Shackelford Law

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    AINsight: Negotiating Business Aircraft Financing see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, partner at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, discusses negotiating business aircraft financing.

    Like large companies, an increasing number of high/ultra-high-net-worth individuals apparently like using other people’s money (OPM) instead of cash to close private aircraft transactions. These transactions include true tax leases, sale leasebacks, financing leases, secured loans, and refinancing of private aircraft by lessors and lenders. These deals also cover a broad range of aircraft by value, cost, cabin size, age, make and model.

    It might just be my passing anecdotal experience that these “customers” seem to be more patient, flexible and engaged with their financiers than before the fourth quarter in resolving deal points that matter to them. Perhaps customers have discovered what I regularly see today: financiers, though controlled by bank regulations and internal credit policies, will work diligently and productively with their customers to develop structures and terms acceptable to their customers and the financier.

    For lessors and lenders, this apparent surge in financing activity is good news. Yet, they widely acknowledge that “cash is king” in how high/ultra-high net worth individuals typically purchase new and preowned aircraft. According to JetNet, cash wins over secured loans to purchase jets, in an estimated 70 percent of U.S. aircraft purchases or a lower percentage of cash purchases depending on other sources of the information.

    Financiers often encounter objections to financing like these: “I have cash available to buy the aircraft with minimal effect on my net worth”; “I really want to avoid the ‘brain damage’ associated with negotiating documentation, responding to onerous credit disclosure requests and abiding by restrictions that financiers will impose on me.”; and “I just prefer, like my buddies, to own the aircraft outright.”

    Some financiers apparently have found the magic sauce to overcome these typical customers’ objections when combined with three particular attributes of financing today that appear to underpin the elevation in financing activity.

    First and foremost, while money is cheap in the current highly competitive financing market, every client pursues the lowest loan or lease rates, though most lease pricing entails more variables and assumptions than loans.

    Some clients even acknowledge what is almost universally true: they can make more money using their cash elsewhere for their businesses or investments. Other clients simply prefer using OPM and holding their cash. With the current volatility in the stock market, coronavirus fears, and concerns about the future economy, OPM may, and maybe should, attract even more interest.

    Second, with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, clients almost always ask whether the aircraft qualifies for bonus depreciation. Correspondingly, they assume, often incorrectly, that they can use and qualify to take these substantial tax benefits. What is important here are ways in which leasing still might enable customers to enjoy some of these tax benefits.

    How is that possible? Certain lessors can and do use the tax benefits in pricing leases—when setting rents and casualty values—sums lessees must pay the lessor on the occurrence of a total loss of the aircraft. These lessors can, but might not offer to, share the depreciation tax benefits with the lessee, primarily in the form of lower rents and casualty values.

    Importantly, the tax benefits might be available not only when the lessor purchases the aircraft directly from the third-party seller and leases the aircraft to the lessee/customer. These tax benefits might also be available when the lessor purchases the seller’s/lessee’s owned aircraft and leases it back to the seller/lessee. The latter strategy allows the seller/lessee to monetize the value of its aircraft while keeping possession and use of the aircraft subject to the new “sale leaseback” arrangement.

    In true operating or tax lease transactions, customers get a third benefit. Lessors assume the residual value risk arising out of aircraft ownership and leasing.

    Under federal income tax true lease guidelines and other applicable law, an owner/lessor must, among other requirements, retain continuous residual value risk during the lease term of not than 20 percent of the original cost of the aircraft. Residual value refers to the market value of the aircraft at the end of the applicable lease term.

    In reality, the residual value assumed usually far exceeds 20 percent due to the inherent value of aircraft, enabling lessors to assume far higher residual values. The customer is entirely free from residual value “downside” losses in value from, or “upside” gain over, assumed residual value in connection with any subsequent sale, lease or other disposition of the customer’s leased aircraft.

    THE RIGHT TEAM

    Although customers often have relationships with non-aviation professionals, aircraft transactions will almost always progress more easily, efficiently, and at a lower transaction cost with the right aviation team. It is imperative that the transaction team thoroughly understands and adopts a strategy to fully satisfy the customer’s desired participation, attitude towards the financing negotiation and distinguishing between the “must have” an “nice to have” modifications in the documentation.

    As a result, every financing transaction is unique, even when a financier provides basically the same “form” of documents to different customers covering similar aircraft. The right transaction team will understand the big issues, nuances, documents, and characteristics of the financier.

    Some clients want to negotiate/win every point. Others simply want the best loan or lease rates from financiers that will stay out of their businesses, minimize fast-trigger defaults, not reach for non-aircraft related collateral such as securities accounts, and impose the fewest restrictions on flight operations.

    To achieve the best outcome, the transaction team, especially brokers and technical advisors, should ideally participate starting before the hunt for the right aircraft. The customer should engage the other team members before the negotiation of the letter of intent  (LOI) or the financing proposal.

    For buyers, the key is to allow adequate time for tax planning, aviation regulatory structuring, identification of the best financier for the particular situation and risk management planning, especially in current volatile insurance markets.

    Financiers draft the financing documents in their favor even though they expect the provisions to change depending on the relative bargaining, credit, and relationship strength of the customer. True tax lease transactions usually entail more complex and opaque provisions than secured loans, including extensive aircraft maintenance requirements, aircraft return conditions and federal tax indemnification.

    For reasons that differ and do not appear to show a discernable pattern, more high and ultra-high net worth customers seem to be gravitating toward financing private aircraft. Perhaps these potential customers, on closer reflection, have concluded that aircraft financing has significant value and, with the right aircraft transaction team, are easier to close than they anticipated.

    The content provided above is intended for informational use only and does not constitute legal advice. Each person involved in these transactions should consult his or her aviation team advisors.

    David G. Mayer is a partner in the global Aviation Practice Group at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP in Dallas, which handles worldwide private aircraft matters, including regulatory compliance, tax planning, purchases, sales, leasing and financing, risk management, insurance, aircraft operations, hangar leasing, and aircraft renovations. Mayer frequently represents aircraft owners, flight departments, lessees, borrowers, operators, sellers, purchasers, and managers, as well as lessors and lenders. He can be contacted at dmayer@shackelford.law.

    This article was originally published by AINonline on March 13, 2020.

     

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    ADS-B Compliance: The Potential Consequences Of Violating Rule Airspace see more

    NAFA member, Greg Reigel, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP., discusses ADS-B Compliance and Rule Airspace.

    As most aircraft operators know, or should know, aircraft must now be equipped with ADS-B Out in order to fly in most airspace within the U.S.  Although it is possible to take advantage of limited waivers or exceptions, generally speaking ADS-B Out is required for operations in “Rule Airspace.”

    In connection with this requirement, the FAA recently updated Order 2150.3C – FAA’s Compliance and Enforcement Program to explain potential sanctions for aircraft operations that do not comply with the ADS-B Out mandate.  Specifically, Chapter 9 of the Order now identifies the FAA’s sanction policy/guidance for ADS-B related violations.

    It is important to understand that the FAA will be taking these violations seriously. For example, if the FAA believes an airman is transmitting inaccurate ADS-B Out or transponder information with the intent to deceive, or is operating an aircraft without an activated transponder or ADS-B Out transmission (except as provided in 14 C.F.R. §91.225(f)) for purposes of evading detection, it will revoke that airman’s certificates.

    The sanction for other violations are not as severe, but are nonetheless significant.  The FAA characterizes the severity of the violation based upon levels of 1, 2 or 3, with Severity Level 3 being the most serious. And depending upon whether the FAA views the violation as careless or reckless/intentional, the sanction range could vary from low to maximum.

    The FAA evaluates violations based upon impact on safety.  “Technical Noncompliance” involves violations where serious injury, death, or severe damage could not realistically occur as a result of the violation conduct, even if theoretically possible. A violation with a “Potential Effect on Safety”  occurs in a situation where serious injury, death, or severe damage could realistically result, but under the facts and circumstances would not often occur. Finally, a violation falls into the “Likely Effect on Safety” category where serious injury, death, or severe damage may occur more often as a result of the violation conduct.

    When the operator fails to comply with ADS-B Out performance or broadcast requirements due to technical noncompliance, the violation is considered Severity Level 1. If the failure to comply with ADS-B Out performance or broadcast requirements has a possible effect on safety then the violation is Severity Level 2. And, not surprisingly, when the failure to comply with ADS-B Out performance or broadcast requirements has a likely effect on safety then it is a Severity Level 3 violation.

    The specific sanction will also depend upon the type of violator.  If the violation is by an individual certificate holder, the airman will likely be facing suspension of his or her certificates.  An individual acting as an airman or a business entity will face a monetary civil penalty. In the case of a business, the amount will vary depending upon the size and revenue of the entity.

    So, depending upon the circumstances, an individual certificate holder could face a suspension of his or her certificates for 20 -60 days, 60 -120 days, 90 -150 days, or 150 -270 days, depending upon whether the violation is in the low, medium, high, or maximum range, respectively. Other individuals and businesses could face civil penalties ranging from $100 to $34,174 per violation, depending upon the nature of the violator and how the FAA categorizes the violation.

    In the event of multiple violations arising from the same act or omission, the FAA may give special consideration if the violation was careless, as opposed to reckless/intentional violations which receive no special consideration.  For an individual certificate holder the suspension could be anywhere from 30 -90 days, 90 -150 days, or 120 -180 days, depending upon whether the violation is Severity Level 1, 2 or 3, respectively. And an individual acting as an airman could be assessed a civil penalty in the amount of $5,000 -$10,000, $7,500 -$15,000, or $10,000 -$20,000, again depending upon whether the violation is Severity Level 1, 2, or 3, respectively.

    For other individuals, the civil penalty could range anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000.  And business violators could be assessed civil penalties ranging from $50,000 to $600,000 depending upon the nature and size of the business, as well as the Severity Level of the violation.

    Conclusion

    Order 2150.3C provides the FAA inspectors and attorneys with a checklist for determining sanction in any given case involving an ADS-B violation.  Unfortunately, when a case gets to the point where the FAA is determining sanction, the actual calculations and method for arriving at the final assessed civil penalty is usually withheld.

