At FSElite, we’re always trying to find new ways to inspire and bring people the best content across the community. We love flight simulation, but what inspires many of us to simulate is flying in the real-world. That’s why trying to inspire people to go beyond the screen is one of our most important goals for the year. With that in mind, we have been working hard to work with partners across the world to make that a reality for many.
To help achieve this goal, we have been working with a variety of partners to make this a reality. The first of those partners is Wingly. We reached out to Wingly a few months back seeking ways in which we could work together to provide content for the community and also some insight into how it could benefit the flight simmer at home. Luckily our goals were aligned and so we began working together. In this Original piece, hopefully, you will learn a bit about the company, what it is like to fly with them and also how it can benefit both the real-world pilot and the simmer.
For the purposes of full transparency, Wingly provided FSElite with 2 free seats on a 30-minute tour in the North of England. In exchange, we have provided our experience with their services along with a discount coupon for the Flight Simulation community to take advantage of.
What is Wingly?
In summary, Wingly is a flight-sharing platform, which gives both pilots and passengers an affordable way to fly.
Wingly work with a community of over 300,000 members all signed up and using their services. Although based in France, Wingly works with pilots, flying schools and general aviation airfields in the UK. In total, customers will be able to choose from over 130 general aviation fields across the UK, taking advantage of the 10,000 pilots who have already signed up to Wingly. Wingly supports both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
For Pilots, it is an easy and safe way to share the cost of flying across the number of passengers taken to the air. It’s not an opportunity for a pilot to profit, but make the cost of flying significantly cheaper. This means building upon hours or simply enjoying the hobby becomes a lot more affordable and also varied.
For passengers, Wingly can also be used as your chance to experience sightseeing tours or even going on day-trips across the country and parts of Europe quickly and in style. Flying low and slow (or high and fast) gives you the perfect photo capturing opportunity and a day to remember. I was lucky enough to have a sight-seeing flight near Birmingham in the UK for 30 minutes, with stunning and breath-taking views. I’ll talk about that experience below.
Whilst it may seem daunting getting into an aircraft with someone unknown, Wingly provides multiple layers of protection for both passengers and pilots. Each pilot must upload their licenses and medical reports, which are then verified by Wingly themselves for credibility. Just like pilots, passengers must also verify their identity so that everyone going up in a plane knows that they are flying with the person they say they are. Furthermore, all flights conducted through the Wingly service are insured by Allianz.
What’s important to note for both pilots and passengers is that these are non-commercial flights and thus, no one is under an obligation to fly. If you, as a pilot, feel it isn’t safe to fly, then you can cancel the flight. Passengers will then get a full reimbursement.
How does it work?
Getting involved is really easy thanks to the Wingly website. As a passenger, you simply search the airport you would like to fly from and then you will be greeted with a list of airports near to that selection. With that, a range of varying sight-seeing tours or timed experience flights will appear. Descriptions, images and pilot details are all shared at this point giving you a good overview of what to expect. From there, you can select the number of passengers, date and time. Once selected, all of that information is sent to the pilot who then review the details.
Once the booking is confirmed, you will have the ability to message the pilot through Wingly to make sure everything is communicated, including any weights of passengers, the time to arrive and any specific instructions. This is a fantastic way for both the pilot and passenger to get to know one another before the flight begins.
From my experience, my pilot was very good at communicating throughout. Every few days, he would give me an idea on what the weather was looking like and letting me know if the flight was likely to go ahead. Weather is one of the biggest variables in flying, so having this consistent feed of communication is excellent.
On the day, you (plus anyone else) and the pilot will meet and they will take you through a short safety brief so you’re aware of what to do in an emergency and also a look at the routing you will take. It’s worth noting that if you’ve booked a specific length tour, give yourself some time before and after, as there could always be delays, etc.
During the flight, your pilot can be as talkative or as quiet as you’d like. Whether you want to simply enjoy the ride and chat to your partner or really get to know how the aircraft is working and what the pilot is doing – you can let them know. Regardless, your pilot will have local knowledge and also point out anything of interest to you along your route. So whether you’re going to the city for the day or simply having a sight-seeing tour, you will have a great time.
After the flight ends, you have the opportunity to review your experience and pilot. All of this is invaluable to both Wingly and the pilot as it gives them an idea on how the service is going as well as any feedback to help improve either. Your pilot will also review you as a passenger so others in the Wingly community know more about you. Having two-way feedback is an important tool in this flight-sharing environment as it helps to build trust and rapport.
