AOPA Ramps Up Financing Arm

 - September 2, 2013, 4:10 AM

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) recently launched AOPA Aviation Finance (AAF) Company, a loan brokerage venture aimed at matching association members who require aircraft purchase financing with suitable lenders. It will also help facilitate member loans for avionics updates, either through straight loans using the aircraft as collateral when it is fully owned, or through refinancing of the aircraft while it is still being paid off. “AAF is making flying more affordable and accessible by improving the aircraft financing process for our members,” said AOPA president and CEO Craig Fuller.

The association has been providing a similar service using a single lender for the past 20 years, but AAF will work with a syndicate of financiers to find the one best suited for the particular aircraft transaction. “[By] having one lender, which is what we had for two decades, we weren’t really doing anything to help anybody that didn’t fit into that one credit box,” said AAF president Adam Meredith. “Using a wide variety of banks gives AAF greater flexibility in arranging affordable financing and refinancing for AOPA members.”

The company will help members obtain loans for aircraft that might be difficult to finance, such as older models. As a broker, AAF will collect fees associated with brokering the transaction but providing valuation services for the transaction will be left to the lenders. By using established financing partners (some of which most of the association’s members would not have access to otherwise) AAF expects to provide its customers with faster loan decisions, thus speeding the buying process.

According to Meredith, financing won’t be just for piston aircraft. “We’ve got a number of members who are in turbine aircraft as well, so it really runs the gamut from kits, experimental and early-model aircraft all the way up to turboprops and jets,” he told AIN, adding that he expects the new business could generate as many as 1,000 loans a year. “Some of the consultants that we are relying on have been in this industry for a long time and have relationships with lenders who have been doing this for a number of years,” Meredith said. “Most important, we are choosing to work with lenders that have stayed in this industry through the downturn, that are committed to it, and who understand this business.”