Airplane repo men

Nick Popovich is a repo man, but not of cars. If an individual, or a company, falls too far behind on their airplane payments, the bank may call Popovich to bring back the bird. He's the proprietor of Sage-Popovich, whose repo pilots have repossessed some 1,200 planes. From Air & Space Magazine:
In Russia and Colombia, where foreigners can be kidnapped, the company rolls with bodyguards. The extra muscle is strictly for self-defense, however. If repo resistance escalates to the physical, “you just have to walk away,” Popovich says.

Well, he says that now. During a repo in the mid-1980s, both sides got physical. A U.S. financier had hired Popovich to snatch a Boeing 720 from a tour operator in Haiti who was in default. Though the aircraft had a book value of only $600,000, an airport manager refused to release it unless a million dollars was deposited in a Swiss bank account. Having made arrangements with an entrepreneurial Port-au-Prince airport employee, Nick showed up around midnight with an air starter (720s lack an onboard auxiliary power unit to start engines). The field had been closed for hours when the team fired up the big turbofans. As he began adding power, Popovich says, “I saw the first tracer rounds streak over the top of the airplane.”

He veered to a stop and Haitian troops swarmed the airplane, bayonetting fuel cells in the wings. “I got out and shoved one of them,” Nick says with a sigh. “The rest of them beat the hell out of me and threw me into the national penitentiary in downtown Port-au-Prince. A dirt-floor cell with no roof and 35 people in it.” In addition to the million-buck drop in Switzerland, the Haitians wanted $150,000 to release Popovich. “The American embassy did nothing for me,” he grumbles. A week later, however, the regime of dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier collapsed. The prison gates were thrown open. “Everyone ran out into the street,” Nick laughs. “But that plane is still down there today. The only commercial aircraft that got away from us.”

"Grab the Airplane and Go"


  1. makes me wonder what stories he *can’t* tell us about what he wasn’t doing in about 1970 or so ish.

  2. Man, talk about balls of steel, this guy had to have them. You don’t know what condition the aircraft is in. You have to know the aircraft’s systems intimately, and you have to be prepared to deal with some mighty scary people and a very interesting legal situation to boot. The opportunity for something to go life threateningly wrong is very high.

    If this is what he does for a job, I wonder what he does for fun?

  3. >>“The American embassy did nothing for me,”

    Wish I could tell you the number of times I’ve been in the same situation.

    Embassy staff are worthless if you ever need anything in an emergency.

  4. And there you have a demonstration that is almost mathematical…

    a bit of induction of the results here… and Haiti is shown to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere as of 1985.

  5. It sounds like private jet hire can be affected by the geopolitical situation on the ground, it would be advisable to take guards on planes when visiting such places!

  6. just watched this show on Discovery it was kick ass i hope we get to see more and wow the repo in foreign country’s i wanna see that for sure

  7. I have watched this show since it started and won`t miss a series. Where was this kind of work when I was a pilot, would have loved my job.

    I take my hat off to you Nick, your surname Popovich sounds Polish if so I am married to a Polish girl and I know how hard you work. Keep up the courage, you have one great career and I see you have your son following in your footsteps.

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