From the perspective of the pilot, many of the processes are the same.
Once you have registered, had your documents verified and set up a basic profile, you will be able to start listing flights on the Wingly website. You have full control over the aircraft type, length of flights available and where you fly to. Sometimes you may get specific requests, but you are never under any obligation or pressure to do that. You build your schedule around what you can do.
Once you have a flight listed, it will stay on the Wingly website and now the world can search and find your listing. They’ll then fill out their details, upload documentation to verify themselves and an email will be sent to you with their booking details. You can choose to accept, speak to the passenger or simply deny that particular flight.
If you decide to do the flight, you can then contact the passengers through Wingly’s secure messaging system and have a direct line of communication with them. Everything is recorded for the protection of both the pilot and the customer.
On flying day, you still have full discretion over whether the flight continues or is cancelled. Again, Wingly doesn’t force or pressure any pilot into conducting a flight they don’t think would be operated safely.
As mentioned above, as the pilot, you can be as talkative or as invisible as you’d like. The safety brief is a mandatory step, but after that, you can tailor the experience for the passenger as you see fit.
Once the flight has been completed, you will then receive your share of the flight direct to the bank account you registered. This makes it incredibly easy so that you don’t have to have any awkward conversations with your passengers regarding financials.
Of course, if there are any problems, then Wingly also has a dedicated support team who are on hand to help out.
All in all, the website and provided tools are useful and fantastic for both the passenger and pilots. Having everything you need in one place means that managing your bookings or flights is as simple as possible.
My Experience With a Wingly Flight
The experience starts with the initial communication with your pilot. Shortly after the flight was booked, I received a message from my pilot, Bruce, saying thanks and also gave me a brief overview of what to expect. A few messages were exchanged about our expectations and we were always in contact about the changing weather conditions.
A few days before, Bruce gave me detailed instructions on how to get to the airfield (sometimes SatNavs aren’t always the best for finding car parks) as well as the time I should turn up to get the most from my experience. In this case, my departure airport was from Take Flight Aviation in Wellesbourne.
A day before the flight, I had a final confirmation that we intended to fly and also some final details. As expected, on the day, I and my partner turned up and Bruce was there to greet us.
Luckily for us, the weather was perfect! Just a few scattered clouds, calm winds and a nice temperature greeted us at Wellesbourne Airfield. As we approached the Piper Cherokee PA28, Bruce gave me a little background on his flying experience and also of the aircraft itself. Once he conducted his final checks, he opened the door, let us in and then made sure we were comfortable and ready to go.
With the safety briefing out of the way, Bruce reached out to ATC and clearance was given to take off on the south-westerly facing runway. As we climbed up to 2,500ft, the views were incredible. We could see as far as Birmingham city and the surrounding area. The glorious weather meant that the airspace was busy with other pilots taking advantage so we had some great aerial views of others zipping around the area. Below us were multiple markets from local businesses, all with hundreds of people walking around as we flew right over their heads.
During the flight, Bruce gave us a bit of a tour of the local area, pointing out some interesting buildings such as the Jaguar Land Rover test track. As expected, seeing all of this from 2,500ft in the air was exhilarating and gives me chills every time.
What’s great is that if I had a particular route or plan in mind, I could easily have contacted Bruce in advance to discuss options on doing that (within the confines of my 30-minute flight). He would still have full control over whether we did it, but having that ability is very much unlike other experience package services I have used in the past.
Once we landed back into Wellesbourne Airfield, Bruce gave me a bit of a tour of the facilities and also what else they do at the airfield (from lessons and other family events). He certainly wasn’t trying to sell me anything, just giving me more information for if I was interested in coming back. Again, having someone local and passionate about the area, which I imagine is the same for all Wingly pilots, is a great resource for someone looking to advance their simulation career into something more real-world.
Overall, my experience was short but very sweet. Having the knowledge and professionalism from Bruce was fantastic. My questions were answered and I learned a new thing or two which I could then bring back into my simulator. I also have a new found appreciation for the A2A Piper Cherokee from A2A Simulations and just how realistic sounding and feeling that aircraft is.
Wingly from a Pilot’s Perspective
As a passenger, it’s easy to see why Wingly is a great way to get in the air quickly and cheaply. But how do pilots feel? Well, after my flight with Bruce, I sat down with him to find out how he felt and why other pilots should get involved.
Let us find out a little bit more about Bruce first.