    However, it is important to understand that the facts and circumstances involved in any given case have an impact on both how the sanction is calculated as well as the amount of the civil penalty assessed.  If you find yourself defending against an alleged violation of Rule Airspace, knowing this information can help you defend yourself and, hopefully, successfully resolve the matter.

    This article was originally published by Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP. on February 3, 2020.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    The Flight Department Company Trap see more

    NAFA member, Greg Reigel, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP., discusses regulatory issues with owning or operating aircraft.

    Businesses and individuals face many regulatory issues in connection with owning or operating an aircraft. Aircraft owners or operators who are unfamiliar with the limitations imposed by the applicable regulations may unnecessarily expose themselves to liability for non-compliance.

    For example, aircraft owners or operators commonly attempt to shield their liability by creating some form of business entity that is a subsidiary of the “real” operating company to own the aircraft.  Or, rather than forming a subsidiary, they create a business entity to own the aircraft that is solely owned by the individual who really wants to use the aircraft.

    In either scenario, the aircraft is the sole substantive asset of the company, and the business entity is used to maintain and fly the aircraft for the benefit of the parent company or individual owner of the business entity. By structuring the ownership and operation of the aircraft in this manner, the aircraft owner and/or operator has just fallen into the “flight department company trap.”

    I recently presented a continuing legal education program on this very topic for Lawline.  In my presentation, I discussed the various rules and regulations promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration that have a significant impact on how businesses or individuals are permitted to utilize private aircraft, as well as how to identify the flight department company trap, understand the consequences of creating a flight department company, and available alternatives to avoid falling into the trap and legally conduct private aircraft operations.

    If you would like to learn more, you can view a short clip from the CLE here. Otherwise, you can find other posts discussing this topic here on The Pre-Flight Brief or on our Aviation Law Articles page.  And, of course, if you have specific questions or would like to discuss this topic further, please feel free to contact me.

    This article was originally published by Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP. on October 18, 2019.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Application of the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods to Business Aircra see more

    NAFA member, Greg Reigel, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP., discusses the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods ("CISG"). 

    In the current business aircraft sales market it is not uncommon for a transaction involving a business aircraft to have either a buyer or a seller from another country. In those situations, when the parties are drafting their aircraft purchase agreement, they should be aware that the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods(“CISG”) could apply to their transaction.

    What Is The CISG?

    The CISG is an international treaty that was ratified by the United States Senate in 1986. It was intended to be a uniform and fair set of rules for contracts for the international sale of goods to prevent parties to an international transaction from having to analyze the various national or international laws to determine the law applicable to the contract. One of the primary goals of the CISG is to facilitate certainty and predictability of international sales contracts. which, in theory, then decreases transaction costs.

    By signing on to the CISG, a country adopts the terms of the CISG as its national law. In the case of the United States, the CISG is now part of U.S. federal law. When it applies to a transaction, the CISG generally replaces the uniform commercial code, adopted by most states within the U.S., with its own provisions regarding contract formation, obligations of the parties, breach, remedies, damages, etc.

    When Does the CISG Apply?

    The CISG applies to contracts for the sale of goods, including aircraft, between parties whose places of business are in different countries where both countries are contracting states under the CISG (e.g. have agreed to be bound by the CISG). (Note: the CISG only applies to transactions between businesses, not consumer transactions or sales of services). Although the CISG does not apply to the sale of an aircraft, it may apply to parts, components or other goods that are not installed on an aircraft but are otherwise being sold with the aircraft. When a dispute arises out of a contract for sale of goods between parties from contracting states the CISG will apply to the dispute unless the parties elected to exclude its application to their transaction.

    Thus, the American business owner of an aircraft will be bound by the terms of the CISG if it contracts with a party whose “place of business” is in a country that is a signatory to the CISG at the time the aircraft purchase agreement was signed, unless the agreement specifically excluded application of the CISG. Since the United States is a signatory, in order to determine if the CISG applies to a business aircraft transaction an American owner must determine whether the other party’s “place of business” with the closest relationship to the aircraft purchase agreement is also within a contracting state.

    Article 10 of the CISG provides, “[I]f a party has more than one place of business, the place of business is that which has the closest relationship to the contract and its performance, having regard to the circumstances known to or contemplated by the parties at any time or at the conclusion of the contract.” The “place of business” determination requires analysis of where the communications about the contract or representations about the product originated, as well as when those communications occurred. This means the communications relating to the entire transaction, including the offer and acceptance as well as performance of the contract. And for those who may be thinking along the lines of where the business is incorporated or where its home office is located (the analysis required for exercise of jurisdiction over a business), that isn’t the case under the CISG. Rather, a location is only relevant if it has the closest relationship to the contract and its performance.

    Why Does It Matter?

    If application of the CISG applies and has not been specifically excluded in the purchase agreement, then the parties to a business aircraft transaction may be stuck with CISG provisions that may or may not be consistent with the state law otherwise selected or preferred. For example, in the event of a dispute the applicable CISG remedies or damages provisions may be more limited than what would otherwise be provided under state law. Or the CISG’s incorporation of INCOTERMS may be beyond applicable state law. And this is especially true where U.S. courts have either failed to recognize the CISG’s existence in applicable cases or misapplied the body of law to the transaction.

    What Can You Do?

    If the CISG would otherwise apply to a business aircraft transaction but you do not want it to apply, you must affirmatively opt-out of its application. To do that, you can specifically disclaim or exclude application of the CISG by including language in your aircraft purchase agreement. Merely including choice of law language in an agreement is not considered clear intent of opting-out. Rather, opt-out language should be similar to the following:

    “The parties agree that the 1980 United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods shall not apply to this Agreement.”

    Conclusion

    So, if you are more comfortable with state law, or you are unfamiliar with the provisions of the CISG and don’t want to take the chance on whether the CISG will beneficial or unfavorable, you will want to include disclaimer language in your aircraft purchase agreement. Inclusion of disclaimer language relieves the parties of having to determine exactly what Article 2 does or does not cover, especially since the CISG’s exclusions must be interpreted narrowly. Otherwise, if you enter into an aircraft transaction to which the CISG applies and do not include disclaimer language, you may be in for a surprise if a dispute arises from the transaction.

    This article was originally published by Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP. in April 2019.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Hot Topics for Bizav in 2020 see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, shares the top-five challenges in business aviation for 2020.  

    The U.S. finished 2019 at the top of the world of business aircraft transactions and it is well-positioned to continue its leadership this year. Of course, every year presents important challenges and there are five that I believe will affect many aircraft owners, lessors, lenders, managers, insurance and buy/sell brokers, technical consultants, and other industry participants in 2020. Here are my top-five challenges for this year:

    ETHICAL BUSINESS TRANSACTIONS

    The International Aircraft Dealers Association (IADA) expects its member brokers and other aircraft transaction professionals to abide by professional standards and ethics rules under IADA’s code of ethics. To put its standards into practice, among other steps, IADA admits new members under an accreditation process administered by an independent outside firm.

    IADA is far from alone in its important efforts. By issuing its statement regarding ethical conduct, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) strongly asserts that every member company should use these guidelines to enforce high levels of ethical behavior, safety, integrity, accountability, and respect for others. NATA urges its diverse general aviation members to use these guidelines to enforce compliance and deter wrongdoing. Further, NBAA published ethical business aviation transactions guidelines to establish core ethics and business conduct standards in transactions between buyers and sellers of business aircraft products and services.

    It’s no secret that some industry participants believe others act outside such ethical guidelines. Still, each person has a new opportunity in 2020 to renew his or her efforts to play by the applicable rules urged on them by their respective associations regardless of inconsistent or questionable behavior of others.

    ILLEGAL CHARTERS

    After seeing the FAA take multiple actions against illegal charters in 2019, you might conclude that illegal charter operations will be unstoppable in 2020. Not so.

    In my experience, most charter and on-demand flight services operate legally, will happily demonstrate their capabilities, and explain how they comply with the FARs. Unfortunately, other operators test the limits or flat out operate illegally in violation of the FARs.

    The FAA focuses on safety and enforces the FARs. Two big buckets of rules in the FARs, among others, cover legal operation of business aircraft: private flight operations under FAR Part 91 and commercial or on-demand flight operations under FAR Part 135.

    A Part 135-compliant operator must obey stringent operational, training, and other rules designed to assure passenger safety. Part 91, not so much; an operator has fewer requirements under the FARs in part because they do not, if in compliance, transport persons or property for compensation or hire as permitted for certified operators under Part 135.

    Anyone, including prospective passengers, can help curb illegal flight operations in 2020 by doing modest diligence on charter operations you observe or might use. For example, as a prospective passenger, you can potentially identify violators, reporting your concerns to the FAA and taking your charter business elsewhere. NATA’s website posts a hotline telephone number for customers or others to report violators.

    One tell-tale sign of a potential problem might appear if the price of a flight is much lower than one provided by another operator. Although that may be good news for your wallet, it might also reveal an illegal operation that lowers its prices to edge out operators that incur higher costs to comply with FAR Part 135.

    If a charter operator tells you, or you discover, that you, and not the charter operator, will exercise “operational control” of the flight, that is a red flag warning of a potential illegal charter operation under the FARs. Operational control means you will be responsible for the initiation, conduct, and termination of the flight (14 CFR 1.1), a position that puts you in the personal liability hotseat should certain things go wrong with the flight.

    For more, NATA and NBAA offer valuable materials on illegal charter operations.

    Although a bit different than illegal charter, I have seen and discussed with many colleagues illegal private operations under Part 91 categorically called “flight department companies.” Often taking the form of limited liability companies (LLCs), LLC members sometimes erroneously believe that the LLC, which has no business enterprise, can operate its aircraft and receive “compensation” from family, friends, associates, or others that “borrow” or “use” the LLC’s aircraft.

    Compensation is a very broad term in the FAA’s view and occurs in many ways, including when passengers share expenses or reimburse the LLC for aircraft operating costs. With very limited exceptions, these flight operations are illegal, prohibited under the FARs, and subject to FAA enforcement action.

    Expect both illegal charter and flight department company operations to be on the FAA’s radar in 2020, likely more so than you have ever seen before.

