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Flip my airplane

Young entrepreneurs buy, fly, sell, repeat

From “Banana Bonanza” to bombshell, this 1988 Beechcraft Bonanza F33A is undergoing a head-turning transformation as entrepreneurs Owen Leipelt and Jeff Alan prepare for another successful flip—but not before having some fun.

Bonanza reborn

Photography by the author The Bonanza’s makeover included a new paint job by Master Aircraft Services in Wickenburg, Arizona. The Bonanza’s makeover included a new paint job by Master Aircraft Services in Wickenburg, Arizona. Matching diamond-stitched upholstery by Aviation Creations in Phoenix. (Owen Leipelt)

Jeff, who prefers to go by only his first name, and brother Christian, of Arizona-based JR Garage and JR Aviation, and California-based pilot Leipelt, of @FlyWithOwen, are changing the game on flipping airplanes. By buying, flying, and eventually selling their investments, they’re able to enjoy the perks of diverse aircraft ownership while refurbishing GA aircraft to their former glory. From purchase to sale, the team documents each phase of the flip and shares the content on their YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok channels. Each step of the refurbishment and nearly every flight in between is captured and shared, giving followers an inside look into what aircraft ownership can be like.

Leipelt and Jeff, both now age 23, met while attending the Sun ’n Fun airshow in 2019. Both were well-known social media personalities, Leipelt for his Instagram and TikTok channels that offer a glimpse into his life as a corporate pilot, and Jeff for he and his brother Christian’s JR Garage YouTube channel that puts a young spin on car reviews, vehicle project vlogs, road trips, and more.

Drawn together by their mutual social media presence and desire to take their brands to new heights, Jeff brought Leipelt aboard to help with the brothers’ first aircraft purchase, a Cirrus SR20. “That was our first plane purchase to break the ice into the world of going into planes, and boy is it a lot different than flipping cars,” Jeff explains. “Cars are pretty simple in the grand scheme of things…You can buy them anywhere, maybe you can fix them up a little bit, and then you can sell them pretty quick. But with a plane, it’s a few more steps required for that.”

The brothers got their first taste for aviation from their father, a pilot, who took the family to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Jeff was four months old and Christian was two during their first visit to Oshkosh in 1999. The family attended the event for the next five years, then returned to Oshkosh in 2017. That’s when the brothers caught the bug for aviation and all things fast. “We were immediately hooked seeing all the big planes in person,” Jeff said. “For as long I can remember, my brother and I have been madly interested in cars, and anything with a motor and wheels that goes fast.”

Jeff, whose sights are set on achieving his pilot certificate within the next year, got his entrepreneurial start in the automotive industry by buying, fixing up, and selling cars with his brother. Their YouTube channel, JR Garage, has amassed more than 1.2 million subscribers since its launch in 2016, and their new channel, JR Aviation, has attracted nearly 60,000 subscribers since the launch of their first video in 2019.

Creating engaging and eye-catching photo and video content with these aircraft from purchase to sale is central to the team’s business model. Viewers can tag along on the team’s aerial escapades as they explore some of the busiest and most remote flying destinations. Videos featuring a new custom interior, instrument panel, and paint job; hectic transitions through San Francisco International Airport’s Class Bravo airspace; fun-filled flights to Catalina Island; and backcountry adventures into private airstrips in remote Montana and Wyoming have attracted aviation enthusiasts across social media, eagerly awaiting what the team has in store for their next aircraft.

Old is new

Owen Leipelt and Jeff Alan pose for a photo on the wings of their freshly painted 1988 Beechcraft Bonanza F33A at Frazier Lake Airpark in Hollister, California. Owen Leipelt pilots the refurbished Bonanza over Monterey Bay in California. The airplane received its instrument panel upgrade with help from Avidyne Avionics. (Owen Leipelt) The “Banana Bonanza” before getting its new look. (Owen Leipelt)

“These planes are always on the move,” Jeff explains. “We’re always taking them on fun trips…filming YouTube videos for my channel and Owen’s channel…as well as Instagram content and TikTok, it’s just a win, win, win. We have followers that love the content, we make revenue off the content, and we get sponsors off the content. Companies that want to see their parts on airplanes, getting exposed to hundreds of thousands, millions of people. It’s a great win-win for both the company and us. We are able to put in some of these pieces which would cost us a small fortune for sometimes free, sometimes a big discount.”

