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Service…and the best possible value for it: This simple mantra- according to Clay Healey- represents the ultimate goal a business operator can offer.
The products in his case are maybe a little more abstract than most - investigating and confirming clear titles on aircraft- aircraft ownership and records searches. The systems used to ply his trade for decades bordered on the arcane- one former purveyor said recently.

Dave Higdon   |   1st April 2010
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Dave Higdon Dave Higdon

Dave Higdon writes about aviation from his base in Wichita Kansas. During three decades in...
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Ranch-Hand To Title-Honcho
Clay Healey makes over AIC Title.

Service…and the best possible value for it: This simple mantra- according to Clay Healey- represents the ultimate goal a business operator can offer.

The products in his case are maybe a little more abstract than most - investigating and confirming clear titles on aircraft- aircraft ownership and records searches. The systems used to ply his trade for decades bordered on the arcane- one former purveyor said recently.

Make top-notch service available- make it an attractive value and make it seem smooth and seamless- and a business can succeed where others succeeded at a lesser level. In the seven years since Healey came to AIC Title Service LLC in Oklahoma City- his fast-thinking- entrepreneurial personality combined with his high-energy and high goals to revamp the company he now owns.

Under his management- AIC offers clients a new level of automation and sophistication which- in turn- helped the company land one of the plumb affiliations available to any purveyor of products for the general aviation market – including its high value business aviation segment.

A rancher- long-time pilot and- now- successful flight school operator- Healey hasn’t accomplished his marks so far by being shy- softly spoken or by being afraid to take on new ways to work.

For decades the work of aircraft title searches- records pulls- escrow and closing depended on an almost Byzantine collection of paper and microfiche files- cross-file confirmations and paper shuffling.

Small armies or workers daily- weekly and monthly descended on the FAA’s records offices in Oklahoma City representing and fulfilling the needs of people miles away. After buying the company in 2003 – his first in aviation – Healey embarked on an effort to take automation to a new level and reduce the need for somebody to physically visit the FAA records offices to file registration and title changes- and other in-person document needs. Along the way- AIC moved increasingly into the digital age.

“In Oklahoma City- no one has ever automated the way we have to get to the level we have-” Healey said- without a hint of superiority or hubris – only a tone of pride in the accomplishments. “We spent seven figure sums on computers- those (software and back-up) systems redundant everything.”

AIC’s headquarters have- for example- a $50-000 electrical generator that will power the office- no matter what. Additionally- AIC employs an off-site back-up center that will keep running even if “the building blows up around us-” to use Healey’s words.

“Every document that comes in gets scanned into our system; we keep electronic files on everything we get from the FAA.” And everything copied- scanned- filed or finished is digitally replicated in both on-site and off-site back-up-storage devices. “We set out to provide the best service. The automation we are able to provide people is the best there is and helps our service be second to none.”

Although it’s possible to buy or sell an airplane without a full title search and a records investigation- you’d better be paying cash if that’s your plan. Finance companies help drive the aircraft title business by their requirements for proving clear title to an aircraft. Even the cash buyer should beware- though.

The records search that can accompany a title review can turn up a variety of problems or encumbrances that can at the least cause some uncomfortable hassles – or- at worst- cost you money- maybe even the aircraft itself. Liens from past mechanics- maintenance shops and finance-paper holders - all can lurk in records well back from the current owner- taking a complete records search to expose it.

Reasons like these explain why dealer brokers and pilot groups encourage the use of title searches – and why for years the world’s largest pilot group operated its own in-house title-search and records review operation. Today- that association – the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association – partners with a top notch title security firm- one with a philosophy oriented to excellent customer service and a track record of inventing and using electronics-records innovations to deliver that service.

“AOPA had a title company for years and years-” Healey related. Today- AOPA lists AIC Title Service LLC as its preferred provider of aircraft records services for its 415-000 members.

“The association made it known it wanted to get out of that business-” he continued. When virtually every aircraft-title operation in the business has representatives in Oklahoma City- it takes little time for news to spread. And sure enough- word spread – and interest grew.

According to Healey- “pretty much every title company around here made the run up there (to AOPA Headquarters in Frederick- Maryland) to pitch who should get that part of the business. We must have been the last one to make the trip.”

Healey’s presentation on AIC’s technology investments and his focus on applying technology to improve and streamline the client’s experience must have held sway. “I was the one that AOPA said- ‘You are it-’ and we got the business-” Healey noted. “We set out to provide the best service; the automation we are able to provide people is the best there is.”

Whether a title transfer- a closing- escrow work or re-registration- AIC’s on-line forms and secure access helps make the exchange and filing of necessary documents as streamlined as possible. Healey already has his Information Technology expert deep into the work of making a way to handle a mass of re-registrations as fast- seamless and painless as possible.

Every week Healey’s system downloads from the FAA’s records office all 374-000 or so aircraft registration records – so AIC staff already can access current and up-to-date information from the very start of work for a client.

The FAA rulemaking proposal seeks to end today’s non-expiring registration of an aircraft. In place of this perpetually registered system the agency wants to establish a system that requires re-registration on a three-year cycle. It proposes a three-year transition period to the new system from today’s perpetual-registration system.

Using a published schedule- owners would need to make their first re-registration during a three-month window- with the window based on the month of the prior registration activity- a date printed on the form. By the close of the three-year transition period all aircraft already on the books would have been re-registered and owners would know when they needed to renew that registration some three years hence. Now- multiply this act by 374-000 or more and you should grasp the scope of the action being considered by the FAA – and the potential for the process to choke with applications.

“We’re preparing so that the owner need only log in through our website- get a password- all the paperwork would have the information filled out so that the owner can print it out- sign it in blue ink and send it on to us-” Healey explained. “Once we’ve got it- we’ll file it the day we receive it; the owner can go on-line and see its progress; and within a week go to the FAA database and see the updated record. That’s it.”

According to FAA information- the new cyclical re-registration helps the agency better ensure that owners’ information is up-to-date and the registry is better positioned to provide accurate information to international sources or to law enforcement in those rare instances where such information is required by them. “I understand why they are doing this-” Healey noted- “to weed out tons of old out-of-date records.”

The change also comes with higher registration fees to help the FAA offset the costs of the system; of course- AIC’s services would incur a nominal fee in exchange for the work and peace of mind that comes in knowing a requirement has been met. “However they finally settle on the system- we’ll be ready to work with the owners-” Healey stressed.

With today’s higher emphasis on the security of our records and transactions- Clay Healey’s revamped AIC Title Service LLC works to stay at the cutting edge of technology- all the better to offer the best possible service and high value to customers- regardless of the value or speed of the aircraft they fly. So far- so good.

“I wanted to bring this business to a level comparable to what you’d find going into any Fortune 500 company’s administrative operation-” Healey explained. “I think we’ve done that.”

And with the energy coming back to the aviation business- Healey voices a cautious confidence in the outlook. “Business has come back to life in the past few months-” he said- “planes are coming back – people are starting to come back to life.”

So far Healey’s business indicators point to a much better 2010 than 2009. “I’m seeing we’re starting to come back out of the slump-” he said. “If we can get some momentum going- some good news – and we’ve had some – we can see things get going again.”

More information from www.aictitle.com 


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