UNB Corp. took a flier on the aircraft lending business three years ago when it bought Banc One Corp.’s $35 million aviation portfolio for an undisclosed sum — and it hasn’t looked back.

Since then, the Canton, Ohio, company has more than tripled its book of airplane loans, to $145 million by the end of 2000, establishing itself as one of the few community bank players in the $9.8 billion general aviation business. UNB’s earnings jumped 29% in 1999, the first full year of operations for its aircraft financing group. And though growth slowed in 2000 and its stock price still is not exactly robust, profits at the $1.1 billion-asset holding company for United National Bank and Trust Co. have topped $14 million two straight years, against $9 million in 1997.

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