“There’s never a dull moment when owning these planes,” Leipelt said. “As two people with a passion for aviation we definitely use them a lot.”

When the aircraft aren’t being used as a content creation tool, the team uses them for personal flights, commuting to work, and seeking out deals for their businesses.

Leipelt earned his private pilot certificate just after turning 17, and he quickly breezed through his ratings and began ferrying aircraft around the country for the California-based aircraft broker, Lafferty Aircraft Sales. “Riding around in jets and turboprops…it built my time really quickly and led to a Gulfstream job that I’ve had for the past two years.” When he’s not flying around the world piloting a Gulfstream G–IV, Leipelt spends his time creating content for his social media channels. Leipelt’s Instagram and TikTok accounts have attracted a combined 450,000 followers.

The most common question these young entrepreneurs receive is how they’ve managed to accomplish buying and selling expensive cars and aircraft on their own at such a young age. “I’ve been a serial entrepreneur my entire life,” Jeff said. “My brother and I had big dreams of one day owning those cool cars, cool planes, but we most certainly could not afford them at the time and we most certainly did not come from any sort of a wealthy family, so really the idea of owning these sorts of things was very far out there, but not impossible. We got our butts to work at a very early age, we’re actually professional numismatics…We buy and sell rare coins, collectibles, and other tangible investments. We’ve been doing that since 2009, about 13 years now…We work really hard at it, and we take some of those profits and then buy cool cars that we can make money on, and then we take some of those profits and buy planes that we can make money on. Everything we buy we turn a profit on. After buying 40 cars now, I think we’ve only lost on one or two of them, and every plane we’ve bought, we’ve turned a profit...We’re very frugal and that helps us make sure we do not lose money.”

Leipelt officially came on board as an investor with the brothers’ second purchase, their first Beechcraft Bonanza F33A. “It was really well cared for, we got really lucky on that one for sure,” Leipelt said. “We bought it sight unseen, brought it back to Arizona, put a brand-new interior in it, and really just enjoyed it for a year.”

“That one was tough to see go, but we had just purchased this one,” Jeff added, gesturing to the newly painted F33A behind him, “which required a lot more of our time and attention.”

When the trio purchased the 1988 F33A Bonanza, it had a striking yellow fuselage and wings with a navy-blue tail. The paint scheme quickly earned the airplane the nickname “Banana Bonanza.” Since then, the aircraft has received a complete aesthetic refresh from the inside out, starting with a fresh interior by Aviation Creations in Phoenix, Arizona. Diamond-stitched gray leather seats perfectly complement the original interior, as well as the aircraft’s brand-new paint job from Master Aircraft Services in Wickenburg, Arizona. The color scheme features a very cool Apollo Grey base coat, Virga metallic blue flake paint that sparkles in the sun, and metallic black accents.

The aircraft also received a complete instrument panel upgrade with help from Avidyne Avionics. “That will really complete everything with this plane,” Jeff said. “We’ll now have new paint, new interior, new avionics, a mid-time engine, it should be ready to go, but then again, it’s never the end…We kind of want to do tip tanks…maybe a turbo-normalizer…the project never ends.”

Left untouched for now is the aircraft’s three-blade Hartzell propeller and 285-horsepower Continental IO-520 series engine.

Like their other projects, when the Bonanza is finished, the team plans to hold onto it, create some content, and enjoy their investment before putting it on the market.

[email protected]

Niki Britton
eMedia Content Producer
eMedia Content Producer Niki Britton joined AOPA in 2021. She is a private pilot who enjoys flying her 1969 Cessna 182 and taking aerial photographs.

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