This post was first published on my Forbes Aviator column.
If you own an aircraft and you fall behind on your aircraft loan, your plane may come face to face with guys like Nick Popovich (of Sage-Popovich, Inc.) or Ken Hill (of Business Aircraft Sales Corp.) – professional aircraft repossession specialists. As you can imagine, airplane repo specialists like Nick and Ken have probably seen and experienced just about everything.
In the case of Nick, who has been in the aircraft repossession business for 30 years, he has had guns pointed at him and even spent a week in a Haitian jail during the fall of Baby Doc’s regime. As for Ken, he once had a lady chase him through a hangar with a yard rake. He’s completed more than 1,240 repossessions and there’s still a death warrant on his head in central Africa. He has even been the star of his own show on the Discovery Channel.
However, most aircraft repossessions go much more smoothly as airport officials would most likely be notified ahead of time while the tools of the trade would include a propeller lock, a portable radio, a hand-held GPS device plus a fanny pack that contains hundreds of different keys. Air & Space Smithsonian has a great feature on the business.
Business has picked up significantly with the economic downturn. On the other hand, airplane repo men like Nick and Ken are most likely working for banks that specialize in aircraft loans and they still must sell the aircraft in order to earn a profit. A typical profit margin might be $600,000-$900,000 per job.
Certainly though, the existence of professional aircraft repossession specialists should serve as a reminder of just how expensive owning and operating even a small general aviation aircraft can be. His advice: ”Talk to the bank. Banks don’t want to repossess the airplane and I don’t want to repossess the airplane. Chances are you can work something out.”