Aviation News

August 21, 2014

#AvGeek Review: The New “Airplane Repo”

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Written by: Jason Rabinowitz
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What is real and what is fake? "Select dramatizations employed"

(Editor’s Note: Season Three of the show “Airplane Repo” premiers tomorrow night on Discovery Channel. In case you missed it, we interviewed the cast of the show recently. This week for Throwback Thursday, we take a look at Jason Rabinowitz’s review of the Season Two premier last July.)

In 2010, a new reality show called Airplane Repo hit basic cable, giving the public an intimate look into the mysterious world of repossessing airplanes. The original three episodes, which aired in late 2010 and early 2011, followed Nick Popovich and his crew around the world, as they repossessed anything from business jets to a duo of Airbus A320s in Turkey. The original three episodes came across genuine and realistic, albeit low budget.

Fast forward to mid 2013, and the show has taken on a new life. Airplane Repo has been completely retooled, sporting an entire new cast and a much higher budget from the looks of things. Nick Popovich has been replaced with three separate repo crews, and the show extended from 30 minutes to a full hour. So, is the show any better or worse, and how are the #AvGeeks liking the new version of the show?


From the very moment the show opened up, it was clear that the format had been changed drastically. Airplane Repo has more of a drama feel to it, like you might find on shows such as Storage Wars or one of the many pawn store shows. The show starts at an “undisclosed airport” in Florida, as text tells the viewer “Mike Kennedy is about to steal a plane.” A quick cut, and we see a jet fully outfitted with exterior cameras take off, but quickly encounters mechanical problems. The problem seems to grow more severe with every second as an audible warning is artificially sped up, and suddenly we are taken back to the beginning of the story, left waiting to see what happens until the end of the show.

Over the next 60 minutes, a wide variety of aircraft are targeted for repossession. In the prior version of the show, typically one crew hunted down one plane. This first episode saw the repossession of a Beechcraft Barron 58, Cessna 206, and Learjet, which made for an interesting mix of aircraft. Some of the scenes along the way, however, just did not feel quite right.


After discovering one of the target aircraft in a hangar they seemingly broke into, the repo crew turns on the lights, but somehow the show already has several cameras located up high, capturing this moment. This would be the first of several moments that felt staged, possibly to create the illusion of suspense. While there are scenes that do seem to be quite genuine, highly dramatized scenes make it difficult to discern what is fake, and what is indeed real.

At the end of the episode, we are once again put in the cockpit of the ailing Learjet. There is some sort of hydraulic system fault, and the flight crew declares an emergency. The gear wont deploy, so they are manually dropped, but return only one green light and two red on the indicator. After doing a low pass over the runway to confirm that the gear is down, they land safely, and the aircraft is theirs.

While it is great to see Airplane Repo back on the air, it is most certainty a different show. The old version appealed more to the #AvGeek crowd, while the new version is probably looking to hit the same audience as Operation Repo. The retooling of the show, however, will attract a wider audience that may just help it stick around this time. So, what did you think of the new episode? New episodes air Thursday at 10pm on Discovery.

About the Author

Jason Rabinowitz



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  • John Bossi

    Fake. Reality shows are 80% fake and the 20% are the lucky shots that are real and make it in the final edit.

  • Bill Johnson

    99% fake. They are “recreating” repossessions based on the stories of the repo men. The one where the stole they 182 out of the ranch hangar was ridiculous. Very set up. The one where the take the 414 is silly too – how did the cameras get in the hangar???

  • mjroper2

    Bring back Popvich. This new show is so fake, it’s annoying

  • mike w

    total crap. i’ve recorded several shows and can’t believe how fake this show is. sad…really enjoyed the popovich (sp?) shows much more (other than the one where he had his son go on a mission w/ a secret camera). Most shows back then seemed authentic. by the way…I never comment on anything on the internet, but felt compelled to do so here.

  • Daniel Daniel

    Totally fake that jet in Okeechobee is still sitting in Okeechobee. Piece of junk nobody would want it. All put on and fake. Show sucks.

  • Fred Obermueller

    Quick pre-flight check reveals broken wires in the landing gear well, the pilot who they say is NOT an A&P repairs the wires, starts up the engines and leaves. Well if this is real he just kissed his license goodbye. You can’t even repair your intercom without an A&P signoff.

  • Fred Obermueller

    Still watching the show (if I watch Amish Mafia I can’t be too picky!!)but putting auto oil in an aircraft give me a break

  • hwy505

    “Dramatization” – who wants to watch this crap?