    BONUS DEPRECIATION AND OTHER TAX PLANNING

    A buyer committed to purchasing an aircraft should make a New Year’s resolution to analyze primary tax aspects of owning, operating, and storing the aircraft, and tax minimization structures, ideally, before signing a letter of intent to buy an aircraft. This analysis should at least cover federal income, state sales/use, and local property taxes to calculate the total tax costs of, or potential tax write-offs with respect to, acquisition and ownership of an aircraft.

    Typically, clients start with questions on claiming 100 percent “bonus depreciation,” which continues to be available in 2020. For this year, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 allows aircraft owners, with limitations for personal use, temporarily to take 100 percent bonus depreciation deductions on new and preowned aircraft against gross income if the taxpayer uses the aircraft in its trade or business or for production of income. (For more, see AINsight: Maximize Aircraft Bonus Depreciation in 2019 and AINsight: 100% Depreciation and Aircraft Personal Use.)

    Early in the buying experience, many buyers also express an understandable aversion to paying any property, sales, or use tax—and often believe they can avoid these taxes entirely. It is imperative to consider recent changes in law and tax rates that came into effect on January 1 and how to eliminate or reduce these taxes.

    To advance your planning, determine the expected storage/hangar location(s), project the use outside of the aircraft’s home state, and consider various structures to lease your aircraft. Also, determine if or when local tax law imposes an annual property tax on the aircraft for possible tax planning relating to the location of your aircraft on that date. Using all this information, talk with your advisors for structures and strategies that may defer, allocate, eliminate, or otherwise minimize the property, sales, and use taxes.

    Once a purchase closes, always keep accurate, clear, complete, and contemporaneous records on relevant tax-oriented facts for all federal, state, and local tax authorities. Don’t wait for an audit letter to update your books.

    ADS-B OUT PRIVACY

    The ADS-B technology mandate, which became effective January 1, has great merit for safety, flight communications accuracy, and other reasons.

    However, private third-parties can—using inexpensive, commercially available receivers—pick up the aircraft’s broadcast of its unique ICAO address and thereby capture information directly from ADS-B transmissions that an aircraft operator might prefer to remain confidential. Such information includes an aircraft’s identification, altitude, GPS positional data, and velocity.

    To address these privacy concerns, ADS-B operators should quickly evaluate and, if using 1090-MHz ADS-B equipment, decide whether to participate in the FAA’s Privacy ICAO Address (PIA) program, starting this month. In December, the FAA established an application process for operators to use and periodically change temporary ICAO aircraft addresses that aren’t tied to an operator in the Civil Aviation Registry (CAR).

    The PIA program is limited to U.S. domestic operations to avoid potential conflicts with other ICAO member states that currently do not offer this capability. That means privacy breaches might still occur on flight operations outside the U.S.

    The PIA program differs from the FAA’s new Limiting Aircraft Data Displayed (LADD) program. Operators that do not wish to allow the FAA to share aircraft data the FAA receives, including tail number, call sign, and flight number, can submit LADD requests via FAA’s dedicated LADD website. The LADD program, which replaces the Block Aircraft Registry Request (BARR) program, does not impact the ADS-B broadcast data, which, as noted, transmits information directly to capable receivers.

    For maximum privacy domestically in the U.S., sign up for both the PIA and LADD programs.

    INSURANCE TURBULENCE FOR OWNERS, OPERATORS, LESSORS, AND LENDERS 

    If you plan to buy or renew insurance coverage in 2020, buckle up. Plagued by years of huge payouts and financial losses, some insurers have exited the market, resulting in reduced liability insurance capacity for all aircraft and much higher premiums (anecdotally, 20 percent to up to 300 percent of 2019 rates).

    The best operators should still be able to maintain or even improve coverage in 2020 at higher premiums provided their insurers agree that the customers have a stellar safety record, outstanding training programs, and experienced pilots with high hours in the type of aircraft insured by the carrier. The story is different for single-pilot, owner/operated aircraft or new pilots who might not be able to find insurance at any price or, if insurance is available, must accept reduced liability limits at higher premiums than in 2019.

    Lenders and lessors might have a different predicament. From transactional activity in 2019, it seems financiers generally required and successfully obtained yesteryear’s high liability insurance limits. In 2020, lenders and lessors may have to ease back on their demands for such high liability insurance levels and concentrate more on property damage coverage.

    In supporting this easing, lenders and lessors can point to a 2018 federal law amendment that might facilitate approving transactions with reduced liability insurance limits. Under 49 U.S. Code § 44112, Limitation of liability, Congress provided a preemptory shield of business aircraft lessors and lenders from personal injury and property damage liability if they do not have possession or control over the aircraft at the time of the accident.

    Customers should contact specialized aviation insurance brokers well before signing a purchase agreement in 2020, to allow much more time than the week before closing to find insurance with the best terms and lowest cost. (For more, see AINsight: Limiting Risk as Liability Insurance Tightens.)

    CONCLUSION 

    Amid the many challenges that business aviation will face in 2020, rather than debate the topics above for long, it is more important to take action now and throughout the new decade for the benefit of clients, customers, and colleagues involved in the business aviation industry. Will you take action and suggest others do too?

    This article was originally published by AINonline on January 10, 2020.

     

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Insurance Will Not Cover An Unqualified Pilot in Command see more

    NAFA member, Greg Reigel, Partner at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, discusses aircraft insurance coverage regarding an unqualified pilot in command. 

    If you buy insurance to cover the aircraft you own or fly, you want to make sure the policy covers you and your aircraft if you ever have a problem. It is important to understand that your insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurer. That contract has terms and conditions that spell out the rights and responsibilities of both you the aircraft owner and/or pilot and the insurer.

    As you may be aware, if an aircraft owner and/or pilot does not comply with the requirements of the insurance contract, the insurer can deny coverage. This can sometimes lead to arguments between the insurance company and the insured aircraft owner or pilot.

    This was the situation in one recent case in which the insurance company denied coverage to an aircraft owner whose aircraft was destroyed during an emergency landing. In Hund v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh (D. Kan., 2019), the aircraft owner was flying his aircraft along with another pilot. During the flight the aircraft’s engine experienced a loss of power and the other pilot—who was piloting the plane at the time—told the aircraft owner “your airplane,” at which point the aircraft owner assumed the role of pilot in command and attempted to restart the engine. Unfortunately, the aircraft owner was unable to restart the engine and was forced to perform the emergency landing that resulted in the destruction of the aircraft. After the accident, the aircraft owner submitted a claim to his insurer for the value of his aircraft.

    In determining whether to pay the claim, the insurer looked to the insurance policy which addressed coverage for both the aircraft owner as a named insured, and for other pilots operating the aircraft. The policy conditioned coverage on compliance with the policy’s “Pilots Endorsement” which required, unsurprisingly, that the pilot in command have a valid FAA pilot certificate, a current and valid FAA medical certificate, if required, and a current and valid flight review.

    Unfortunately, neither the aircraft owner nor the other pilot satisfied these conditions: The aircraft owner possessed a current flight review, but not a current medical certificate; the other pilot did not have a current flight review. Although these facts were undisputed, the aircraft owner argued that 14 C.F.R. § 91.3(b) suspended the policy requirements during an in-flight emergency, which he and the other pilot faced during the emergency landing.

    14 C.F.R. § 91.3(b) provides that “[i]n an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency.” Specifically, the aircraft owner argued that § 91.3(b)’s emergency rule was in effect when he assumed control from the other pilot, and the emergency rules “suspended all other rules” except to do what is necessary to respond to the emergency. The insurer didn’t agree, and neither did the Court when the aircraft owner sued his insurer for denying his claim.

    The Court initially observed that Section 91.3(b) allows a pilot in command to “deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency.” It then concluded that Section 91.3(b) applied only to the rules in Part 91, and not the regulations governing pilot qualifications in 14 C.F.R. Part 61.

    Makes sense to me. Certainly, the aircraft owner’s argument was creative. But I agree that the plain language of the insurance policy and the regulations are inconsistent with that argument.

    The moral of the story? If you are going to act as pilot in command, make sure you satisfy both the applicable regulations, as well as the requirements of any insurance policy covering the aircraft you are flying.

    This article was originally published by Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, on April 1, 2019.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Does The “As-Is” Language In An Aircraft Purchase Agreement Make A Difference? see more

    NAFA member, Greg Reigel, Partner at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP., discusses the "As-Is" Language in Aircraft Purchase Agreements.

    It isn’t uncommon in aircraft purchase agreements to see language stating the parties are agreeing that the aircraft is being purchased “as-is” or “as-is, where-is.” Oftentimes the agreement will go on to also say that the seller is not making, nor is the buyer relying upon, any representations or warranties regarding the condition of the aircraft. And it may also specifically state that the buyer is only relying upon its own investigation and evaluation of the aircraft. But what does this really mean?

    Well, from the seller’s perspective, the seller wants to sell the aircraft without having to worry that the buyer will claim at a later time that the aircraft has a problem for which the seller is responsible. So, the seller does not want to represent that the aircraft is in any particular condition (e.g. airworthy). When the deal closes, the aircraft is sold to the seller in its existing condition without any promises by the seller about that condition.

    Here is an example of how this works: If the first annual inspection of the aircraft after the sale reveals that the aircraft is not in compliance with an airworthiness directive (“AD”) that was applicable to the aircraft at the time of the sale, the buyer could claim that the aircraft was not airworthy at the time of the sale and demand that the seller pay the cost of complying with the AD. But if the purchase agreement has “as is” language, then the chances of the buyer being able to actually force the seller to pay are low.

    Not only does this “as-is” language protect the seller, but it also protects other parties involved in the sale transaction such as seller’s aircraft broker. A recent case provides a nice explanation of the legal basis for this result.

    Red River Aircraft Leasing, LLC v. Jetbrokers, Inc. involved the sale of a Socata TBM 700 where the aircraft owner/seller was represented by an aircraft broker. The buyer and seller entered into an aircraft purchase agreement that included not only “as-is, where-is” language, but it also provided that the buyer was accepting the aircraft solely based upon buyer’s own investigation of the aircraft.

