Reality TV Show ‘Airplane Repo’- Real or Reel?

As a viewer of reality TV shows that document unscripted real-life situations, one can ask a question, “Are these real or staged?” Generally, American reality TV shows tend to portray the confessionals, contexts for the events displayed on-screen. One such American documentary-style show is Airplane Repo that provides viewers a rare and candid look behind the scenes of the aviation industry specializing in different parts of aircraft repossession. A total of 31 seasons has been premiered in 4 different seasons of this show. While it helps to explain to audiences about the airplane repo men who research, trace, fly and deliver the airplane, they might not be as real as what you see on TV. So, before discussing if the Airplane Repo show is real, let’s give a bit of attention to what happens on this show or what Airplane Repo is all about?

is airplane repo fake; Photo from Airplane Repo official facebook page

In Season 1, Airplane Repo depicts the experts that the banks have hired to repossess the high-value aircraft from the owners who haven’t pay the bills on time or whose payments for airplanes have become overdue. It premiers the altercations with the airplane’s owner, who has already lost his boat to foreclosure, as well as the challenging job of aircraft repo men to fly just about anything.

Season 2 is all about high-flying daredevils featuring titles such as Repo rat race, Panic at 10000, Flying Blind, Get Rich or Die ‘Flyin’, etc., as they take on the extremely challenging work of repossessing the aircraft as bounty hunters of the sky.

Season 3 has a bit of difference in that the events have been recaptured and use fixed-security cameras.

When it comes to TV series, some level of pre-production and planning always exists. Regarding Airplane Repo, some later episodes of the show are staged, as said by Nick Popovich of the show himself. As we can see, the repossession of an expensive aircraft often requires a lot of detective work when the bank-appointed professional shows up on the airport property. The banks inform the aircraft owner that his/her airplane will be taken away before sending repo men.

What is real or true in Airplane Repo?

Discovery channel’s TV show Airplane Repo has marked itself to be the genre of unscripted documentary, adventure series, and more true-to-life. The airplane repo men actually repossess general aviation aircraft for financial institutions, from multimillion-dollar private jets to an entire helicopter fleet. The show has been successful in portraying high-profile clients with airplane repo and flying. Several personalities who have dealt with difficult real-life situations are present in this show, adding more suspense, reality, people with wealthy and colorful pasts, and different airplane models and locales. The show clearly gives an example of what repo people do. It has given people an insight into how airplane repo people who know their jobs work in high-stakes businesses maintaining their serious professions.

The problems encountered in the phase of repossessing the aircraft and solutions to it are well-displayed. In addition, Airplane Repo details the enormity of what people may take for granted. Some people believe this show has reality looking better than what’s called ‘fictional.’

is airplane repo fake; Photo from Airplane Repo official facebook page

Airplane Repo show makes the business look exciting by confronting the rich individuals, maintaining the low-key law-abiding presence, and repossessing a full-blown airplane that needs more than the monotony of checking and filling out paperwork. Each episode of the Airplane Repo series flows roughly with the glut of bounty hunters taking back the airplanes from those who couldn’t pay the bills on time.

Reality TV shows are often the way for people to process how they are feeling and possess an intimacy that brings them up close to real people. The part of it holds true for Airplane Repo, where the audiences picture themselves as the potential repo men.

Airplane repo work involves many high-stakes adventures, as the scenario of repossessing an airplane is fast-paced and of dangerous nature. Each adventure follows the planning for abducting a plane, accumulating it at high risk. Airplane Repo has presented an infinitesimal number of challenges that could be just as real as actual repo people try and repo a plane. The multi-million dollar repo of marmite Airbus aircraft captivates audiences. Similarly, the complex and team-driven business that involves customs, transatlantic flights, logistics, and bankruptcy efforts are fascinating to see. It’s even true to what extent aircraft owners will go through to keep the aircraft they aren’t paying for.

Criticisms faced by Airplane Repo

Many series have their own ultimate fantasy of viewers attaching themselves to the situations projected in the show. The most common criticism that reality TV shows face is ‘Fakery.’ People can attribute ‘fake’ to those reality TV shows that picturise unreal situations, or acting of performers, ideas behind the happenings, and all that. Airplane Repo is no stranger to facing criticism regarding its claimed reality series. Many instances prove the episodes are scripted and staged.

