JumpSeat App Seeks To Supplement Notams

 - December 15, 2021, 12:24 PM
The JumpSeat app's map allows users to click on any airport to see if any reports have been posted with critical information for pilots.

A new iOS app called JumpSeat has launched to help crowdsource important information that isn’t always included in a Notice to Air Missions (notam). The app has been in beta testing since June and is now available to any user, currently for free.

JumpSeat was launched by company co-founders Ben Zavadil and Brad Doebelin to provide an easily accessible repository of information that either isn’t covered by notams or that pilots have to search for in siloed locations such as online forums and social media or that might be local knowledge from ground handlers.

“We’ve seen complaints resounding across the industry,” Zavadil said. “Notams don’t solve this. This isn’t necessarily the fix, but we have the technology to get away from [forums], scouring Facebook, or hoping our operations department gets good information or hoping that siloed information gets out.”

The app offers a simple presentation of a world map populated with airports. Click on any airport to see reports about that airport or the local terminal area forecast. To add a report, users can click on the plus button and then select the type of event, such as runways/taxiways, ATC, scams, fuel, violence, strikes, and weather.

Although there are many airports with no reports yet, users can view a feed of all reports, beginning with the latest. Many of the reports concern fuel shortages, for example, a December 13 report about Cape Town International Airport where “Fuel is limited, better check it’s available before you operate.” According to Zavadil, “A lot of this comes from my experience with ferry pilots, who don’t know where they’re going from one week to the next.”

The feed view shows the most recent reports by JumpSeat users.

Both Zavadil and Doebelin are well aware of the problems affecting the notam system, which includes scores of useless warnings about 200-foot towers miles from airports and other non-pertinent information. And they believe that JumpSeat can help mitigate some of the problems with notams. “If it’s fully crowdsourced, it’s not going to eliminate all the riff-raff,” Zavadil said, “but we want to make sure people are aware of what’s going on.”

He cited an example a few years ago when he was working in international operations where flights to Ethiopia were being impounded for not paying a “tax” that no one knew about. However, it turned out that the insurance company covering the aircraft was aware of this information, and it would have been helpful for pilots to have known about the situation. “If the information is not available, then you have to come up with it every time,” he said.

Users can upvote posts in JumpSeat, and the founders plan to add a function to flag an item so its information can be reviewed. “It’s really about the community,” said Doebelin. “That’s why we have the upvoting.” 

Another future function is how to share critical information, perhaps with an alert level indicator. This could be done by pinning an urgent post to the top of the feed or by adding some kind of notification system for users. “We’ve got a couple of avenues to look at,” Zavadil said. 

JumpSeat’s revenue model will likely involve a subscription at some point, but the founders are still working on developing the content and functionality. The core features will remain free, similar to how the sports-tracking app Strava works. “We want to make sure people get the information they need,” he said, “and that they’re not locked out until they pay.”