    During the buyer’s pre-purchase inspection of the aircraft, the buyer discovered certain damage to the aircraft. However, the buyer accepted delivery of the aircraft in spite of the damage based upon alleged representations by the broker that the damage was repairable. After closing the buyer learned that certain parts were not repairable. Rather than sue the aircraft seller, presumably because the buyer recognized the legal impact of the “as-is” language in the purchase agreement with the seller, the buyer instead sued the aircraft broker alleging that the broker negligently misrepresented the aircraft.

    In order to succeed on a claim of negligent misrepresentation under Texas law (the law applicable to the transaction), the buyer was required to show (1) a representation made by the broker; (2) the representation conveyed false information to buyer; (3) the broker did not exercise reasonable care or competence in obtaining or communicating the information; and (4) the buyer suffers pecuniary loss by justifiably relying on the representation.

    In response to the buyer’s claim, the broker argued that the “as-is” language in the purchase agreement waived the buyer’s right to be able to prove that it justifiably relied upon any alleged representations by the broker. The buyer primarily argued that the purchase agreement language did not apply because the broker was not a party to the agreement. But the Court disagreed with the buyer.

    The Court found that

    the purchase agreement contains clear language evincing Red River’s intent to be bound by a pledge to rely solely on its own investigation. And, because it appears that the parties transacted at arm’s length and were of relatively equal bargaining power and sophistication, the court concludes that the language in the purchase agreement conclusively negates the reliance element of Red River’s negligent misrepresentation claim.

    So, even though the broker was not a party to the purchase agreement, the Court still held that the buyer was bound by the statements/obligations to which the buyer agreed in the purchase agreement, even with respect to third-parties. As a result, the Court granted the broker’s summary judgment motion and dismissed the buyer’s claims against it.

    Conclusion

    “As-is” language will continue to be common in aircraft purchase agreements. Aircraft sellers and those working with them will certainly want to include and enjoy the benefit from this language. Conversely, aircraft buyers need to be aware of the scope and impact of “as-is” disclaimer language in an aircraft purchase agreement. If a buyer is unhappy with the condition of the purchased aircraft, the presence of this language in the purchase agreement will significantly limit the buyer’s remedies and recourse.

    The information contained in this web-site is intended for the education and benefit of those visiting the Aero Legal Services site. The information should not be relied upon as advice to help you with your specific issue. Each case is unique and must be analyzed by an attorney licensed to practice in your area with respect to the particular facts and applicable current law before any advice can be given. Sending an e-mail to Aero Legal Services or Gregory J. Reigel does not create an attorney-client relationship. Advice will not be given by e-mail until an attorney-client relationship has been established.

    This article was originally published by Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, on July 1, 2018. 

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Limiting Risk as Liability Insurance Tightens see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, shares what you need to know about liability insurance.

    If you think you can call your insurance broker and secure aircraft insurance just days before you close an aircraft purchase or renew liability coverage, think again. Insurance companies have changed the underwriting game after more than a decade of losing money.

    In the last two years, many underwriters have exited aviation insurance while the remaining carriers have tightened up underwriting standards, reduced coverage limits, and increased premiums for liability coverage. These changes have impacted nearly all insureds in some fashion, including many receiving invoices with substantial premium increases. Worse still, owner-pilot and single-pilot aircraft have nearly run out of gas in finding adequate or any liability insurance coverage.

    This tightening aircraft insurance market requires aircraft owners and operators to allow significant lead time to search for insurance when buying an aircraft or renewing existing policies. In addition, legal entity structuring and contractual agreements designed to mitigate the risk of personal liability have become more important as insurance underwriters clamp down.

    Liability insurance typically applies to, and is often purchased by, an aircraft owner or operator as the “named insured.” The insurance indemnifies, or pays for, liability of the named insured and, when included in policies, other parties, identified as “additional insureds,” that have an interest in the aircraft or related liability risks. The obligation of the insurer to pay for potential losses is referred to generally as the “duty to indemnify” insureds. The insurance indemnifies for bodily injury, including death, incurred by someone other than the named or additional insured. Coverage should respond when claims arise out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the insured aircraft. For example, liability coverage should respond to a crash on takeoff or a collision of two aircraft on an airport ramp.

    Problems Illustrated

    To help put market challenges in context, consider two hypothetical situations.

    In the first case, a flight department operates for Big Co., a corporation with significant business operations that is owned privately by one family (Big Co.). The flight department employs professional pilots. Big Co. operates its aircraft under FAR Part 91. The fleet consists of three large cabin and three light jets. One pilot usually operates the light jets.

    Big Co. carried $300 million per occurrence in liability coverage in 2018 but at renewal in 2019, Big Co. could only obtain $100 million per occurrence for the light jets. Big Co. kept the high limits on the large cabin aircraft but absorbed a 25 percent premium increase.

    The carrier informed Big Co. that the light jets dragged down the original insurance limits and warned Big Co. that, in the next renewal into 2021, the underwriter may be able to insure the light jets only if Big Co. operates them with two pilots.

    In the second case, a prospective aircraft owner, an ultra-high-net-worth individual (UHNWI), formed an LLC of which HW is the sole member/owner. The UHNWI client signed an aircraft purchase agreement to buy a $5 million preowned turboprop from the manufacturer but could only secure $1 million of liability coverage at a surprisingly high premium. When the client agreed with the underwriter that a professional pilot would fly the aircraft for a year while the client developed skills and knowledge on how to operate the aircraft, the insurer reluctantly increased coverage to $5 million. The client originally planned to buy 10 times that coverage.

    Strategies

    As the aviation insurance market tightens, many, but not all, owners and operators seeking coverage will either pay higher premiums or be unable to purchase adequate or any coverage. In this new reality, potential owners or operators should engage, or continue to use, a specialized aviation insurance broker (not general lines brokers) to assist in purchasing, modifying or renewing coverage.

    Waiting too long to transact with carriers is hazardous in today’s market as illustrated in the Big Co. and UHNWIsituations, as underwriters seem to be circumspect about accepting or renewing certain underwriting risks, especially for single pilot aircraft. The broker should act as a trusted advisor, exhibit deep knowledge of underwriter capacity and focus quickly on policy provisions that exist or must be modified to optimize protection of the particular aircraft owner or operator.

    In addition to an insurer’s “duty to indemnify” discussed above, insurers also have a “duty to defend” their insureds against liability claims for which potential coverage may arise under a liability insurance policy. The duty to defend is significant, financially and legally, for an insured. Even a small incident can run up significant legal fees regardless of the insurance coverage limits or disposition of the claim.

    For this reason, even low limit liability policy coverage may have significant value to an insured when the insurer and not the insured foots the legal bill.

    However, it’s critical to know when the insurance company can stop paying legal fees, which varies based on the circumstances, policy terms and state law. At that point, the insurance company may be out but the burden to pay legal bills may continue for an owner or operator such as Big Co. or the UHNWI client.

    Legal Steps To Mitigate Liability Risk

    For insureds facing payment demands for successful claims in excess of policy limits, claimants may, and will almost certainly attempt to, overcome legal barriers so they can tap into an owner’s or operator’s personal assets. However, certain structures or contractual strategies may mitigate risk for owners and operators.

    Choice of the Right Owner/Operator Entity. Deeply rooted in state law, various types of entities, if properly structured and managed, can mitigate personal liability of aircraft owners and operators, including certain LLCs, corporations and trusts.

    • LLCs. Private aircraft owners widely believe that LLCs that have no function other than to own their aircraft will shield them from personal liability. In the UHNWI client’s case, they are the sole LLC member. Claimants will almost certainly sue the UHNWI and the LLC and, with a money judgment in hand, seek to pierce the LLC veil and force the UHNWI personally to pay for damages in excess of insurance coverage. This risk is particularly acute if the UHNWI exercises operational control of the aircraft or if liability arises concurrently with a violation of the FARs (see “AINsight: Piercing the Aircraft LLC Veil”). Variations on LLC structures and proper legal management of the LLC company might reinforce its shield against a claimant.
    • Corporations. In the Big Co. example, Big Co. is a corporation, which like other corporations, is designed under state law to shield its shareholders from third party claims against Big Co. However, Big Co., as the aircraft owner, might still be liable for claims in excess of insurance. And the payment by Big Co. itself could, of course, reduce the value of Big Co. to the family that owns it. Placing aircraft in an affiliated company with a lower shareholder value might provide more protection for Big Co. itself and preserve more of the net worth of the family owners.
    • Trusts. Three types of trusts deserve mention, two of which might provide some protection against liability claims. A “statutory trust,” which is a creature of state statutes, protects beneficial owners from liability like shareholders of a corporation. An “irrevocable trust,” often created for estate planning and tax purposes, might protect its beneficiaries from claims because the beneficiary does not own, and claimants should not therefore be able to access, the trust assets as a result of the beneficiary’s liability. A “grantor trust,” often used for compliance with the FARs or asset management, is a pure “pass-through entity” for a beneficiary and is very unlikely to afford any protection to the beneficiary from third-party claims.

    Operate under Part 135. In both examples of Big Co. and the UHNWI client, the owners operate under Part 91 where each of them maintains “operational control” under the FARs. As such, they have direct responsibility for the flights and potential liability for their actions as operators. By contrast, if Big Co. or the UHNWI hires a Part 135 on demand air carrier, the air carrier exercises operational control and thereby takes responsibility for liability arising from the flight’s initiation, conduct, and termination under its air operator certificate.

    Although Big Co. might mitigate its risk of liability by hiring a Part 135 operator, the UHNWI intends to fly his or her own aircraft under Part 91 only. The UHNWI, therefore, needs to look even more closely at other structures to protect themselves against liability in excess of insurance limits, assuming insurance is even available.

    By hiring a Part 135 operator, Big Co. can also access the fleet insurance policy of the operator with more comprehensive coverage including acceptable liability limits. Before signing on to the fleet coverage, Big Co. should investigate whether Big Co. can separately procure superior insurance.

    Contractual Indemnification and Waivers. If an owner or operator does not hire a Part 135 operator or cannot purchase adequate liability insurance, the owner or operator can try to spread risk to other potential claimants by obtaining contractual indemnities from them that connects to that party’s insurance.

    To make this work, the party that indemnifies the owner or operator, such as the UHNWI or Big Co., must modify that party’s insurance policy to obtain a blanket contractual liability coverage through and with the approval of the underwriter—not an easy task.

