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How to Become an Airplane Repo Agent

Shows like Airplane Repo make the business look exciting. Who wouldn’t want to be able to confront the rich and famous before flying off into the sunset, their private plane in tow?

Of course, actual airplane repo jobs are a little more difficult than that.

For one thing, there’s a lot more to it than simply taking someone’s private jet and jetting off in it yourself. Each of the things listed above, from flying the planes to dealing with difficult people, is far more complex than you might get from watching this “reality” show.

So, what can you expect from the airplane repo man/woman life, and what do you have to do to snag this unique job?

Learn to Fly

You’ve probably already figured out that to be an airplane repo person, you need to know how to fly a plane. What you may not know, however, is just how many you need to know how to fly.

After all, one of the best things about the private plane industry is the staggering variety of private jets and other planes available for purchase. To be an airplane repo person, you’ll also need to be able to fly a wide range of different planes from different makers.

Student pilot in aircraft
Editorial Team Student pilot in aircraft

You never know what kind of plane you’ll be asked to retrieve, and so you have to be ready to be a Flying Jack of All Trades and, indeed, All Planes.

What’s more, you’ll have to be an excellent pilot who is able to fly in all conditions and locations. People may think that they can “hide” their plane by flying it out of the country – but they can’t hide from the financial forces that are coming for them.

At least, that’s the idea. As a repo person, you have to be ready to fly from San Antonio to Sao Paulo to Saskatchewan, or Berlin to Belgrade to Baghdad and back again.

One of the most important aspects of the job, therefore, is being able to maintain a low-key law-abiding presence. The last thing you or your client want or need is an international incident on your hands.

Remember, just because you’re repo-ing airplanes all over the world doesn’t mean you have diplomatic immunity or can go breaking international laws.

Unless you want to end up in a jail in a foreign country for breaking laws regarding aviation or anything else, make sure that you’ve read up on and follow the laws.

Handle Paperwork

That said, there’s a lot more to it than just flying planes all over the place. There is also everyone’s favorite and most exciting part of any job, yes, paperwork! No matter the job, you can bet bureaucracy is to follow, and that’s certainly the case here.

In fact, there’s more paperwork to have to do with airplane repo than you might imagine. All the registry codes, paperwork for purchase, flight logs, and other elements of paperwork and tracking which are necessary for legal flights must be retrieved.

Logbook of WW2 P-47 Pilot
Editorial Team Logbook of WW2 P-47 Pilot

What’s more, not only do you have to get paperwork, you often have to do it yourself. You’re not just repossessing any old possession, after all, but a full-blown airplane. Something that big and that valuable is going to require a report or two to explain this and other transactions.

These are the unglamorous parts of the job mostly missing from Airplane Repo. Sure, in one episode someone tries to barter for the flight log, but you have never seen them slogging through the tedium of checking and filling out paperwork yourself, have you?

There are also plenty of parts of the job that’s less repossession and more inspection. You need to know what kind of shape the craft in question is in before you take it back. That means looking the craft up and down and noting any kind of damage.

That may not sound like the kind of adventurous job you’ve probably been promised in shows like Airplane Repo. On the one hand, that’s because it isn’t – there’s a whole lot more professionalism to it. On the other hand, airplane repo work is exciting, and that part comes later.

Locating and Retrieving the Planes

Now that we’ve gotten the boring bureaucratic and legalistic stuff out of the way, let’s get to the part of the job that has probably compelled you to look this up in the first place.

Airplane Repo
Airplane Repo Airplane Repo

First, there’s the skip tracking process. If someone’s decided to take their unpaid-for-plane for a little spin, you have to do your best Indiana Jones globe-hopping impersonation and track them down. 

This can involve all manner of equipment used to track the plane wherever it may be so you can bring it back. You need to make sure that you don’t break any international aviation laws in doing so. Air repo-ing can be a fun adventure until you run afoul of the law.

Assuming you stay on the straight and narrow, however, and are able to track down the missing plane, you’ll next need to retrieve it.

Auctioning and Repairing Planes

Once you have done all of the above and successfully retrieved the plane, you may think that your job is done. However, you would be wrong.

Now you have to decide what to do with it.

Of course, it isn’t really up to you. As an airport repo person, you’re most likely working for a private agency, who is in turn connected to people with money and, eventually, probably the bank. They’re the ones who ultimately decide what happens to this fine piece of aeronautics.

On the one hand, they may choose to give it directly back to these people to keep.

On the other hand, however, they may choose to auction it off to the highest bidder.

In preparation for that, your client will want to make sure that the airplane is in good condition, which means they’ll likely have you put your mechanic and flight steward skills to work fixing it up.

Finally, there are the insurance and bond qualifications. Both of these are aspects of the plane’s overall financial status that the bank or your private client is sure to care about. They can also help increase the commission you get from completing your mission.

Keeping a Cool Head

Last, but not least, it is essential that airplane repo people be able to keep their head about them during their work. This is essential for getting started as an airplane repo person as well as making sure that you are able to hang onto that job.

Airplane Repo Kevin Lacey
Airplane Repo Airplane Repo Kevin Lacey

The last thing anyone needs is a repo person losing their cool and, in the process, losing the very thing they are supposed to be repo-ing. It is, thus, essential that you are cool under pressure.

It is also important that you be able to maintain that cool when interacting with other people. While it isn’t as though airplane repo-ing is a job that requires great customer service skills, it’s still one that necessitates a calm approach and negotiation abilities.

You’ll need to be able to talk to those whose planes you are repossessing, and hopefully get them to give up their aircraft in a peaceful manner.

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