The life of a repo man is always intense.

The Learjet repo man

Inside the cell, Haitian cops had turned Popovich's face inside out. The pain was ungodly. His shoes were gone. He was starving. And Popovich was sitting in a cage surrounded by 35 prisoners spitting epithets in his face. His only priority was to avoid getting hurt any worse than he already was. In his experience, that meant behaving like a total maniac, lashing out at the nearest prisoners and threatening to kill anyone that came near him.

The charge was the attempted theft of a 707 jumbo jet and he was facing 20 years to life. The jet in question belonged to a Caribbean tour company that went bust. After a few missed payments, the bank had called Popovich, who had tracked the plane from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. The gig promised to be simple. Popovich even spotted the battered silver-and-blue jet on the tarmac as he taxied into Port Au Prince's Toussaint L'Ouverture airport on a sweltering February afternoon. All he needed was an hour to check the avionics, an open runway and a flight plan. It hadn't worked out that way.

By the third day of his imprisonment -- sometime after the American embassy politely informed him that the bank employing him wouldn't put up $100,000 in bail -- details started to come back. The tracer fire pinging the plane's wings like popcorn kernels. Men with bayonets slamming on the fuselage. A police cruiser skidding to a halt right in front of the jet, blocking the runway and preventing Nick from taking off. The cops beating him senseless and throwing him in Penitentier National prison. And now, here he was.

On the seventh day of his incarceration, Haitian President Baby Doc Duvalier was overthrown and the rioting masses swung open all of the cell doors. Bruised, bloody and sleepless, Popovich hobbled out of his cell. As he taxied down the runway for the second time. he couldn't help thinking that what they said was true: Flying home is always the easy part.


9 Responses:

  1. tjic says:

    ...but then again, EVERYONE blogging this story is going to use a quote in their subject line, no? I chose the quite similar "A repo man spends his life getting into tense situations. "

    Outstanding article, btw.

    • tcpip says:

      There is a certain inevitability about it.

      "It happens sometimes. People just explode. Natural causes."

  2. Good friend of mine is an ATC and a former bizjet pilot; he does some repos on the side. Good money and not very difficult.

    • saltdawg says:

      Holy crap! Hardberger is a known braggart and self-styled "rouge" amongst seafaring folks, but I had no idea this was what he was up to these days. Now I know what my next gig is going to be!

  3. lafinjack says:

    Since I are dum wif teh wurdz:

    With due respect, this article really bugged me. It's full of wild-eyed claims of adventure without ever explaining exactly how he does these things. I get the sense it was written by someone who doesn't know much about planes (or dumbed down by an editor of the same ilk), which matters when it's an article about... planes. It throws around the term "jumbo jets" in such a way that it's unclear whether it means 747s or anything bigger than a Lear Jet - and it treats them all the same. (Did he really make off with 1,200 747s?) For all the examples of the guy cloak-and-daggering his way around tarmacs, I still don't know how he actually gets aboard a locked alumnium tube that's ten feet off the ground.

    It was all a bit pandering, and not entirely coherent. Unless you can provide a clear breakdown of how this business works - technically and commercially - it's just the writer lovingly taking down this guy's self-aggrandizing war stories (which he tells, of course "without a note of bragging or conceit"). Bleh?