You probably know that a car can be repossessed.
Or even your home.
But did you know that even those that are fortunate enough to own airplanes can have their pricey toys repossessed? Yep, don’t make your airplane payments and the bank can come take it.
This is when the airline repossession process usually begins.
Repossessions happen when a loan on an airplane has gone unpaid for a period of time. There will usually be a grace period given by the bank. They may also try to work with the owners to find a way to resolve the issue.
Whether it is a personal plane for fun, a commercial plane used by a crop duster, or even a small airline that has gone bankrupt, there is no shortage of unpaid loans on planes.
But after a few months without payment, they will hire a team to take the plane back.
Sometimes called a repo man, these pilots will specialize in the planning and procurement of the planes that are not being paid on. Once the bank contacts them, they will get started on the planning of how they will acquire the plane.
They will look at some of the following to get started:
- Location of the plane
- FAA registration
- What kind of condition is it in
In some cases, the owners will do what they can to hide the plane so it cannot be located. This might require the repo tam to have eyes on the ground to help find the plane’s present location.
In a few cases, a court order will be in place which will make the job a bit easier for the repo team. But, usually, there is no court order and the team will need to provide a repossession notice and do what they need to take control of the plane.
Once they locate the plane and deliver the notice they will then try to access the plane. In rare cases, the person in default may be onsite and provide access, but most cases require some ingenuity to get in.
Once they gain entry they will do the following:
- Check the log books
- Do a visual check for safety
- Look for critters on board since often these planes are left sitting
Then, they will fly it to a safe location.
What happens to it from there is up to the lender. It might be auctioned off by the bank or the repo team. If the repo team does the work for the sale, they may take a percentage of the sale in addition to the fee for the repossession services.
In some cases, the repo person may bring an aircraft mechanic if there is some work that is needed to get the plane in flight.
And don’t let the show Airline Repo make you think this job is at all glamorous because it is not! That show was created for entertainment, and many of the actions those actors take are not what a real aircraft repo professional would do.
How To Become An Aircraft Repo Professional?
You will need to become a licensed pilot and have experience flying a variety of aircraft.
Since you may have to fly many different brands and sizes of planes, having that extra experience will be critical. Some days you might fly a helicopter, other days private jets, and flying each of these is a very different experience.
You will also need to have the ability to fly to wherever you need to whether it is across the country or across the world. You never know where someone is hiding their plane!
Being a detailed note-taker is also critical! you should already have these skills since you will be a pilot, but you will have to do a lot of paperwork when you process a plane.
You can work for an existing repossession company that may provide a variety of services and need an airplane repo person or you can go out on your own. Reach out to different banks and see if they need your services.
This is not a job everyone can do. It takes someone with a cool head to be able to deal with the level of aggression – and yes, even hate, that you might need to contend with.
To repossess an airplane you might be put into tough situations that can be downright scary, so having an extreme amount of courage is really important.
It is important to be able to be good at managing conflict and dealing with people. Remember, these are people that are not going to be happy to see you. You need to be able to keep control of the situation and not get aggressive or angry yourself. Know when it is time to walk away and bring in backup to support your efforts.
Real Life Aircraft Repo Professionals
Ken Hill (sometimes called the “Grim Reaper”) is one of the most well know airplane repo men out there and is the owner of Business Aircraft Sales Corporation.
He has had his fair share of good, and not-so-good experiences in the industry. Like the time the drunk guy hit him with a 2×4 when he was prepping a plane for repossession. He needed surgery for that. Just another day in the life of a repo man!
He typically charges anywhere from $1500 to $15,000 for his services.
Another airplane repossessor is Nick Popovich who has repossessed over 1,900 planes and helicopters since 1979. When his first attempt at finding and repossessing a plane resulted in a $145,000 payday, he knew he just found his career.
He started Sage-Popovich that same year and hasn’t looked back.
His model charges clients a flat fee for each aircraft they successfully repossess. Rates have ranged from $20,000 to one that was a $ 3 million payday.
He has had his own death-defying experiences including being thrown in a Haitian prison and staring down the barrel of a gun. But that has not stopped him from repossessing over $40 billion worth of aircraft.
It is important to realize this job is not exactly a safe one and you should not scare easily. You are the bad guy coming to take their toys away. It does not matter they are not paying for them – all that matters is you are ruining their day.