  • guest

    its a joke,2010’s show was good but this was before idiocracy started to take over like when taco bell. introduced the Doritos taco. this is just as bad or worse then the big rig repo show and could do without the extra set ups and ‘stealing’ everyone that is Twitter hash tagging on the show believing it is pretty much a tool

  • Staged Reality

    Agree with everyone else, totally staged. Operation Repo, theres a show that I have no idea how its survived this long as it is BLATANTLY staged. The world of repo is just not as violent or dramatic as these shows would love you to believe. Never got to see the original Airplane Repo but from the sounds of it, I’d sure like to see it brought back and restore integrity to an otherwise disappointing show now.

  • Brian K Ullrich

    In the most recent episode, Kevin Lacey and his partner snag a jet a Telluride, and after a dramatic exit, get a pressurization alarm stemming from a problem on number 2, which they deem they must shut down. They don’t appear to declare an emergency, and hunt around for a suitable airport to land at, eventually settling on “that one at 10 thousand”. Kevin agrees, and they line up. Then you can hear the left seat calling approach, and it’s CLEAR that it’s Telluride, plus you can hear him SAY “Telluride” when they identify and get landing clearance.

    They went back to the same airport they repo’d the plane from, yet made it seem that they landed safely at a different airport with a good repo. And it wasn’t even THAT good of a snow job. The producers didn’t fool anyone.

    That’s when I decided I’d had enough.

  • Eldon Triggs

    Quick question for the pilots… if you had taken off in a plane minus the entire comms set up including transponder and radio, what level of trouble would you be in? Plus, the repo guy tells the avionics retailer that he is guilty of a felony for repossessing the radios out of that aircraft…. real or B.S?

  • houndies

    I just watched part of this show for the first time for about 10 minutes and came away thinking it had to be such a setup. How is it that the plane is sitting there in a hangar with the doors wide open, fueled and ready. Its seems convenient that these guys just happen to be able to fix whatever ails the bird ( and you know there will be something wrong) so they can take off. And about that take off. I don’t know anything about flying out of an airport but I feel fairly certain you have to let the tower know you want to take off so they can put you in the traffic pattern. I know some of these airports are small but with security being what it is, I think these guys would be cuffed and stuffed before you could blink your eyes. Not buying this show at all.

  • Jerry

    A real airplane repo man told me that breaking into a hanger to repossess a plane is a felony punishable by upto 20 years in fed prison. He watched the show and was disgusted. It is all fake. It seems that all discovery channel shows are now just fake reenactments. You can only repossess a plane if its on the ramp. These guys on the show are idiots.

    • radjams

      Hey guys, think about it for a sec. Its all scripted. Nothing flows from any of their mouths freely! They have to be reading lines or adlibing it. Its horrible! Dammit if it was only real it would be a great show. Right?

      • Jerry

        My airplane repo friend told me it is definitely heart racing when they repossess airplanes. He’s been shot at whilst taking off, airplane engine quit over the ocean near key west etc etc, but they still have to follow the law and that means no breaking into hangers or airports . So a truthful documentary about airplane repossession would be interesting to watch rather than this fake scripted bs they are showing. After one episode we stopped watching it.

  • SABRE546

    This show is so full of BS, I watched one episode and its total bs. They are breaking into hangars and airports , all a federal offense. The best i saw was them in orange county taking off with a stolen plane but never seemed to contact ATC for taxi or take off clearance.

  • Paul Campbell

    This is about as fake as it gets. Funny how cameras are already in places when the repo guys have to low crawl, climb fences, disable security fences, bribe A&P’s and snoop around in and around hangers and on and on. But funny how the cameras are already attached in many locations in and on the planes and all around to get the perfect shots. With all those cameras, it would take many noisy stage hands and production crews many hours or days to set all that up. Yet it is already there shooting the moment when the repo guys risk life and limb sneaking to wear the plane is. No way! If all the camera crews can crawl all in and around the planes to set up cameras, why is it so hard for just a couple of assholes to calmly walk up to the planes and do their jobs? The reason is, to stage drama. Drama is what sells. So, it all has to be set up and staged to have all those cameras to get the shots. Funny, security don’t say anything to all the guys climbing in and around the planes to install cameras, but as soon as the repo guy’s sneak up to the planes all hell breaks lose and security craws out of the woodwork.

    What is so humorous to me is that the repo guys have to put gas in the tanks or preflight it all the while security starts slowly driving up to them while they tell, “oh no, here comes security!, Hurry up and let’s get out of here.” Then it starts to look like keystone cops chasing the planes yelling. “Stop the aircraft” while the pilots make a beeline for the runway, with no clearance or anything and take off. Repo man or not, you have to get clearance to take off and you are told where to go and what runway to use, Not head for the closest one and haul ass.

