Widespread outrage over what is perceived as unchecked greed by top
U.S. financial and corporate executives first bubbled up in November.
That's when it was revealed that the chief executives of the three big
U.S. automakers, appearing before Congress in search of
multi-billion-dollar government loans, had flown to the hearings in
their private jets.
In response to the fiery indignation that
followed, the men were careful to leave their jets at home when they
returned for another hearing. In fact, the executives at Ford and
General Motors announced that their companies would sell their private
And corporate executives elsewhere are giving up their
private planes as well - some because of the considerable operating
cost. But others are losing their airplanes involuntarily when they
simply cannot keep up the payments.
Just as with automobiles on which
money is owed and not paid, so-called "repo men" sometimes have to be
sent to find and seize the planes. Repo is short for repossession by
the legal owner - usually a bank.
There are specialists -
airplane repo men - who do this job. They are usually a far cry from
grungy auto repo men like Otto, a frustrated punk rocker repo
specialist in the 1984 movie Repo Man, who sneak up to a car in the
middle of the night, pick the lock or break in, jump the engine, and
drive away while the unsuspecting owner is asleep.
Aircraft repo men like Ken Hill, who was recently profiled in the New
York Times, are themselves pilots. He doesn't slink around in the dead
of night. Once he locates a plane - and that can be the hardest part -
he flies in, confronts the owner, and gives him or her a last chance to
make good on payments owed. That is, after having first locked the
propeller so that the plane cannot be flown. If the person cannot or
will not pay, Hill opens the lock using a large set of keys that he
carries, climbs in and flies it away.
Ken Hill's only
serious confrontation, he told the Times, was an encounter with an
unhappy woman whose plane he was repossessing. He recalls, "She chased
me through a hangar with a garden rake."
Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.