Updated: Jan 28
Aviation Law enforcement is a dream job for a High Court Enforcement Officer. The target item is an aircraft. Big, small and in-between – they all have one central issue – they can leave the jurisdiction within minutes if not properly managed. We have been providing aviation enforcement services to seizure and recovery of aircraft and engines for over 3 decades. Our CEO, Claire Sandbrook, is a leading expert on the topic and is a world-renowned speaker on how to create successful enforcement strategies where creditors are paid, and aircraft are managed to exacting standards.
The clients who seek this type of enforcement come in from around the world and are often using the commercial courts in London to secure a judgment, which then becomes enforceable in the jurisdiction of England and Wales. For those you who don’t know this includes the major airport hubs in London of Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and outside of London, Manchester. As the UK is the third busiest country after the US and China for air transport (see the UK GOV data at https://bit.ly/2Mr1MYS) it is possible to secure an aircraft, hold it on the ground, and keep it there until payment is made, or the aircraft is sold using the power of a High Court Writ of Control or Writ of Delivery.
At the end of 2018 we received a call to see if we could enforce a judgment which was over $1,000,000 (this is not unusual as most police aviation cases are “big ticket”). It was thought that the aircraft was going to be leaving the jurisdiction imminently. We were asked what could be done to stop this happening. Apparently, this particular airline was in financial difficulty and this was the last plane that would be in the UK for some time – it was an older 767.
Aviation enforcement: seizure and recovery of aircraft
The steps we take in response to a call like this are to act very quickly – in Shergroup.
High Court writ can help debtors to take control of aircraft and engines and return them to the aircraft financier or to satisfy a judgment debt.
Writ of delivery can use to recover the actual goods:
Recovery of aircraft on behalf of the aircraft financier
Recovery of engines for lease
Writ of control can use to enforce a money judgment
Seizure of aircraft as a high-value asset to collect amounts owed.
Seizure of aircraft on behalf of creditors with foreign judgments via a European Enforcement Order
Everything stops for a Writ involving an aircraft that could fly out, so the time for action is a small window of opportunity. We have 3 key stages of our approach:
Receiving the judgment and moving to issue the Writ of Control or Writ of Delivery
Issuing the Writ to our local agent and taking control of the aircraft or its infrastructure
Maintaining control of the aircraft until payment or sale
In this case, we achieved Stage 1 and Stage 2 within 48 hours of receiving the judgment. Within 2 hours of receiving the judgment, we made an application to reduce the time needed for service of a Notice of Enforcement at the High Court in London. The Taking Control of Goods Regulations require a Notice of Enforcement to be served on the debtor giving time for payment unless the High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) applies to dispense service, or abridges time for service.
An application to dispense or abridge time, is allowed if it can be shown that there is a risk the debtor will dissipate the asset. Aircraft by their very nature fall into a category where a judge can see the sense in dispensing service of the Notice. The Master was persuaded in this case and wisely abridged time for service to just 2 hours. He also granted us permission to enter on to third party land (being the MRO) to take the aircraft into legal control. This is a crucial step which if missed can unravel the authority of the Writ and the legality of the action taken by the HCEO.
Once we had issued the Writ, our enforcement agent visited the location of the aircraft and followed our SOP for taking it into control. This included serving notices, removing documents from the aircraft, making an inventory of the aircraft and its components, and securing the aircraft records. Once completed the aircraft was in the control of our CEO, Claire Sandbrook, who is herself a former Chair of the High Court Enforcement Officers Association, and expert in enforcement,
Claire then took steps to negotiate between the creditor and debtor, and followed our internal checklist of steps to insure, maintain, and plan for the sale of the aircraft.
We also secured payment for 14 passengers of our long-standing client, Fairplane, who were first in line for payment before this large value Writ could be settled. Jackie Morgan, as the Business Solutions Advisor for Fairplane and the client on this large Writ, was able to call and confirm that we had found a plane belonging to their target airline and their clients would be getting paid on all the judgments they currently had with us!
In relation to the “big ticket” judgment, we are pleased to report that the creditor and debtor came to an agreement so that the aircraft was sold to the creditor business, the prior Writs were satisfied and there was no need to take further action. The stars aligned to make this a successful outcome, and it was great collaboration between the creditor, the creditor’s solicitors and our High Court Enforcement team.
If you have a judgment in another part of the world, with assets located in the UK, we can convert that judgment into a UK recognized judgment, which can then be enforced against aerial surveillance, aviation units, aircraft, and aircraft components such as engines, to achieve a satisfactory outcome. The enforcement process, once the judgment is recognized, is swift and efficient. It costs just £66.00 to issue the Writ of Control. If your judgment is worth thousands that’s a low risk investment to make to get back what is owed.