    Then they always have that lower fuselage shot of the wheels retracting, wonder how that camera got there too.

    I can think of so much more to prove this show to be just another fake drama show to get ratings. Sad that the TV industry has to resort to fake means and try to sell them as real. It is becoming a trend now days and it is getting out of control. At least the old sitcoms everyone knew they were not real. These reality show morons try to make people think that what they are watching is real and it is an insult to peoples intelligence.

    Oh, and they always have to have some engine trouble in flight to really stir some drama. Don’t believe any of that crap unless you are really that stupid.

  • IFLY152II .

    I watched this show for the first time yesterday (8/29/13) and that was enough. They were repo’ing a Piper. Both got in, took a couple of tries to get the engine started, shut the door while saying “Let’s get out of here before the wind gets worse”. Camera zoomed out….all 3 tie-down ropes were still in place!

    They had to hurry their takeoff because “the crosswind is approaching 35 kts, exceeding the plane’s limits of 17 kts”. Camera showed the plane at the takeoff position, with the windsock indicating about 10-12 kts, and …..right down the runway. Ha!

  • Drew

    I’m not a pilot or anything, but I watched a few episodes and it amazed me that the repo men either sneak, or break their way onto an airfield, and then cut locks or otherwise pick them to break into hangers, not to mention smashing doors and cutting through fences. The whole time I’m thinking to myself, “surely this is illegal, even for a repo, to destroy property on a secured airfield?” Also I’m amazed that they just hit the runway without any apparent clearance and put the throttle down. How is that even remotely legal from a safety perspective? It seems interesting from an entertainment point of view, but even a neophyte like me on the matter cannot believe any of this is truly how it is.

  • russell

    As a pilot and flight instructor, I woud like to reply to several of the comments here. First, radio and transponder are only required in a VERY small amount of the US national airspace. So they can take off without them with no repercussions, unless they are in Bravo airspace or are at a towered airport (no transponder required there), which are very few compared to non-towered airports in the US. Second, it is not illegal to go into a hangar to reposses an airplane, because the permission to be on the property is included in the loan agreement. It is on mine. Same for the airport property. It is NOT a federal offence as mentioned in comments below, because the land at almost all airports isnt federal land. Most are muncipally owned. As for taking off from an airport without clearance, i do it all the time, as do most pilots, because the vast majority of airports are non-towered, meaning there isnt a tower and no one has any say when you take off. Most people dont know this, but i could take off and fly all the way across the country and not talk to a soul on the radio, and it would be perfectly “legal” according to the Federal Aviation Regulations. Third, as for Kevin Lacey repairing the wires on the landing gear, yes, he can, because in adddition to being a pilot, he is also a certified A&P with years of experience. One show even mentioned that it took him more than an hour to do the weight & balance paperwork on an aircraft with missing avionics before he took off, so it would be “legal”.
    With all that said, the show is most definitely staged. I would agree with the comment below about the 80/20 rule.

  • Its staged!

  • Wayne Sherman

    Hey, how about the unarmed “cop” driving the 10 year old unmarked “cop” car?

  • Lawrence

    Remind me to NEVER loan tools, especially to a tattooed jerkoff. Do you think they could have used some of those thousands and thousands of repo dollars to buy the guy a new bolt cutter? By the way – what brand was that bolt cutter? It seems to stand up to a great deal of abuse.

  • John Cloud

    If you watched the Popovich (sp?) episodes, the key point was that once they found the plane and posted repossession notice on it, it was “theirs”. They didn’t have to steal them or have fist fights, they were the legal owners of the plane. The new series makes a total abortion of the process. I suspect that Nick Popovich is more than irritated at all of this!

  • MattBillingsley

    I liked season 1, it was reality. The new season is ok, it’s scripted, and it’s poorly delivered. The stories & planes are cool, but whoever decided to include yacht repo’s on the show probably needs to take a class on the different kinds of vehicles, how airplanes fly in the air, and/or how boats float in the water, etc.. .

  • Cameron Nicholas Leggett

    Kevin Lacey, is one of the recovery agents in the new show. As of 2010 he was working with, or for, Sage-Popovich, INC. http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/Grab-the-Airplane-and-Go.html This makes me wonder if he’s since left SP INC or if Nick didn’t want his name directly on the retooled show, thus showing just Lacey. I’ve seen a few episodes of the new season and the parts that feel “real” are Lacey’s segments. But the way things are edited still leaves a bad taist in my mouth.

  • Joel Lauer

    I would like to believe it’s real, but, ain’t happening. The staging with regards to camera placement is enough to determine authenticity.
    But, even though I have no first season comp., I still enjoy watching because I happen to love looking at airplanes, whether I can afford one…. OR NOT.