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When the owner of an aircraft defaults on their loan, their lender can send repo men to take the aircraft back, often against the owner’s will. However, unlike cars, which can be driven by anyone with a license, there are so many expensive type ratings for aircraft.

Do they specifically hire a pilot with the needed rating for each given job, or are there dedicate aviation repo men with scores of type ratings to cover any eventuality? It seems like the skill set to fly the plane doesn’t necessarily qualify you to slip in quietly and take it back from a belligerent owner.

Also, my friend Bianfable got me thinking of another issue. Who repossesses aircraft when the owner has fled with it to a foreign country?

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    $\begingroup$ This sounds pretty country specific. Could you add a country tag? $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Bianfable: Is it? That’s surprising. I know type ratings are required by many agencies across many countries, and I assume that aircraft buyers stop paying their loans all over the world. I don’t see how it’s relevant to say “Oh by the way... I’m from the U.S.” Why not just tell me how they handle it over in Germany? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, type ratings are required everywhere, but who performs repossessions obviously varies by country. In Germany, that would probably be a court representative (Gerichtsvollzieher), who is unlikely to have a pilot licence. I don't know how they would actually perform the repossession... $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Bianfable: Perhaps you could look into it. Then you would know who actually performs the repossessions. If that isn’t something that interests you, then maybe there are other questions on this site that are more to your liking. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 14:45

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Yes there are a couple of reality TV shows that have been done on repos. There are companies who specialize in the business, and the pilots have to be type rated where appropriate. They have to be legal to fly the airplane.

It takes a special kind of risk taker pilot to do that kind of work, in view of the risks of getting into confrontations with irate owners, and flying airplanes that may or may not be airworthy. The companies are usually hired by the holder of the chattel mortgage on the aircraft; the lender in other words (and who is, ultimately, the owner). Banks and leasing companies generally, and even government foreign aid financing organizations from time to time.

Yes the scenarios presented on the tv shows are semi-fictional BS, with dopey staged chase scenes, but even dialing the drama back closer to reality, it's not a job for the faint of heart.

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  • $\begingroup$ "flying airplanes that may or may not be airworthy" -- the pilot does not have the right to break airworthiness law. If it isn't airworthy, it can't be flown. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ “Airplane Repo” and other reality TV shows about aircraft repossession are as fake as a $3 bill. Yes, some of the principle characters are real and perform repossessions but the whole thing is pure fictional drama (Yeah, you’re doing a takeoff roll in a Lear 35 as irate owners chase you and it just happens to have a GoPro mounted on the belly.) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ @CarloFelicione: I’ve never seen any of the shows, and I don’t know about the cameras, but just a few days ago, I saw an irate owner speed across the grass, taxiways, and runway of an airport in his Cadillac, trying to stop the repossession of his Robinson helicopter. He was banging on the side of the door as the repo pilot was performing startup procedures. A few minutes later, a police car raced over to get the situation under control. The pissed-off owner was yelling, waving his hands, and kicking the ground as he watched his R44 flying away. That’s what made me curious about this topic. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ @CarloFelicione of course it's overdramatized bs but there are repo men doing airplanes and they have to get around owners who may not want to be repo'ed, like with cars. And the airplanes they fly, they know little about. It's not a job for the feint of heart. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ Having witnessed the repo of lower cost planes, as well as exec jets, usually the team shows up, and the mechanic and pilot (for larger aircraft) seek to get keys, logbooks, etc. and there is often a lead who works with the owner, FBO, mechanic who normally services the aircraft. From my observation it is a negotiated departure. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 17:41

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