want to see aviation thrive, I would have to be taking a second look and perhaps even registering just to keep an eye on how this new technology and this new customer interaction tool develops.

I’ll report back on my efforts. Now, back to AirVenture 2008.

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One Response to “On The Record: Making Aviation More Social”

  1. Dan Says:

    Thanks for organizing this meetup. Bob Curtis made a good point about how much less friendly the new control tower is at OSH. Happy to meet so many movers in aviation social media…..


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