Bruce has been flying since 1982 and is currently retired from work. He completed his PPL in Cambridge many years ago, back when he was paying just £7 per hour for his lessons. Obviously, that was a long time ago and money has since fluctuated since. Bruce is now retired from his old job, but continue to fly today for the enjoyment and excitement of taking to the skies time and time again. Thinking back to one of his earliest flying experiences, Bruce told us it still gives him the “tingle on the back of his neck every time.” For Bruce, it’s all about the personal reward of flight.
When I asked Bruce how he felt Wingly helped him as a pilot, he told me that “it helps take away the huge costs associated with flying.” He then added “sharing the cost amongst passengers and the pilot means I can go flying more often and actually get to explore places I never otherwise would have gone to.”
What Wingly allows people to do that other experience services doesn’t is actually communicate with the pilot beforehand. “It really helps me to have those initial conversations with the passenger first to help understand their needs. There have been occasions where I would send people photos of the aircraft and dimensions to make sure they would be comfortable.” Bruce told us a brief story of a passenger who had never flown before.
“This particular passenger was older and when I was initially contacted, I was worried he wouldn’t be able to comfortably get into the [Piper Cherokee]. I took a video of me getting into the seat, along with pictures to make sure that he understood it wasn’t a usual vehicle to enter. He came along and was so excited to finally sit in an aircraft and experience flight. Having that communication beforehand is vital.”
“I have had a range of people fly with me. From those who are looking to simply head to Newquay for the day to those first-timers who are a bit nervous about flying and simply want to see what it’s like. You wouldn’t get this type of variety without working with Wingly.”
Bruce first got involved with Wingly thanks to a recommendation from another pilot at the school he currently flies out of. Bruce is also really pleased to see that both the CAA (Civial Aviation Authority) and EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Authority) are supportive of the cost-sharing platform Wingly has provided to both pilots looking to do it for fun and those looking to build up their hours.
Of course, being a website dedicated to Flight Simulation, we had to ask Bruce his opinion on the subject. “No, I don’t use a flight simulator”…. *gulp*. Fortunately, Bruce was aware of some of the simulator tools out there through a good friend of his.
“[My friend], who I often go flying with, uses X-Plane for his flight simulation fix. He finds it a great tool to see what airports are like and the environment around them. If we’re flying to a new destination, he will load up the simulator and fly to that airport before putting some of that practice into flying.” Bruce, on the other hand prefers to fly there in real life to gain that experience. He then did add that “simulators are great tools to help people remember routine things such as checklists and flows. That I can appreciate would be helpful especially in emergency situations where it gives you a good mental idea of scenarios.”
So would Bruce recommend Wingly to other pilots? “Yes, Wingly is a great tool for me and other pilots. There are of course certain risks that come with flying with strangers, but engagement and verification processes beforehand mitigate a lot of that risk and I’ve had nothing but great passengers. The no-pressure approach from Wingly is also excellent as it means I can operate flights safely and at my discretion.”
Since last summer when Bruce joined Wingly, he has taken approximately 39 passengers to the skies on a variety of routes and aircraft, all of which he has seen great feedback.
Try Out Wingly Yourself
As you can tell, I loved the experience with Wingly. The professionalism of the pilots and the affordability meant it’s a no brainer if you’re looking to get in the air yourself. Whilst you may not be able to fly the aircraft, nothing beats that sensation of flight and talking to pilots.
If you’re a simmer looking to get yourself in the air at an affordable cost, Wingly is a great opportunity for you. You will be side-by-side with a pilot who can talk you through as much or as little as you would like to learn. Whilst you can’t control the aircraft yourself, you can certainly pick up some knowledge, hang out at a flying school and experience the sensation of flight.
We therefore really encourage you to give it a go whether you’re a pilot looking to build up your hours at an affordable cost or a passenger looking to do some sightseeing this Summer. To help you get there as a passenger, we’re pleased to offer FSElite community members a discount code for 10% your first flight*. Just enter the code FSELITE10 at the checkout to claim your discount. The code is valid until August 31st 2019.
If you do give Wingly a try, or pilot as part of Wingly’s community, please let us know your experience in the comment section below.
Once again, thank you to Wingly for the support. Whilst it’s a bit different from Flight Simulation news, we hope that you enjoyed finding out a bit more with some of the real world services out there to help you go from seeing the world from a PC screen to seeing it from a few thousand feet up. Over the course of the next 12 months, you will see us partner with a range of other real-world services, flying schools and more to help inspire you to take that next step outside of flight simulation.
*Please note that FSElite does NOT receive a commission from any sales. This coupon is simply a gift to the community to say thank you.