    Even if the insurance company rejects contractual liability inclusion, an insured can still reduce exposure by asking third parties to waive their rights and claims against the insured in selected circumstances. For example, the UHNWI might try to obtain a liability waiver from their passengers or fuel suppliers (assuming the UHNWI’s compliance with the FARs).

    Conclusion

    In today’s aviation insurance market, underwriters have hit the brakes on issuing cheap and unprofitable aircraft insurance policies. No longer can owners and operators wait until the last moment before aircraft delivery or a renewal date to place, renew or modify aircraft insurance. Quite to the contrary, owners and operators should continuously monitor insurance placement, legal structuring and contractual negotiations to mitigate risk or allocate liability among appropriate parties.

    Many aspects of private aviation transactions benefit from using industry experts to guide owners and operators. It is clear that insurance, regulatory, and transaction expertise in the current insurance market is not optional.

    This article was originally published by AINonline on November 8, 2019.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    AINsight: Millennials' Shared Use Is a Real Deal see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, discusses millennials, shared use, and private jet travel.

    Millennials—those ranging in age from 21 to 37 years old this year—have discovered the private jet travel experience, and they like it. With unique attributes, this generation seems broadly interested in on-demand chartering, sharing flights with friends and, to a lesser extent, owning jets and other types of private aircraft—always on their terms.

    Also known as “Gen Y,” Millennials seem to enjoy private aircraft travel “experiences” at an acceptable cost with emphasis on safety, freedom, personalization, efficiency, speed, privacy, customization, and transparency—all couched in a high level of service and luxury. They also crave digital connectivity, mobility, and flexibility to travel when and where they want, preferably arranging private flights on mobile devices.

    Their perception of the benefits of business aviation includes accessibility of aircraft on-demand, the ability of aircraft to save time, and the efficiency of aircraft travel to increase their work productivity.

    Finally, Millennials care deeply about climate change and social causes. They might prefer aircraft operators that demonstrate their environmental responsibility. In fact, the business aviation community has long been committed to mitigating climate change, proven in part by the formation of a broad industry coalition that emphasizes developing and using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

    As a generation of roughly 73 million adults, Millennials often have high ambitions. Their top aspiration and priority in 2019, according to Deloitte, is to travel and see the world (57 percent). But their needs and wants are far more than aspirational. Some Millennials have, and others in the foreseeable future may earn or inherit, more than enough money to travel by private aircraft amid their peers who, by one report, now make up nearly half of the world’s super-wealthy, including Millennial billionaires.

    Indeed, Millennials already seem to be altering the business aviation industry by transforming a business aircraft from a product for purchase into a tool for transportation services in their “click and ride” world.

    VIABLE STEPS FOR MILLENNIALS TO ACCESS PRIVATE AIRCRAFT

    What, then, is the right generational, practical, and legal path forward in business aviation to meet the needs and wants of Gen Y? Setting aside the critical issue of selecting the right aircraft for use or purchase, let’s consider two high-level access and legal structures for Millennials to buy, use and share private aircraft along with the corresponding obligations, risks, and benefits.

    First, Millennials can decide, and currently seem to prefer, to experience private aviation travel without commitment to, or investment in, aircraft. They simply prefer to click and ride. Second, Millennials can elect to own or lease a fractional share of an aircraft or a whole aircraft.

    Regardless of what Millennials choose, private aviation is highly regulated. The FAA oversees the safety of U.S.-registered aircraft operations under the FARs, including Part 91 private flights and Part 135 charter.

    Further, now—perhaps more than ever—the FAA is looking for, and potentially taking enforcement actions against, operational and other violations of the FARs. Even with this FAA presence in mind, Millennials can still share ownership or use of aircraft with others or go it alone—as long as they properly structure their arrangements under the FARs.

    The following two use and ownership options work under the FARs:

    • Use only with no ownership commitment—click and ride. Many Part 135 operators do and increasingly will offer charter-based services such as on-demand charter flights (like renting a car), jet cards (types of pre-paid flight debit cards), block charter programs (package of charter flight hours), club or member programs (reduced flight costs for up-front fees). With myriad choices available, Millennials can select flights by criteria that meet their personal life values, economics and travel preferences, including aircraft type, flight sharing, transparency, connectivity, and privacy.

    Although many of the services might be easy and simple for Millennials to use, it is imperative that Millennials do not trade their safety just to pay lower charter fees offered by flying with illegal charter operators. Millennials should do their diligence to identify and steer clear of such legal and personal risks.

    • Own or lease specific aircraft. Properly structured, Millennials, solo or in a group, can take a deeper commitment in accessing private aircraft by leasing or owning an aircraft. Ownership, of course, requires a capital investment in an aircraft unlike the click-and-ride model, which has no ownership component. Banks may want to lend part or all of the purchase price to Millennials or buy and lease the aircraft to them, which frees up cash for Millennial to deploy in other ventures or equities.

    Within the option to buy or lease aircraft, Millennials can buy and finance or lease a fraction or whole private aircraft. Although a large number of financiers compete to finance or lease whole aircraft, relatively few lenders or lessors finance fractional shares.

    Fractional share programs, regulated under Part 91K, offer one good way to dip a toe into the water of aircraft ownership. Fractional shareowners buy and use a certain number of flight hours associated with owning or leasing as little as a one-sixteenth share of an aircraft.  This type of purchase might appeal to Millennials who decide to change their interests from click-and-ride offerings to ownership in an aircraft fleet that, for example, uses newer engines and fuels that minimize an aircraft’s carbon footprint, has an outstanding safety record, or has better connectivity features on the ground and aloft.

    The next step up in commitment is to buy or lease a whole private aircraft instead of a fraction of one. A Millennial might be able to locate and buy an aircraft that adequately meets his or her personal life values and needs, including size, customization, privacy, and technology. Whole aircraft purchases start to make sense when flying at least 200 hours per year. Before then, click-and-ride or fractional programs might work better economically.

    FARS NEVER FAR AWAY

    If Millennials need or want to share ownership or leasing of an aircraft jointly with others, they can legally structure such sharing under the FARs. However, being an owner and an operator might not be the same thing, and a joint operator (either as a joint owner or a joint lessee) under Part 91 can be tricky. For example, as a general rule, no cost-sharing, reimbursements, or other compensation in any form can be conveyed to any operator or owner for any Part 91 flight, other than under very limited circumstances.

    In many situations, receipt of compensation by the operator will convert the Part 91 flight into an illegal charter. However, if correctly structured, Part 91 will allow Millennials to enter into certain joint ownership and leasing arrangements that Millennials can use to accomplish their objectives.

    In contrast, under a bona fide Part 135 flight operation, Millennials can devise their own cost-sharing arrangements under appropriate agreements with much greater flexibility, typically at a higher cost than Part 91 flights.

    Millennials today and in the foreseeable future will have the financial means to use or acquire personal aircraft. Only time will tell whether Gen Y prefers to fly private aircraft as a service free of the ownership risks or lean into the world of aircraft ownership or leasing, alone and with friends, to fulfill life experiences and work objectives. No matter which way Millennials go, the FARs will be right there with them.

    This article was originally published in AINonline on September 13, 2019.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    David Norton, with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, discusses ADS-B Out & RVSM airspace. see more

    NAFA member, David Norton, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, discusses ADS-B Out and RVSM airspace. 

    The FAA just made your life a little easier. As of January 22, if your aircraft is properly equipped with ADS-B Out, you are automatically authorized to fly in domestic RVSM airspace.

    What Does That Mean?  

    A key air traffic control function is to keep aircraft safely separated. A basic way of doing so is to have aircraft fly at different altitudes. But this works only if everyone’s aircraft altimeter – the instrument that tells you your altitude – is accurate. Altimeters originally were very accurate at lower altitudes; less so the higher you flew. So the norm was for air traffic control (ATC) to instruct different aircraft to fly at specific altitudes that were at least 1,000 feet apart from each other when flying below 28,000 feet, and at least 2,000 feet apart when flying above 28,000 feet. 

    That would ensure enough of a safety buffer between what the altimeter was saying and what the aircraft’s actual altitude might be, to be sure two airplanes were not inadvertently flying at the same altitude (even if their instruments said they were 2,000 feet apart) when above 28,000 feet. But flying above 28,000 feet, where half as much airspace is available, typically is where you want your jet aircraft to be in order to maximize air speed and fuel efficiency.

    By the early 2000s, technology had improved to the point that ATC could begin to use only a 1,000 foot separation above 28,000 feet (thus doubling the airspace available to jet aircraft), but this would work only if all aircraft in that airspace had the new, more accurate technology. The FAA therefore issued a rule stating that if an operator wanted to fly in this newly “reduced vertical separation minimum” (RVSM) airspace, that is, the airspace above 28,000 feet and below 43,000 feet, then specific permission was needed.  

    If the operator demonstrated an ability to meet all applicable technical requirements, the FAA would grant a “letter of authorization” (LOA). Periodically, the operator would have to fly over specific ground stations able to measure the actual altitude of the aircraft, to confirm that the technology was actually working. Unfortunately, the ongoing problem has been that obtaining these LOAs can be extremely difficult and time consuming, and you can’t cruise in RVSM airspace until you have one. 

    During the last ten years, however, two key things have happened. First, most of today’s aircraft meet all of the original RVSM requirements. Second has been the simultaneous development of a much larger, more comprehensive set of technologies to significantly improve the overall safety and efficiency of the U.S. air traffic control system. 

    Key to this effort is “Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out” (ADS-B Out), which is much more accurate than ground-based radar, and which allows the FAA to track very accurately the aircraft’s actual position, altitude, velocity, identification, etc. – in real time. Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 91.225 governing ADS-B Out equipment and use requires that all aircraft operating in U.S. airspace have a certified GPS position source teamed with a transponder that is capable of automatically transmitting data from the aircraft to the ATC without input from the pilot. ADS-B also gives pilots immediate access to air traffic and weather services.

    To its great credit, the FAA realized that, as aircraft operators install this new ADS-B Out technology, it can safely and automatically grant permission to those operators to fly in domestic RVSM airspace. This saves both the FAA and each operator an enormous amount of time and energy, reducing paperwork and processing requirements, while maintaining a higher level of safety, better situational awareness, and more efficient, direct routing. 

