Staff Sections

Main Content


1 of 2
A Cessna Skyhawk (click image to view full size)
Story Tools

Lt Col John May’s former life as an airplane repo-man

3/6/2019––He glanced up at the cirrus clouds, calm winds and blue sky.  It was a good day to fly.

John May had a plane to repossess and it was sitting on the ramp before him. He checked the tail number to verify it was the right plane, did a thorough preflight and checked the logbooks to verify that the aircraft was legal to fly.  After a good run-up, he taxied to the runway and lifted off – headed towards his office at the Aurora Airport in Illinois.
As a Regional Representative for Cessna Finance Corp (CFC), John financed airplanes, and repossessed them when owners didn’t pay their bills. It was the early 1980’s with the country facing less than a great economy and he loved being paid to fly 500-600 hours a year.  And setting his own schedule and getting a brand new Cessna assigned to him as a "company car" every year didn’t hurt either.
While repossessions were only part of the job, he recovered at least 80 planes during his career with CFC. Good borrowers who just could not pay would bring their airplane back to him and hand over the keys. Uncooperative borrowers became fair game.
John enjoyed the field work of collecting past due payments and trying to work with borrowers. But when they didn’t make their payments or let their insurance lapse, he took action. One memorable customer had his insurance cancelled for non-payment but told John that he was only “flying the airplane locally” until he could get insurance. John said “thank you,” hung up the phone and promptly went to Midway Airport in Chicago and took the airplane.  His ample supply of aircraft keys made the job that much easier.
He did his best to avoid confrontations with (soon-to-be-former) aircraft owners. But if they left their plane on a public ramp, they were as good as gone. And sometimes the line guys would help him out by pulling the airplane out of a hangar to a public ramp so they could “sweep out the hangar.” He found that going to an airport during the customer’s working hours was often a sufficient distraction to avoid a confrontation.
Since it combined his Bachelor’s degree in Finance with his love of flying, working for CFC was a great job! Today, Lt Col May has a multi-engine ATP with 4,000 hours, works in real estate finance for a large bank and just transferred with the bank to Orlando, FL.  He has spent 45 years in the banking and finance industry.
Most members of the NC Wing know Lt Col May as our former Wing’s Director of Emergency Services. He stepped down from that vital role in June of last year after 4½ years in the position and will be greatly missed with his move this month to Florida.  He has already been recruited by the FL Wing Commander to be the FL Wing's Deputy Director of Emergency Services. The NC Wing wishes him well in his new position.
When asked about his repo experiences, Lt Col May emphasized that "repossessing airplanes is NOTHING like what they show on TV shows."
Civil Air Patrol members come from many different backgrounds and experiences. But few can boast that they spent their early years out (legally) stealing airplanes.