Ken Hill: It started with a wrong turn

Ken Hill, CEO of Business Aircraft Sales, has carved out a successful career in aircraft sales and repossession. Here’s how a wrong turn 50 years ago helped to form his current working day.

Ken Hill: It started with a wrong turn

Ken Hill, CEO of Business Aircraft Sales, has carved out a successful career in aircraft sales and repossession. Here’s how a wrong turn 50 years ago helped to form his current working day.

KEN HILL’S first encounter with aviation, due to a navigational error on his scooter, set the course of his working life.


While still in college and on the way to a job interview at a restaurant, he took a wrong turn and found himself on an airport road. He stopped a man, who happened to be a flight instructor, to ask for directions and was offered a job that sparked his interest in aviation. More than 50 years later, Ken is one of the biggest players in the aircraft repossession market. Based in Santa Barbara, California, he has a perfect legal record – having never been sued in an industry infamous for litigation.


“My morning is simple. The first thing I do is check emails. I get in touch with customers or the customer’s attorney to find out why they want to repossess the aircraft and what problems to expect. A lot of times I go directly to the banks – I have a good relationship with most of the banks that have an aircraft portfolio. Sometimes, tracking the aircraft down is very difficult. You have to look at the history, see where it flies to most, and even guess where it is going to be – if the flight profile is blocked. This used to be tricky, but I have ways of tracking these aircraft now. But those are trade secrets.

Not one job is the same, one particular story was when I went to Lincoln airport, Rhode Island to repossess a jet. In less than 30 minutes, I heard a brand-new Bentley come to a screeching halt in front of the hangar. A short heavyset guy got out. It was a very hot and humid day. I explained to him what I had done and he started yelling at me. He reached into his trouser pocket and pulled out a snubnose revolver. Unfortunately, it was hot, and his pants were sticking to his leg and when he tried to get the revolver out, it fired. He shot himself in the foot – literally. I helped him to get into his car and drove him to hospital. As he was being wheeled into surgery, he yelled: ‘I really like you. Thank you for helping me. Now go back to the airplane and take it away.’

I normally don’t have time for lunch. Work is on my mind constantly and I work flat out. So, I rarely have time to go out for lunch and usually have a sandwich at my desk. Even during the evenings when I get home I keep researching cases to help clients. My wife and I seldom watch TV due to all the doom and gloom. But I do go to the gym two or three times a week and work with my personal trainer to stay healthy – a requirement at 77 years of age. Also, when I do have free time, in the evenings and at weekends, I indulge in a rather odd hobby – raising very rare red canaries. They are songbirds and are very high maintenance. I have 28 birds now; it is very detailed work.

It has been hard balancing work and family life. When you travel a lot, as I still do, inevitably you are going to miss your kids’ games and other activities. I did my best, but I missed out on a few things in raising my three boys. But they were very understanding about it, I tried to make it up to them. They are all adults now. We also have a granddaughter, Avalon Rose; she is 11 months old and is our new bright light. I can still fly myself –and pilot the re-possessed aircraft if I am certified to do so. I hold the ‘Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award’.

After that chance encounter with the flight instructor, I now have 13,000 plus flight hours.”

Alex Baldwin, Reporter, Corporate Jet Investor