    The new RVSM rule is a further great incentive to encourage you to install ADS-B Out in your aircraft before the January 1, 2020 deadline.

    This article was originally published by Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP on March 11, 2019.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Taxing Relationships - The New Tax Traffic Controller for Partnership/LLC Aircraft Owners see more

    NAFA member David N. Corkern, J.D., LL.M., aviation attorney with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, shares information about the recent IRS changes made regarding partnerships and LLCs for aircraft owners.

    Do you own an airplane through a limited liability company that is treated as a partnership to preserve privacy, or to minimize tax or other liability exposure? Or in which the airplane is held in a partnership of all “natural persons” (i.e. human beings)? Regardless of the reason, you’ll want to be aware of the recent changes made to the way those partnerships/limited liability companies (LLCs) are treated by the IRS during an audit. 

    In 2015, with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act, the U.S. Congress significantly revised the manner in which partnerships/LLCs are audited. (While LLCs differ from partnerships under state law, they are treated and taxed as partnerships by the IRS, unless they have elected to be taxed as corporations. All references to “partnerships” in this article refer to such LLCs as well.)

    The IRS has issued regulations known as the Centralized Partnership Audit Regime (“CPAR”), effective for audits of partnership tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2018. The CPAR requires that all partnerships designate a “partnership representative.” 

    This designation must be made for each tax year of the partnership and replaces the “tax matters partner” under the old rules. Unlike the tax matters partner, the partnership representative may be someone other than a partner. Do exercise caution when choosing your new partnership representative, since the IRS will not deal with any other person or entity in case of a tax audit. In addition, the CPAR gives the partnership representative greater powers than the former tax matters partner – to bind the partnership and all of its partners in negotiations with the IRS, notwithstanding any contrary provision in the partnership agreement.

    CPAR also changes the way in which tax adjustments are made. Prior to CPAR, if an audit resulted in additional taxes, penalties, and interest due for the audited tax year, those adjustments would have been made at the partnership level and each partner’s return also was adjusted. The net result of the pre-CPAR audit was that taxes, penalties, and interest were collected from those who were partners in the audited tax years.

    Now under CPAR, the IRS will assess all taxes, penalties, and interest against the partnership, which shifts the burden to current partners, and not to those who were partners for the years under review. 

    For example, assume that “High-Flying, LLC” owns an aircraft. From 2012 through 2016, individuals A, B, and C were equal partners in High-Flying, LLC. When C sold his interest to D in January, 2017, D became an equal partner with A and B in High-Flying, LLC. If, after audit, the IRS determines that additional taxes are owed by High-Flying, LLC for tax year 2016, High-Flying, LLC will bear that cost, and D must pick up the tax tab for the former partner, C, absent an “opt-out” or “push-out election” discussed below.

    How can a new partner be protected from bearing someone else’s tax liability under CPAR? There are two ways to do so:

    First, a partnership with fewer than 100 partners and no ineligible partners (e.g., partnerships, trusts, and LLCs taxed as partnerships) may elect out of CPAR. This “opt-out” election is made yearly on the partnership’s tax return. 

    Second, a partnership may use a “push-out” election to shift the tax audit adjustments to former partners. The “push-out” election also must be made yearly on the partnership’s tax return.

    If you are thinking of buying or selling an interest in a partnership or limited liability company that owns an aircraft, pay close attention to the shifting tax liability created by CPAR. These rules are somewhat complicated and it’s always a good idea to consult an expert before amending any partnership agreement to comply with CPAR.

    This article was originally published in Business Aviation Advisor on July 1, 2019.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Tip to Tail—Buying New vs. Used Bizjets see more

    NAFA member David G. Mayer, Partner at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, shares what you need to know when buying a new versus used business jet. 

    Purchasing a new business jet from the manufacturer (OEM) is a far different transaction than buying a used aircraft from a private third party. And planning for aircraft ownership is also part of this story.

    The contrast in new versus used aircraft is especially pronounced when the used aircraft does not comply with the FAA’s January 1, 2020 Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B Out) mandate. The lack of ADS-B Out compliance almost certainly will alter the negotiation for such used aircraft and, if the aircraft is not compliant by 2020, it could morph into a fancy paperweight. New OEM aircraft already comply with ADS-B Out requirements.

    This blog covers a few significant strategic, legal, and negotiating differences relating to new and preowned aircraft sale deals and briefly touches on ownership tax planning, risk management, regulatory compliance, and financing/leasing. This blog also briefly touches on OEMs’ perspectives on negotiation and dispute resolution.

    WHAT'S FOR SALE?

    The big-money aspects of a new aircraft deal start by selecting the right aircraft from the OEM and negotiating the aircraft purchase price. Unlike used aircraft deals, OEM agreements include terms on such items as upgrades, installment payment amounts, and pilot and technician training.

    The used aircraft market enjoyed a record year of sales in 2018 that depleted much of the desirable inventory. However, some experts suggest that the cost of ADS-B equipage and a slowing global economy may cause more used aircraft to come to market in the near term; and the lack of ADS-B Out technology may prolong or complicate buy/sell negotiations even if more aircraft become available.

    When purchasing a new or used aircraft, the parties should engage a team of knowledgeable business aviation experts, consisting primarily of an experienced aircraft broker, a technical inspector/analyst, accounting tax advisor, aviation counsel, aircraft management company, insurance broker, and capable title company or special FAA counsel. A non-aviation participant on the buy or sell side can make transactions more difficult or inefficient for experienced buy/sell teams and their principals.

    Every used aircraft should (but surprisingly does not always) undergo a “pre-buy” inspection before a purchase occurs. The inspection should involve technical experts that delve into the records of the aircraft, ADS-B Out compliance, and the physical/mechanical condition of and required repairs to the aircraft. Counsel should conduct or order title, lien, and other searches at the FAA and on the International Registry with a focus on understanding the domestic and any international ownership since birth of the aircraft.

    For new OEM aircraft, the pre-buy inspection process is dissimilar to preowned aircraft, so much so that OEMs often say that an independent inspection of a factory-new aircraft is unnecessary and the OEM can handle everything from contract to delivery.

    Although some purchasers accept exclusive OEM oversight, all purchasers should still consider engaging a technical expert to interact with the OEM’s teams and inspect the aircraft during construction, knowing that OEMs usually will facilitate such inspections but with appropriate limits. Fundamentally, the expert can assure the purchaser that the aircraft conforms to the agreed specifications and the OEM delivers the aircraft in pristine condition. Also, the parties should always conduct legal diligence similar to a used aircraft sale.

    CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS AND DISPUTE RESOLUTION

    Contractual provisions for used and OEM purchases have some common terms as well as major differences. OEMs believe the form of purchase and sale agreement they provide to their customers works well with few changes. Consequently, the extent of document revisions negotiated and accepted by an OEM may, but not always, pale in comparison to extensive changes drafted into used aircraft purchase agreements.

    OEM contracts personnel, most of whom are not lawyers, have flexibility to make reasonable contract revisions, but their authority has well-honed limits. For example, their authority probably does not extend to accepting unusual revisions, settling a dispute, or altering fundamental OEM liability protections. Accordingly, purchasers should expect these contracts people to seek authority from senior managers or general counsel for revisions to obtain policy or legal guidance on an acceptable contract revision or dispute management.

    For OEMs, each customer and its sale agreement is unique. As such, OEMs uniformly frown on aviation counsel using as precedent sale agreement provisions negotiated in other unrelated transactions with the selling OEM or other OEMs. However, aviation counsel can add value in serving their clients by using their prior experiences to negotiate appropriate terms in the current deal.

    If a customer alleges material breaches by or makes serious litigious claims against the OEM, most OEM general counsel or his/her inside litigation counsel step in and try to reach an accommodation or, if necessary, circle the wagons to protect the OEM’s interests.

    OWNERSHIP PLANNING

    Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, buyers of new aircraft, like used aircraft buyers, may use 100 percent bonus depreciation if the aircraft buyer qualifies for the tax benefit. Planning for ownership is critical to successful tax structuring. For more, read AINsight: 100% Depreciation and Aircraft Personal Use and AINsight: Maximize Aircraft Bonus Depreciation in 2019.

    A purchaser of a new aircraft can potentially obtain a financing benefit that does not apply to used aircraft. Lenders and lessors often agree to fund installment payments to the OEM as the OEM invoices the customer during construction and upon delivery of the aircraft. In addition, these lenders or lessors are often willing to convert the installment payment arrangement into a long-term loan or lease. Either financing or leasing provides substantial benefits to the parties but requires some additional effort to negotiate the agreements. For more, read  AINsight: Should You Finance or Lease a Bizjet?.

    Business aviation insurance brokers not only place appropriate insurance coverage but also can negotiate effectively with aviation underwriters. Purchasers of used and new aircraft generally understand that insurance is a crucial piece of protecting themselves from liability and property damage. However, they may not fully appreciate that a limited liability company (LLC) that buys the aircraft may not provide the LLC owner with the anticipated liability protection. For more, read AINsight: Piercing the Aircraft LLC Veil.

    Operations of private aircraft under Part 91 (private use) or Part 135 (charter use) in the U.S. demand compliance with the applicable regulations by owners and operators of all aircraft. For example, owners of all aircraft must keep their aircraft in the condition required by the applicable regulations for flight operations, not conduct illegal charter operations, and meet technology requirements, including ADS-B Out. Importantly, the FAAis looking for violators of the regulations, in part as described in AINsight: FAA Actively Pursues Illegal Flight Ops.

    Although purchase transactions of new and used aircraft share certain similar elements, they differ in significant respects. Assisted by knowledgeable professionals, a purchaser can and should address business, tax, financing/leasing, risk management, and regulatory issues as part of each deal. A reasonable and pragmatic approach to these transactions should foster amicable negotiations and ultimately produce the right travel solution for the purchaser.

    This article was originally published by AINonline on May 9, 2019.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    AINsight: Maximize Aircraft Bonus Depreciation in 2019 see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, discusses several aspects of aircraft depreciation including ways to qualify for bonus depreciation.

