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
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
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.