Remembering Dr. Donald H. Bunker

dr-bunker

REMEMBERING THE “GOD FATHER OF AIRCRAFT FINANCE

REMEMBERING DR. DONALD H. BUNKER

We are well acquainted the term “Mentor”, it is used inaccurately by most, often used to describe someone who one looks up to or tries to emulate. The true meaning of “Mentor” is explained by the Oxford Dictionary as “an experienced and trusted advisor” – precisely what Dr. Donald H. Bunker was to me.

Dr. Bunker was a man of a few words, but behind those 1970’s yellow tinted spectacles, was a man who would quietly absorb all that was happening around him and who would radiate warmth and friendliness to those who had the privilege of being in his presence.

I too, shared a special bond with Dr. Bunker. The year was 2010 and I had returned from Leiden University in the Netherlands after completing my Masters in Air and Space Law; being a novice in the aviation industry I was unsure of whether my passion could become my profession –no different than any novices’ dilemma.

In those nascent years, I often jumped at any opportunity to attend workshops or conferences, essentially to try and maximize my exposure in the aviation industry. A similar opportunity arose for me in November 2010 at the IATA Aircraft, Acquisition and Finance Course which was ironically being held in New Delhi, India. A quick glance at the schedule of the Course revealed that Dr. Bunker would be teaching this 4-day course. Immediately and without a second thought, I registered for the event.

I had, from colleagues and teachers at Leiden University heard about Dr. Bunker and how he was undoubtedly regarded as the “God Father of Aircraft Finance”; therefore, it went without saying that I was rather enthused to interact with the Man himself during the IATA Course. Scrolling through my old emails (while writing this article), I came across my answer to IATA’s question regarding “expectations from the Course”. My answer was “to meet Dr. Donald H. Bunker”.

Little did I know that this 4-day Course (for which I was hesitant to pay the hefty registration fee) would change my career and to a very large extent, the course “life” would have in store for me.

Without going into details about the IATA Course, I can with fair certainty state that, fate or “Kismet” came into play immediately. It is undeniable that the series of events that followed are astonishing! In New Delhi, I learned that there were only 7 (myself being the only Indian!) of us attending the Course, this of course meant that each of us would get the opportunity to establish a bond with our teacher – Dr. Bunker. Sure enough, after the 4-day course, Dr. Bunker seemed fairly fond of me and his feedback was also very positive, so much so that I “passed with distinction” and did well on the final days test.

A week after the Course ended (the precise date was the 10th of November 2010), after mustering up the courage to make an offer to the “God Father” himself, I emailed Dr. Bunker asking him whether his firm in Dubai would like to associate with our firm in India for aircraft related matters. To be honest, I had no clue on what to expect, it was one of those gun shots (into a dark night’s sky) an individual takes in his or her career without knowing whether the bullet would even remotely come close to the target, let alone hit it!

It didn’t take long for me to realize that my bullet was not far off target as on the 13th of November 2010, I had a response from Dr. Bunker stating that DHB & Associates would be interested in exploring such an opportunity with Sarin & Co.

I so vividly remember, lying in bed one day being unable to sleep (with the excitement of a prospect of having an association with Dr. Bunker) when my fate, i.e. my wife Kismet reassured me that all would work out for the best, her exact words were, “you’re chasing your dreams, I am so proud of you”. The future at that time was all but an opaque cloud of uncertainty.

In January 2011 my father and I visited Dubai and met with DHB & Associates and before we knew it, both firms had taken a liking for each other.

Within the same year, Mr. Ian Veall from DHB & Associates had kindly accepted our offer to fly into Chandigarh to the Sarin & Co. office for the signing of the affiliation agreement between the two firms. The affiliation agreement was finally signed on the 20th of August 2011. The event was a grand success which got considerable news coverage and was graced by the then Consul General of Canada, Mr. Scot Slessor (considering the close tie between DHB & Associates and Canada, this was only befitting of the event).

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SIGNING OF THE AFFILIATION AGREEMENT ON 20TH AUGUST 2011 AT SARIN & CO. OFFICES, CHANDIGARH, INDIA

Within months of the agreement being signed between DHB & Associates and Sarin & Co.; we received our first mandate through this partnership. The mandate which we received was from one of the largest aircraft leasing companies in the world, who desired to repossess four aircraft from Kingfisher Airlines. What were the odds of our first mandate being to deal with the insolvency of one of the largest airlines in India? – simply unreal! The struggle was hard but, in the end, we were successful and the Client was happy with the outcome.

Eight years on, we have been retained by some of the largest leasing companies and manufacturers in the world and have dealt with some of the largest aircraft leasing and financing transactions in India. There was in fact, no looking back. I truly, solely and completely attribute this very positive outcome to the blind and selfless trust Dr. Bunker had in me. The affiliation agreement has been extended from time to time and is still in existence to this day.

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SIGNING OF THE EXTENSION OF THE AFFILIATION AGREEMENT AT THE DUBAI AIRSHOW 2013

Over the years I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Bunker at least once a year, he was a regular attendee of the Leiden Sarin International Air Law Moot Court Competition, a wonderful event which annually gives me the opportunity to meet all those from the industry who are dear to me. It goes without saying that I was overwhelmingly shocked to learn about Dr. Bunkers untimely passing on the 25th of January 2018.

A near and dears death is always a difficult event to deal with, however, it is also a time to revel in that person’s glory, deeds and life. It is always difficult to have someone pass to whom you have not said a proper good bye and not even a proper thank you, it leaves you with a heart wrenching feeling of having lost out on time; lost out on an opportunity.

I will have to make do with these short words, therefore; Dr. Bunker – where ever you are, thank you! Thank you for your faith in me, for opening so many avenues by giving me this opportunity and thank you, most of all for the unwavering trust in me. I promise to not let you down. Your deeds will keep your name alight with glory for centuries to come and until we meet again, my dear friend, rest in peace.

Nitin Sarin

29th July 2018

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