Friday, October 8, 2010

OurPlane 101

A few days ago it was announced that a company called OurPlane was declaring bankruptcy. This would normally be an event of little note in this economy, but it matters to me because I was, apparently, a creditor of this company. The reason I say "apparently" is that I thought I was an something else, an "owner", and the bankruptcy has left me holding a very large bag.

The reason I'm starting this blog is that I am not the only person who has suffered a loss as a result of this bankruptcy. Others have taken much bigger hits than I have. But even that is not really the problem. The problem is that the company's president, a gentlemen (I hesitate to use that word because his conduct has been anything but gentlemanly) named Graham Casson, has conducted himself in what I and others consider to be a thoroughly disreputable manner. I am not a lawyer, but it certainly seems to me that what Mr Casson has done could be considered fraud. At best Mr. Casson's conduct has been, in my opinion, unethical. But even that is not the reason for starting this blog. The reason for starting this blog is that the ink was barely dry on OurPlane's bankruptcy filing when Mr. Casson opened a new company with the exact same business model. I am writing this blog because I think people considering doing business with Mr. Casson have a right to know how he treated his last batch of marks customers.

OurPlane (I can't link to it because the web site no longer exists) was a company whose product was something called a fractional aircraft ownership. Its customers are private pilots who want to own their own airplane but either can't afford to own one outright or don't want to have to deal with the considerable administrative hassles that aircraft ownership entails. OurPlane would collect groups of between four and eight people who would pool their money to buy an aircraft which those people would then share. OurPlane took care of all the maintenance and administration. After five years the plane would be sold and the proceeds either put towards buying a new aircraft, or returned to the "owners."

The reason I put "owners" in scare quotes is that we weren't really the owners of the plane despite the fact that it was bought with our money. The owner of record was OurPlane, and what we actually bought according to the fine print on the contract was a "use license". But to say that the marketing downplayed this fact would be quite the understatement. The product was called "fractional ownership." The marks customers were invariably referred to as "owners" by the company. Event the name of the company, OurPlane, implied that we owned the plane. But we didn't.

I bought into "my" plane, a Cirrus SR-22 tail number N880P (pronounced "eight eight zero poppa") in June of 2004. I, along with my fellow "co-owners" flew it for five years. I actually made the last flight in that plane, from Las Vegas to Santa Ana, California, on May 25, 2009, to deliver it for its annual inspection before being put on the market.

Of course, it was not the best time to sell an airplane, and N880P sat on the ground for over a year before finally being sold in August of this year. One month later, OurPlane declared bankruptcy, and a few days after that (as far as I can tell) Graham Casson, CEO of OurPlane, started a new company selling fractional "ownership" in very light jets.

All this naturally left me wondering: where did the money go? OurPlane was supposed to take the proceeds of the sale of the plane and distribute it to the "owners", but they didn't. A few of the "owners" were foresightful enough to file liens against the plane, and they got their money. What happened to the rest of it? And, as long as I'm asking questions that I'm unlikely to ever get answers to, where did the money come from to finance Mr. Casson's new company?

I have been trying unsuccessfully to get in touch with Mr. Casson so he can explain himself but he has not returned my calls. According to his bankruptcy attorney the money went to pay off "other creditors." I infer from this that Mr. Casson took out a loan and put up "our" airplane as collateral. This may be legal, since OurPlane was the owner of record, but if this is in fact what happened I would consider that to be thoroughly unethical.

I'm going to stop there for now because I am still clinging to the faint hope that Mr. Casson will contact me and that all this can be resolved amicably. If there is anything I have said here that is factually incorrect I invite Mr. Casson or his representatives to contact me and set me straight. In the meantime, if you're considering doing business with Graham Casson, be careful.

7 comments:

  1. I am also a victim of Graham Casson's OurPlane fraud, I was an "owner" of N880P, and everything written above is true. There is about 20 to 30 pilots out there who are in the same situation as I am, OurPlane is in the process of their bankruptcy, and all of us are trying to put together our case to get our contractually owed money, In addition I have initiated a criminal investigation, that will soon be presented to the appropriate federal jurisduction. If there is any other pilots who were involved with OurPlane, we are hoping you join us.

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  2. Hi Gang...we made the big time:
    Flying Magazine <newsletter@email.flyingmag.com

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  3. Here's a link to the newsletter. The article is about half way down.

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  4. Hi All, Just an update: our numbers have grown to almost 20 now, i believe every plane involved in this mess has at least one person that we are in touch with now.
    I have received my packet from the FAA on N880P, it is hundreds of pages long of mostly all the documents of loans and collateral he had used of all our aircrafts to secure money for his Eclipse debacle, which is solely the reason for his downfall,in my opinion.
    A friend pointed out something interesting to me yesterday, regarding the 67 pages of the bankruptcy debtors, "if we had all been real owners of our planes we might be liable for all the unpaid taxes to each state that mr. graham neglected to pay"..so maybe we will get the last laugh in all this???
    I am off to Buffalo for Nov 2, hearing, so any and all advice you can give me about what to expect, would be appreciated. keep you posted..and safe flying!
    robert hyams

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  5. I am also an Ourplane owner and would like to get information on your legal efforts. You mentioned that you were considering pursuing a joint legal action. Is there any specific contact information for this effort?

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  6. No that I know of, but there's a private discussion group that you might want to sign up for and ask there:

    http://groups.google.com/group/ourplanevictims

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