Plane Trouble - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Plane Trouble

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A small plane at Opa-locka Airport A small plane at Opa-locka Airport

We have heard of a lot of things being abandoned: a bike, a car, a truck, a plane. What? A plane? Yep, one South Florida man walked away from his airplane, and the people stuck with it found out it's not easy to remove a plane, which is why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

WSVN -- There are a lot of exclusive clubs in America, even one at Opa-locka Airport.

Randy Migdalski: "It's a membership club for members, pilots. You have to be a pilot and you have to own an aircraft to belong in this club."

Sun Flying opened in 1961, a small club for people who own a small plane, and who love to fly those airplanes.

Randy Migdalski: "The sense of freedom. You get up in the sky; it's you, the plane and God."

Sun Flying only has enough space for 20 small planes: 19 happy members, one causing the other 19 headaches.

Randy Migdalski: "This aircraft here is an aircraft from a member that has refused and hasn't paid his tie-downs for four or five years now."

"Tie-down" is another word for rent. The member parked his plane, hasn't started it for several years, hasn't paid rent for four years, and ignores attempts to get him to pay rent.

Randy Migdalski: "We had to serve him in order to get him to the courts, and the owner has avoided service, because he is a police officer."

Patrick Fraser: "He's a police officer?"

Randy Migdalski: "Yes."

Patrick Fraser: "And he's ignoring you?"

Randy Migdalski: "Yes."

After sitting for years, an appraiser said the police officer's plane had deteriorated so much it wasn't economically feasible to restore it to flying condition, making it likely the man had no intention of paying rent or moving the plane.

Randy Migdalski: "I can't move the airplane because I don't want Sun Flying to be liable. I'm trying to do this legally."

The club filed a lien on the police officer requiring him to pay the $4,000 he owes the club in back rent. He still wouldn't pay, so the club made the officer an offer: If he would sign the plane over to them, they would wipe out the lien and haul the plane away.

Randy Migdalski: "I don't think we can be any more fair to solve the problem. I spoke to him over the phone. He's promised to come out and take care of it."

Randy says the officer never did sign it over, leaving the plane sitting here, the members afraid to move it, and blocking a new member from coming in with their plane.

Randy Migdalski: "You think that he is a police officer, you know? He's gonna do the right thing, huh? It's hard to believe."

Well, Howard, it can't fly, they can't move it, it's costing the club money. Legally, what can they do with an abandoned plane?

Howard Finkelstein: "If it was an abandoned car, you could just sell it at auction, but with a plane you have to go to court, foreclose on it, and then auction it off to get whatever money you are owed. And if you don't get enough, you can sue the plane's owner for the difference."

I spoke to the police officer who owned his own plane. He didn't have a good reason why he basically abandoned his own plane, refused to pay rent for years or turn it over to the club. But he did tell me he would now sign the paperwork, giving it to Sun Flying Club. A few weeks later he did, and the club has found a scrap dealer who will pay them $3,500 dollars to use the plane for parts.

Randy Migdalski: "We're putting closure to it."

This week the plane is being taken away. Now Randy can focus on his plane, and enjoy flying it.

Randy Migdalski: "I want to thank Patrick Fraser and Help Me Howard for their efforts in solving this problem. I am very happy, I am ecstatic that it's finally over with."

Now, if someone abandons a car on your property, you cannot sell it, but you can have a tow company take it away and they can sell it. A plane is different, simply because the legislature hasn't passed a law to deal with an abandoned plane, because there aren't that many of them.

Got a plain -- p-l-a-i-n -- problem that you wish you could abandon? Propel it our way. Howard's no pilot, but when he opens a law book, sometimes things take off.

With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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