NOVATO -- Willis Lease Finance Corp. (NASDAQ: WLFC), a Novato-based lessor of commercial jet engines and related equipment, today reported net income grew 20 percent at the end of 2011 from a year before.

Income for the year was $14.5 million. Net income available to common shareholders increased 28 percent to $11.4 million from $8.9 million. Those earnings equaled $1.28 per diluted share, up from 96 cents at the end of 2010.

Fourth-quarter earnings fell to $3.6 million from $4 million a year before. After dividends, net income available to common shareholders was $2.9 million, down from $3.2 million.

“Economic headwinds continue to buffet the aviation industry,” said Charles Willis, chairman and CEO, in a statement. “Despite the industry turbulence, Willis Lease still managed to generate not only a reasonable profit but also a healthy increase over the previous year.”

At the end of the year, Willis Lease had 194 commercial aircraft engines, three aircraft parts packages and 13 aircraft and other engine-related equipment in its portfolio, with a net book value of $981.5 million. Average engine utilization was 86 percent in the fourth quarter, equaling the level from one year prior.

Total  revenue increased 6 percent last year. Net finance costs decreased 13 percent because of lower costs for hedging. The company also repurchased 434,000 shares last year.

“With our stock continuing to trade at levels below book value, we continued our common share repurchase transactions throughout 2011, bringing the total number of shares repurchased to 802,231 over the last two years at an average price of $12.24,” said Brad Forsyth, chief financial officer.

The company's stock price was $14.28 per share at the close of trading Monday, down 32 cents a share, or more than 2 percent, from Friday.