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Flytenow startup set for takeoff

For a recreational pilot there is nothing worse than being grounded, especially when it’s the result of the high cost of renting an airplane.

Two Northeastern University students, Matt Voska, E’17, and Alan Guichard, L’14, believe their new plane-sharing website Flytenow is an easy and cost-effective way to get more qualified, licensed pilots in the air. It officially launched Wednesday and seeks to pair small-plane pilots who want to fly with people who enjoy trips through the clouds.

“It’s not really about travel but sharing the experience of flight,” said Voska, who grew up outside Chicago. “Flying is unlike anything else.”

Voska and Guichard are both licensed pilots, and flying has been a big part of their lives since their childhoods. Voska’s uncle took him on his first flight when he was 10 years old, and Guichard comes from a family of aviators, including his father who was a commercial pilot.

Upon moving to Boston to attend Northeastern, they found it was too expensive to rent a plane. After speaking with other pilots and flight enthusiasts in the area, they realized there was an opportunity to pair them up—creating a partnership in which they split the cost to rent an airplane and enjoy the experience together.

“Our target audience is anyone who has an interest in the joy of flying in a small airplane, seeing the world in a whole new way, and getting where they want to go more affordably and faster than any other medium (regionally),” Guichard, 27, explained.

From left, Alan Guichard, L'14, and Matt Voska, E'17, founded Flytenow, a service that links small aircraft pilots with consumers who want to experience flight outside of air travel and large aircraft. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

From left, Alan Guichard, L’14, and Matt Voska, E’17, founded Flytenow, a service that links small aircraft pilots with consumers who want to experience flight outside of air travel and large aircraft. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Here’s how it works: Pilots and enthusiasts sign up to be members of Flytenow and then pilots post ventures that passengers can join—a tour of Boston, say, or a trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Voska said Flytenow has a stricter policy for pilots than that of the Federal Aviation Administration; participating pilots’ credentials such as license info and flight hours will be available. Voska said they already have 150 pilots and 250 flight enthusiasts signed up.

One ideal scenario, said Voska and Guichard, would have a pilot and three passengers take up a Cessna airplane, an experience that would cost about $70 per hour per person.

“Once you are a member you can go wherever a pilot is already going,” Voska explained. “Flying a small plane is just so different. You feel so much more free up there.”

Guichard and Voska met last year while working at Carbonite—Guichard was on co-op and Voska an internship—and realized they were both passionate about flying but frustrated they couldn’t do it more often. They started working on the business in September and have already received $500 from IDEA, Northeastern’s student-run venture accelerator, to help build the Flytenow website, and $15,000 from Dorm Room Fund Boston, another student-run venture.

Voska said they’ve received invaluable assistance from Northeastern’s Entrepreneurs Club and IDEA during the development process.

“I started up with E-Club my first week at Northeastern,” Voska noted. “I just love the environment and all the people in that organization, as well as at IDEA and the faculty.”

Right now Voska and Guichard are focusing on their initial launch in Boston, but said they envision taking the business nationwide in the hopes of getting more pilots in the air.

“I see Flytenow becoming a significant player in the general aviation community,” Guichard said. “In addition, there is massive potential simply to get people where they are going more affordably and quicker than ever. I also see Flytenow increasing the amount of pilots in the U.S.”