Aircraft Ownership, Operation, & Transactions

Jackson Walker has extensive experience advising its clients on aircraft purchase, sale, and repossession transactions as well as ownership and operating structures that comply with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) rules and various federal and state tax regimes. Our multidisciplinary team of attorneys combines experience from a variety of practice areas, including tax, corporate, aviation, and finance, with an in-depth understanding of the aviation industry to provide efficient solutions to clients in this complex area of law.

Aircraft ownership and operation is subject to competing regulatory regimes, including the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) and seemingly inconsistent and overlapping income, excise, sales, and property tax rules. This is especially true in light of new personal and business use, bonus depreciation, and entertainment deduction tax changes. Personal use of company-owned aircraft is also subject to SEC disclosure for publicly traded companies and fringe benefit income rules for all companies. Our attorneys have hands-on experience helping clients navigate these rules and achieve optimal tax and financial treatment. This often involves evaluating the best ownership and operation structure to meet the client’s goals and objectives.

Beyond simply knowing the industry and the law, members of Jackson Walker’s aviation team are deeply involved in the aviation community as pilots, aircraft owners, and through participation in professional organizations. Partner Jim Struble is a retired Air Force instructor pilot and flight examiner, served over 24 years as a pilot for a major U.S. carrier; and is a member of the NTSB Bar Association and the Lawyer-Pilot Bar Association. Partner Katherine Staton is a private pilot, past aircraft owner, CPA, past chair of the Texas State Bar Aviation Section, and past President of the International Aviation Women’s Association.

Many states aggressively impose sales and use tax and property tax on aircraft owners. Our experience in this area enables us to help companies and individuals structure aircraft acquisitions, sales, and ongoing operations to comply with current Texas Comptroller and appraisal districts policies and to obtain the best possible sales and property tax treatment. Jackson Walker has particular experience in state tax matters. Partner Steve Moore’s Austin practice builds on decades of negotiations with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts on the details of qualifying for Texas sales and use tax exemptions (when available) and avoiding pitfalls for same often encountered in aircraft transactions.

Our deep understanding of the aviation industry combined with our extensive experience in all aspects of aviation law enable us to meet our clients’ needs and exceed their expectations. Jackson Walker is also a long-time member of the NBAA.

Our Clients

  • Publicly traded aircraft owners including personal use issues for executives
  • Private aircraft owners including family offices and private business owners, who use aircraft for a mixture of business and personal transportation
  • Fractional operators and aircraft management companies
  • Fixed Base Operations (FBOs), including Part 135 charter operators, Part 145 repair stations, Part 141 flight schools, and Part 142 training centers
  • Airport owners, including municipal facilities and airports operated through complex public-private arrangements

Our Services

  • Aircraft purchase and sale negotiation and documentation
  • Aircraft operation structures and documentation, including considerations of the FARs and income, excise, sales, and property tax regimes
  • Aircraft co-ownership, management, operation, and maintenance agreements
  • Aircraft lending, leasing, and financing
  • Aircraft dispute resolution and litigation between aircraft buyers, sellers, owners, and repair service providers
  • Hangar ground leases
  • Tax controversies including sales, property, excise, and income tax disputes
  • FAA registration and regulatory issues
  • FAA enforcement and compliance matters
  • Asset and stock transactions involving Part 135 operators (including medical evacuation), Part 141 flight schools, and Part 145 repair stations

Beech Premiere 1A Import

Assisted New York based client and first time business jet owner with the purchase and import of a Beech Premier 1A from Italy.

Hawker 800XP Sale

Assisted Houston based privately held company with the sale of used Hawker 800XP.

Falcon 900EX

Helped Canadian large family office with purchase of Falcon 900EX for business and charter use.

International Arbitration

Represented aircraft buyer in an international arbitration under the UNCITRAL Rules for return of a $1,000,000 deposit.

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