    Although the total depreciation taken under the straight-line and MACRS depreciation methods is the same, acceleration of depreciation under MACRS increases the time value of the tax benefits of MACRS compared to the slower straight-line method. Consequently, a tax advisor can help evaluate system and method that maximizes depreciation arising out of a taxpayer’s unique circumstances.

    Taxpayers must comply with the MACRS requirements for an aircraft to be eligible for bonus depreciation. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, bonus depreciation applies to new and, for the first time, preowned aircraft acquired and placed into service after Sept. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2023, with a phasedown of 100 percent depreciation starting in 2027. Importantly, to depreciate a preowned aircraft, the taxpayer must not have used the aircraft before purchasing it.

    QUALIFIED BUSINESS USE

    The IRC establishes qualifications for, and limitations on, deducting depreciation under MACRS and, by extension, bonus depreciation. MACRS requires that an aircraft must be used in a trade or business or for the production of income. A taxpayer must also “predominantly” operate the aircraft for “qualified business use” (QBU). In other words, QBU generally means the aircraft operates in connection with the taxpayer’s business enterprise conducted regularly and continuously for income or profit. Predominant use generally refers to 50 percent or more of total aircraft use per tax year.

    In part to guard against taxpayer abuse of depreciation deductions, the IRC has placed aircraft in a special category called “listed property” under IRC Section 280F. In general, listed property that a taxpayer does not use more than 50 percent for business will not qualify for MACRS or bonus depreciation. Instead, such property must be depreciated under the slower ADS using the straight-line method. In relation to depreciation, the failure to comply with MACRS may arise out of excessive personal use under the listed property rules and MACRSrequirements discussed above.

    However, in certain circumstances, an aircraft may be eligible for bonus depreciation if the taxpayer can demonstrate 25 percent business use. Once the 25 percent threshold is met, this special rule in IRC section 280F allows a taxpayer to add in other activity that the rule initially excludes from the QBU test. The effect of the add back is to boost the business use above the basic 50 percent requirement. It is important to prepare contemporaneous and detailed records that support all aspects of QBU on the assumption that the IRS will ask for the records.

    IRC Section 274 describes various types of personal use of aircraft. Often, personal use refers to the use of the aircraft for entertainment, amusement, or recreation such as parties, golf outings, family vacations, and sporting events. But it can also mean personal use of an aircraft for another reason: non-entertainment such as travel of an aircraft passenger for business unrelated to the business activities of the taxpaying entity that owns the aircraft.

    If an aircraft is used for entertainment use, the IRC has a special provision that minimizes the impact of personal use on bonus depreciation. For purposes of depreciation, the provision allows a taxpayer to elect the straight-line calculation of the disallowed deductions attributable to entertainment use. The provision permits a taxpayer to claim bonus depreciation in the acquisition year and, concurrently, elect separately to calculate an IRC Section 274 “entertainment disallowance” using the straight-line method.

    This election allows the taxpayer to deduct more depreciation in the year of acquisition than it otherwise would without the special IRC section 274 rule. This area deserves planning attention as it might, if structured correctly, provide a taxpayer with an increase in after-tax value and spur the taxpayer to establish an entertainment travel policy that applies this provision.

    COMPLIANCE: RECAPTURE INCOME

    My clients often ask whether they can claim bonus depreciation in the acquisition year by satisfying the QBU and other MACRS eligibility requirements in that year and keep bonus depreciation if they do not satisfy the QBU and other MACRS eligibility requirements after the acquisition year. In this scenario, the answer is no. And the consequence might be very expensive for the taxpayer because the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can use a “recapture” provision.

    By doing so, the IRS causes the taxpayer to recognize income for the excess depreciation taken over the allowable straight-line method as calculated through the year of recapture. After that, the aircraft remains on straight-line and cannot return to MACRS. At a minimum, the taxpayer should track and record the QBU and other MACRS eligibility requirements throughout the ADS recovery period and, to be on the safe side, as long as the taxpayer owns the aircraft.

    Once a taxpayer qualifies for MACRS and bonus depreciation, the taxpayer will still encounter such other limitations as the passive activity loss limitations, the excess business loss limitations, and the hobby-loss rules.

    Prospective purchasers of aircraft seem universally interested in 100 percent bonus depreciation, but, as a taxpayer, the purchaser should not assume either that the aircraft will be eligible for bonus depreciation or that bonus depreciation will offer the optimal tax and economic solution. Still, by planning ahead of a purchase and involving specialized aircraft tax advisors, a purchaser should be able to identify the appropriate type of depreciation to maximize the reduction in its taxable income and lower its after-tax cost of capital. It certainly seems worth looking closely at bonus depreciation as it is easy to appreciate the significant value it might provide in an overall tax strategy.

    If you plan to purchase a private aircraft in the U.S. this year, developing and executing an appropriate tax strategy before you enter into a letter of intent or contract to purchase the aircraft enhances the likelihood that you will be able to take 100 percent depreciation (bonus depreciation). This strategy should incorporate your projected business revenues, intended aircraft use, and unique attributes as a business taxpayer relative to taking depreciation deductions.

    Depreciation is an allowance Congress enacted to encourage businesses to purchase capital equipment and other tangible personal property such as private aircraft. Depreciation allows business taxpayers to claim an annual tax deduction to recover the aircraft cost or other basis (adjusted cost) of the property for its wear and tear, deterioration, or obsolescence. A taxpayer usually deducts depreciation over a certain number of years called the “recovery period.”

    STRAIGHT-LINE, MACRS, AND BONUS DEPRECIATION

    Perhaps the best-known depreciation method is straight-line under the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS). This method allows the taxpayer to deduct roughly equal parts of the aircraft cost or other basis over the applicable recovery period. The recovery period depends on the predominant use of the aircraft. As a rule of thumb, the recovery period is six years for FAR Part 91 aircraft (private use) and 12 years for FAR Part 135 aircraft (commercial use such as chartering or carrying freight).

    The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) is another way to depreciate aircraft. The Internal Revenue Code (IRC) sets forth specific requirements that a taxpayer must meet to qualify to use this accelerated depreciation method. MACRS allows a taxpayer to write-off its aircraft in five years for FAR Part 91 (private use) aircraft and seven years for FAR Part 135 aircraft (commercial use). A taxpayer takes depreciation in the early years of the recovery period relative to approximately equal parts under the straight-line method.

    This article was originally published by David G. Mayer in AINonline on March 8, 2019.

     

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    AINsight: Maximize Aircraft Bonus Depreciation in 2019 see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, discusses how bonus depreciation has its appeal, but it might not be best for a taxpayer's particular set of circumstances.

    If you plan to purchase a private aircraft in the U.S. this year, developing and executing an appropriate tax strategy before you enter into a letter of intent or contract to purchase the aircraft enhances the likelihood that you will be able to take 100 percent depreciation (bonus depreciation). This strategy should incorporate your projected business revenues, intended aircraft use, and unique attributes as a business taxpayer relative to taking depreciation deductions.

    Depreciation is an allowance Congress enacted to encourage businesses to purchase capital equipment and other tangible personal property such as private aircraft. Depreciation allows business taxpayers to claim an annual tax deduction to recover the aircraft cost or other basis (adjusted cost) of the property for its wear and tear, deterioration, or obsolescence. A taxpayer usually deducts depreciation over a certain number of years called the “recovery period.”

    STRAIGHT-LINE, MACRS, AND BONUS DEPRECIATION

    Perhaps the best-known depreciation method is straight-line under the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS). This method allows the taxpayer to deduct roughly equal parts of the aircraft cost or other basis over the applicable recovery period. The recovery period depends on the predominant use of the aircraft. As a rule of thumb, the recovery period is six years for FAR Part 91 aircraft (private use) and 12 years for FAR Part 135 aircraft (commercial use such as chartering or carrying freight).

    The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) is another way to depreciate aircraft. The Internal Revenue Code (IRC) sets forth specific requirements that a taxpayer must meet to qualify to use this accelerated depreciation method. MACRS allows a taxpayer to write-off its aircraft in five years for FAR Part 91 (private use) aircraft and seven years for FAR Part 135 aircraft (commercial use). A taxpayer takes depreciation in the early years of the recovery period relative to approximately equal parts under the straight-line method.

    Although the total depreciation taken under the straight-line and MACRS depreciation methods is the same, acceleration of depreciation under MACRS increases the time value of the tax benefits of MACRS compared to the slower straight-line method. Consequently, a tax advisor can help evaluate system and method that maximizes depreciation arising out of a taxpayer’s unique circumstances.

    Taxpayers must comply with the MACRS requirements for an aircraft to be eligible for bonus depreciation. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, bonus depreciation applies to new and, for the first time, preowned aircraft acquired and placed into service after Sept. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2023, with a phasedown of 100 percent depreciation starting in 2027. Importantly, to depreciate a preowned aircraft, the taxpayer must not have used the aircraft before purchasing it.

    QUALIFIED BUSINESS USE

    The IRC establishes qualifications for, and limitations on, deducting depreciation under MACRS and, by extension, bonus depreciation. MACRS requires that an aircraft must be used in a trade or business or for the production of income. A taxpayer must also “predominantly” operate the aircraft for “qualified business use” (QBU). In other words, QBU generally means the aircraft operates in connection with the taxpayer’s business enterprise conducted regularly and continuously for income or profit. Predominant use generally refers to 50 percent or more of total aircraft use per tax year.

    In part to guard against taxpayer abuse of depreciation deductions, the IRC has placed aircraft in a special category called “listed property” under IRC Section 280F. In general, listed property that a taxpayer does not use more than 50 percent for business will not qualify for MACRS or bonus depreciation. Instead, such property must be depreciated under the slower ADS using the straight-line method. In relation to depreciation, the failure to comply with MACRS may arise out of excessive personal use under the listed property rules and MACRS requirements discussed above.

    However, in certain circumstances, an aircraft may be eligible for bonus depreciation if the taxpayer can demonstrate 25 percent business use. Once the 25 percent threshold is met, this special rule in IRC section 280F allows a taxpayer to add in other activity that the rule initially excludes from the QBU test. The effect of the add back is to boost the business use above the basic 50 percent requirement. It is important to prepare contemporaneous and detailed records that support all aspects of QBU on the assumption that the IRS will ask for the records.

