Five Guidelines for Successful Aircraft Financing and Leasing During the Covid-19 Crisis

NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, shares guidelines for aircraft financing during the Covid-19 crisis.

With the availability of surprisingly low financing rates, aircraft owners may be able to reduce cash flow demands and/or create an extra cash resource during and after the Covid-19 crisis. Owners and others may be able to do so by aircraft refinancing, borrowing and leasing, cashing out aircraft equity or entering into sale leasebacks. 

If you have purchased an aircraft for cash and you can wait out the crisis without stress or still prefer to and can purchase an aircraft with cash, read no further – except number 4 below.

Otherwise, you may find the following five guidelines useful to qualify for and close these transactions during the Covid-19 crisis:

  1. Be thorough; be patient. You can apply for and facilitate a credit review process by providing all lender or lessor (financier) requested information promptly and thoroughly. In this unprecedented environment, financiers still generally assess your financial capability during and beyond the crisis based on typical criteria such as aircraft attributes, cash flow, business prospects, net worth and total debt obligations. However, with current business disruption, you should expect slower credit review and documentation processes.
  2. Ask for payments that match your expected crisis and post-crisis cash flow. You may need or want several months of no payments, interest only or other lower payments during the crisis followed by increasing payments or other amortization changes thereafter. Financiers can customize your financing within policy and regulatory parameters. 
  3. Realize that a durable relationship with your financier is crucial.  Your transparency and high quality of integrity and character will go a long way toward building a strong and lasting relationship with a financier, especially during the current health emergency. The relationship is likely begin with some uncertainty during crisis period but, if all goes well, last for years after the corona virus ends. Stay in touch with and be responsive to your financier – by voice – not just email.
  4. Structure your transaction to align with the FARs. Spare yourself additional anxiety of operating illegal charters or other illegal flight department companies (often LLC holding companies). Your violations may cost you significant sums in attorney’s fees as a result of potential FAA scrutiny or action against you. Use loan or lease credit review time and/or any pause in flight operations during the crisis to structure or restructure your agreements to comply with the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). Aligning your aircraft ownership, leasing and operations within the FARs is a frequent task for experienced aviation lawyers.
  5. Search broadly for insurance coverage at credit application. In your financing proposal, specify commercially available liability insurance that you have secured or expect to buy. It is important to add this term so that financiers do not ask for more coverage than you can deliver in an insurance market that is still in turmoil due to, among other difficulties, past underwriting losses and the tragic Kobe Bryant accident.

This information was provided by David G. Mayer with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP on April 7, 2020.