Booming Business: Aircraft Repossession

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Ken Hill is an airplane repo man who in January recovered 12 aircraft from eight states and expects to recover 27 more over the course of about 40 days. With the economy as it is, homes aren't the only subjects of foreclosure and, like homes, aircraft cost owners money whether they're used or not and whether or not the owner's income can support the payments. In that framing, Hill's business has become brisk enough that it attracted the attention of New York Times, and his business became a published article, Friday. Hill told the Times he normally recovers about 30 aircraft per year, but last year the number swelled to 50. This year, he expects that number to double again, to 100. Most repossessions, it turns out play out in civilized conversation and agreeable transactions, but Hill always brings along a portable radio, hand-held GPS and hundreds of keys and a prop-lock, just in case. And in those disagreeable cases, other methods must be employed.

When owners don't want to return an aircraft they've stopped paying for, Hill employs simple tracking techniques to shed light on the aircraft's movements. There are systems in place that allow paying customers access to information that goes beyond the capabilities of free online services. After the aircraft is found, he claims it for the owner, using court orders if necessary, has it inspected and recovers it.