    IRC Section 274 describes various types of personal use of aircraft. Often, personal use refers to the use of the aircraft for entertainment, amusement, or recreation such as parties, golf outings, family vacations, and sporting events. But it can also mean personal use of an aircraft for another reason: non-entertainment such as travel of an aircraft passenger for business unrelated to the business activities of the taxpaying entity that owns the aircraft.

    If an aircraft is used for entertainment use, the IRC has a special provision that minimizes the impact of personal use on bonus depreciation. For purposes of depreciation, the provision allows a taxpayer to elect the straight-line calculation of the disallowed deductions attributable to entertainment use. The provision permits a taxpayer to claim bonus depreciation in the acquisition year and, concurrently, elect separately to calculate an IRC Section 274 “entertainment disallowance” using the straight-line method.

    This election allows the taxpayer to deduct more depreciation in the year of acquisition than it otherwise would without the special IRC section 274 rule. This area deserves planning attention as it might, if structured correctly, provide a taxpayer with an increase in after-tax value and spur the taxpayer to establish an entertainment travel policy that applies this provision.

    COMPLIANCE: RECAPTURE INCOME

    My clients often ask whether they can claim bonus depreciation in the acquisition year by satisfying the QBU and other MACRS eligibility requirements in that year and keep bonus depreciation if they do not satisfy the QBU and other MACRS eligibility requirements after the acquisition year. In this scenario, the answer is no. And the consequence might be very expensive for the taxpayer because the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can use a “recapture” provision.

    By doing so, the IRS causes the taxpayer to recognize income for the excess depreciation taken over the allowable straight-line method as calculated through the year of recapture. After that, the aircraft remains on straight-line and cannot return to MACRS. At a minimum, the taxpayer should track and record the QBU and other MACRS eligibility requirements throughout the ADS recovery period and, to be on the safe side, as long as the taxpayer owns the aircraft.

    Once a taxpayer qualifies for MACRS and bonus depreciation, the taxpayer will still encounter such other limitations as the passive activity loss limitations, the excess business loss limitations, and the hobby-loss rules.

    Prospective purchasers of aircraft seem universally interested in 100 percent bonus depreciation, but, as a taxpayer, the purchaser should not assume either that the aircraft will be eligible for bonus depreciation or that bonus depreciation will offer the optimal tax and economic solution. Still, by planning ahead of a purchase and involving specialized aircraft tax advisors, a purchaser should be able to identify the appropriate type of depreciation to maximize the reduction in its taxable income and lower its after-tax cost of capital. It certainly seems worth looking closely at bonus depreciation as it is easy to appreciate the significant value it might provide in an overall tax strategy.

    This article was originally published by Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton on AINonline on March 8, 2019.

     

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    AINsight: Should You Finance or Lease a Bizjet? see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, discusses whether a customer should consider leasing or financing a business jet.

    Lenders and lessors often lament that cash is the main and most frustrating competitor for financing or leasing business jets. Lessees or borrowers often retort that these transactions cause too much “brain damage” to undertake, especially when they have cash available to buy the jet. What then should customers consider in deciding whether to lease or finance business jets—before, or even after, they close their cash purchase?

    It is true that, compared with cash purchases, financing and leasing private jets require extra time, effort, professional cost, and negotiations, not to mention patience while financiers conduct diligence and obtain credit approvals. Despite the additional hassle, potential customers should not be too quick to dismiss financing or leasing, including monetizing currently owned jets in sale-leaseback and post-closing financing transactions, as these financing structures might prove to have substantial value.

    Many customers have overcome any such misgivings about leasing or borrowing—and for good reason. Today’s customers range from large multinational companies to ultra-high-net-worth individuals usually represented by talented family office teams, accountants, or counsel.

    Correspondingly, financiers exist that can meet the needs of virtually every qualified customer with acceptable aircraft. Importantly, lenders and lessors realize the reduction in market inventory of quality preowned jets requires them to consider somewhat older (10 to 15 years old), higher-time jets as worthy collateral or leased assets if the customers can satisfy credit and other required regulatory criteria. Some lenders are able to finance even older jets and small ticket or light aircraft, including propeller or certain turboprops.

    While some clients are concerned about the costs associated with entering into an aircraft loan or lease, the transaction costs should, with exceptions, be immaterial compared to the value or cost of the jet. Further, in acquiring jets that could be eligible for 100 percent bonus depreciation, the all-in value for a customer, on an after-tax basis, might compete well against or even be superior to a cash purchase.

    With leases, customers eliminate the risk of ownership because the lessor actually buys the aircraft. The lessor’s funding of the cost then preserves customer cash for working capital, reinvestment in the customer’s business, and/or funding other capital equipment. Customers can arrange a lease where a lessor purchases the aircraft from the seller and leases it to the customer.

    A lessor can also monetize a jet when the customer sells the jet to the lessor and leases back. Such a sale-leaseback can occur immediately after the purchase or at such later time as meets the customer needs.

    Leases also enable lessees to customize when the lessee can, during the lease term, buy the jet from the lessor or terminate the lease. A lessee may be able to obtain some benefit of 100 percent bonus depreciation from the lessor under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that they might not otherwise be able to claim. The lessor can take the write-off in any direct purchase of the new aircraft from the manufacturer or, for the first time under the act, a preowned aircraft from the customer or third party seller. In addition, the customer can deduct the rent without the same limitation as interest deductions under the tax law.

    To illustrate the investment aspect, suppose a company enters into a five-year lease with an aircraft cost of $10 million. The customer typically earns 18 percent on its investments and can obtain a fixed rent payment that implies a 7 percent “run” rate. By deploying the $10 million into its investments, the customer earns the 18 percent return while paying the 7 percent rent over a five-year period instead of paying $10 million up front. In its simplest form, the customer would achieve a pre-tax, net return of approximately 11 percent under this example.

    Loans offer similar and other features. For the same $10 million jet, the customer would pay, depending on various factors, between 10 percent ($1 million) and 50 percent ($5 million) of the value or purchase price of the aircraft, with the lender financing the balance. The customer can take 100 percent bonus depreciation under the tax law if the aircraft is eligible for it and deduct the interest subject to limitations.

    Like the lease, the customer can use the remaining cash for other investments, working capital, and/or purchases of capital equipment. Lenders can make the loan concurrent with the purchase or, like a lease, fund the loan in a “back leverage” transaction after closing the purchase.

    In both loans and leases, customers with available cash to purchase an aircraft can, by executing an appropriate post-closing financing or leasing strategy, alleviate the tension of closing a loan or lease concurrently with completing a purchase.

    Although one may think that, when a lender or lessor delivers its “cookie cutter” loan and lease “forms” to its customer, the negotiated deals across all customers would fit within a narrow band of final terms. Such a conclusion is far from reality.

    Every negotiation differs as much as the unique personalities of the customers. Most customers ask about, if not conform to, “market” terms as a reference point in making judgments in negotiations. Lenders and lessors expect their customers to negotiate the documents, but, of course, prefer to close deals faster and easier whenever possible.

    Certain parallel legal terms arise in most financing and leasing deals, which deserve attention by customers. Broadly speaking, customers should consider negotiating provisions that include unreasonably broad representations, unrealistic time limits in which to perform obligations, and no or inadequate cure rights; allow lenders or lessors to transfer the customer’s lease or loan transaction to anyone they choose without notice to, or the consent of, the customer; call for burdensome or unnecessary financial reports or establish reporting based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) when the financier did not need GAAP financials for its credit approval; demand that lender or lessor consents to, or approves, business or corporate changes unrelated to the aircraft financing (taking a seat at the table for the larger business of the customer than merited by an aircraft financing); limit when, how much, and where the customers can operate their aircraft; trigger defaults for any customer acquisition, merger or corporate reorganization; grab for extra collateral unrelated to the aircraft, such as security in cash accounts or other tangible assets of the customer or guarantor; and require, solely with respect to leases, often complex and one-sided, though indispensable, federal income tax indemnification provisions in tax leases pertaining to a loss of depreciation by the lessor, including 100 percent bonus depreciation.

    Negotiating these provisions, among others, might look like a daunting task for customers, but the right integrated team of business people, lawyers, risk management, tax, and other professionals can negotiate through and close a mutually beneficial transaction with minimal involvement of the true customer. The best results normally occur when the team possesses market knowledge, negotiates the customer’s material issues, and understands where financiers have little wiggle room to negotiate provisions forced into documents by internal policies and regulatory mandates.

    BASIC RULES FOR A SUCCESSFUL FINANCING EXPERIENCE

    Most customers enjoy good relationships with their financiers. As a customer, you can too, if you follow three basic rules:

    First, your relationship with the financier does not end at closing; it begins at closing. Financiers usually like to develop relationships that lead to other business with you and build mutual trust. Your transparency, fairness, and reasonable document compliance will go a long way toward building a strong and lasting relationship.

    Second, never surprise your financiers. Financiers tend to keep open minds about giving consents, which inevitably arise, work out problems, or amend documents, if you keep them informed early and often about your business or personal situations that might adversely affect the aircraft or your compliance with the transaction documents.

    Third, pay your debt or rent when due, without making excuses that worry the lenders or lessors. When financiers become nervous about a non-performing transaction, their cooperation and flexibility may dissipate quickly. They tend to focus on impediments to getting paid and reporting internally about a troubled lease or loan, which may bring unwanted scrutiny on the deal team.

    As easy as a cash purchase of a jet might be, the value proposition for financing or leasing it could ultimately make more sense than a cash deal. Many customers, large and small, have elected to finance or lease jets for good reasons based on their individual needs. Customers should at least consider financing or leasing a jet before they stroke a check to buy one.

    David G. Mayer is a partner in the global Aviation Practice Group at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP in Dallas, which handles worldwide private aircraft matters, including regulatory compliance, tax planning, purchases, sales, leasing and financing, risk management, insurance, aircraft operations, hangar leasing and aircraft renovations. Mayer frequently represents high-wealth individuals and other aircraft owners, flight departments, lessees, borrowers, operators, sellers, purchasers, and managers, as well as lessors and lenders. He can be contacted at dmayer@shackelfordlaw.net, via LinkedIn, or by telephone at (214) 780-1306.

    This article was originally published on AINonline on November 8, 2018.