Zipporah Marmor, International Aircraft Dealers Association (IADA)

Interview: Zipporah Marmor

The vice president of aviation services company ACASS also serves as board chair of the International Aircraft Dealers Association.

Juggling two high-pressure jobs is usually a head-spinning proposition, but Zipporah Marmor does it without breaking a sweat. She serves as the vice president of aircraft transactions at global aviation services company ACASS and as board chair of the International Aircraft Dealers Association (IADA), a worldwide organization aimed at providing more transparency in preowned aircraft transactions. She is widely known for her intelligence, pristine ethics, quick wit, and grace under pressure. Here, she talks about both of her positions and the lessons her career has taught her.

When I started at Bombardier at 22 years old, I had been on an airplane only twice. I learned quickly that this is an amazing industry and one that I wanted to be in long term. First, I learned how to travel the world. Then I learned the products, and then I learned how to sell. I put in a lot of late nights at the company, making sure I understood everything. 

Take the time to listen. Understand what people want and what they really need. We work in a complex industry and there’s a lot we need to consider. We need to make sure the aircraft is technically compliant with the requirements of the buying country because it might come from somewhere else. The economics must make sense. We also need to consider the cultural factors. 

Every day is different, every client is different, every deal is different. Once, I was working with a Texas broker on one side and a Swiss attorney on the other. And literally, whatever one said, the other found offensive. They didn’t mean it; it was just a huge cultural gap. Brokers have to be culturally sensitive, know how to mediate when appropriate, and make sure that the right messages are being said and understood on both sides.

The decision to buy is a very personal one. We recommend that all clients be represented exclusively, and hopefully by a broker accredited with IADA. Because without that, who is looking out for you as the client? The same as you would have your attorney on retainer, you should do that with a broker, also. The right broker will study your missions, your profiles, and advise on what aircraft type or model is best for you.

This is a high-stakes industry. We’re not talking small dollar amounts. We’re going to be working closely with a client for several months at least, so you have to match personality-wise, and you have to feel comfortable with the person you’re working with.

We can offer as little or as much as the client wants. At ACASS, we are an aircraft broker, a management company, and we also have a flight crew staffing division. We have three in-house attorneys, a full maintenance team, an operations team, and a sales team. Clients can choose what they need. 

There are not many ways to gain time. A business aircraft is one of the few things that can literally give people time back. 

When you’re selling an airplane, the first offer is often the best offer. Somebody has been waiting for an airplane just like yours to come on the market.

During the pandemic, a lot of aircraft sold off-market. People were saying there are no airplanes, but every broker I know had a record year. The aircraft were selling before they could even hit the markets. What we’re seeing now is more aircraft on the market and the normalization of inventories in some markets. We’ll see people taking the time to research what they are buying and following the appropriate steps of buying.

The last two years were very much seller’s markets. Aircraft were appreciating on an almost monthly basis. There were bidding wars and buyers were foregoing the typical process of acquiring an airplane with pre-purchase inspections and all of that. There was a frenzy in the market. Things have slowed down a bit, but in a positive way, because it was unsustainable.

The standard process for an acquisition is that once a model is nailed down, several options are presented to the client, and then we’ll keep narrowing down until the right one is presented. An offer is submitted and negotiated. Once an offer is agreed to, a deposit goes into escrow, and we do a visual inspection. Over the pandemic, video visuals became very popular—one of us would go as a representative with an iPhone and spend an hour or two going through all the details and answering any questions. We get a feel for the airplane to make sure the buyer is comfortable with what he or she is acquiring. If the visual goes well, you go to a purchase agreement. If that is agreed upon, the airplane goes to pre-purchase inspection, and the airworthiness discrepancies are corrected. Once that’s completed, we go to closing.

There are not many industries that are as unregulated as business aviation. IADA aims to maintain standards and a certain level of performance. Members need to have been in business for a certain number of years, have a certain number of employees, and do a certain number of transactions. They must agree and adhere to our ethics, and the salespeople must take a certification test to become IADA-certified brokers. There are over 100 questions on it—it’s not an easy test. There is a requirement of five continuing-education credits a year following that. We want our members to have sales teams that are the best, the most educated, and the most aware.

This industry has been very good to me. It’s led me to a life that I didn’t think I would ever live and to a lot of interesting places and things. I feel compelled to give back, and that is the main reason I became the board chair of IADA. The board works well together, and we have healthy debates. You need to have a thick skin in sales in general and in aviation especially. We’re all characters and we could all write books about the crazy things we’ve seen. IADA members participate in so many subcommittees—we have a marketing subcommittee, an international subcommittee, a testing subcommittee. The membership is actively involved in the association, and I’m here to help and be the steward.

This interview has been edited and condensed.