The show makes it look like a real and perfectly legal repo of an airplane done by the show’s cast. The logbooks set up for the show are never carried with the aircraft in real. One can’t repossess the airplane conspicuously. The found-footage camera, however, has happened to be placed to give the show a realistic feeling. Repossession is one of the last alternatives for the clients after all the possibilities have been blocked. Many people have accused the show of using supposed security footage that is highly staged. Some have claimed that the aircraft used in the episodes are delivered right back to the owners after the shoot is over.

is airplane repo staged ; Photo from Airplane Repo official facebook page

Kevin and Mike are both real-life aviation repo who locate the plane and take possession of it. While it looks pretty straightforward in the show, repossessing the aircraft has never been easier. The run-ins with law enforcement are uncommon in real-life scenarios. But Airplane Repo stars appear to bust aviation regulations as they hop an airport fence.

The paperwork for typical aircraft repossession is more complicated than what is shown in this show. Popovich’s early episodes have been well perceived as genuine because of the realistic portrayal of aircraft repossession. But many views find the later episodes not realistic.

Another criticism is that the repo men in the show are always in a rush to capture the airplane, yet they get enough time to take the elevated shots from high points at landing airports by mounting the cameras. Not every repo has the owner unaware of his aircraft getting captured just as the repo pilot gets into the plane, as depicted by the show. The show doesn’t give audiences a clear view of how long it takes to complete the repossession of aircraft.

The star cast’s views on Airplane Repo

Kevin Lacey from Discovery Channel Airplane Repo shared his experience finding himself in a complicated situation, doing stunts and much more than just repo airplanes. Ken Cage denied the allegations regarding the scripted Airplane Repo show. He argued that being a TV show, they film things that happen in real life, but not everything can be showed life because that’s not legal. So, he supported his statement by saying that certain things have to be shot to make it look legit.

Aircraft repossession job

When an aircraft owner falls behind the payment for an airplane, then aircraft repo men legally take possession of the aircraft for the banks.

How do they do it?

Each repo case has uniqueness in it, although many aspects are the same. Before repo men are called in to do the job, the financial institutions have already notified the owners of defaulting on their payment. Now the repo men get their team and make a plan by researching the aircraft, going through aircraft condition reports, tracking the aircraft whereabouts, and then planning out each step of the recovery process. Risk assessment is always a part of repo planning because the client or the individual is the biggest risk for them.

Airplane repo men must be able to fly all sorts of aircraft as they are chasing planes all over the globe. Once they repossess the aircraft, they affix the repossession notice, inform the local police about so, and document the time, date, officer’s name, and report number. Once a police officer files the report, technically, the aircraft belongs to them. Then, any outstanding fees are paid, FAA is notified, and a flight plan is filed out.

is airplane repo staged ; Photo from Airplane Repo official facebook page

Sometimes adhering to FAA’s regulation regarding aircraft repossession can be tough for repo agents as the owner’s written permission is needed to obtain a ferry permit. If the reality show ‘Airplane Repo’ displays all those boring undocumented repair work, then it won’t be a heart-pounding excitement that will draw TV viewers. The actions in this show aren’t fake. This is what excites the audience. It is true in the case that show’s stars fake to make hasty aircraft repair, breaking into hangars-more drama, more fighting, and more breaking into places. While the show has become more entertaining to the broader audiences, the authenticity is often compromised regarding unrealistic portrayal.

Some of the stories, such as ending up in jail for five days, are real. Similarly, flying unfamiliar airplanes is also real as professionals like Hill revealed that he had performed the task of flying an airplane that has been grounded for years.


Airplane Repo has projected many dramatic and staged events to make it more exciting for TV. But it has depicted the nature of actual airplane repo work for viewers by bringing them into the world of airplane repossessions. To date, the show hasn’t made a return. Who knows what the future holds? Although, for now, nothing has been confirmed for its continuity, the old episodes are still available to watch these sky bounty hunters.  

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