FAA Finalizes Recurrent Aircraft Registration Rule


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FAA Finalizes Recurrent Aircraft Registration Rule

By Eddy Metcalf

July 20, 2010 – In an effort to create a more accurate aircraft registration database, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is requiring re-registration of all civil aircraft over the next three years and renewal every three years after that.

The rule establishes specific expiration dates over a three-year period for all aircraft registered before Oct. 1, 2010, and requires re-registration of those aircraft according to a specific schedule. All aircraft registration certificates issued on or after Oct. 1, 2010 will be good for three years with the expiration date clearly shown.

“These improvements will give us more up-to-date registration data and better information about the state of the aviation industry,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. 


Current regulations require owners to report the sale of an aircraft, the scrapping or destruction of an aircraft, or a change in mailing address, but many owners have not complied with those requirements. Re-registration of all U.S. civil aircraft by Dec. 31, 2013 will enhance the database with current data derived from recent contact with aircraft owners. The new regulations also will ensure that aircraft owners give the FAA fresh information at least once every three years when they renew their registration. The FAA will cancel the N-numbers of aircraft that are not re-registered or renewed.

An aircraft registration is a unique alphanumeric string that identifies a civil aircraft, in similar fashion to a license plate on an automobile. In accordance with the Convention on International Civil Aviation all aircraft must be registered with a national authority (such as the FAA  or Transport Canada), and furthermore, they must carry proof of this registration in the form of a legal document called a Certificate of Registration at all times when in operation. Most countries also require the aircraft registration to be imprinted on a permanent fireproof plate mounted on the fuselage for the purposes of post-fire, post-crash aircraft accident investigation.

Because airplanes typically display their registration numbers on the aft fuselage just forward of the tail, in earlier times more often on the tail itself, the registration is often referred to as the "tail number". In the United States, the registration number is also referred to as an "N-number", as it starts with the letter N.


Although each aircraft registration is unique, some, but not all countries allow it to be re-used when the aircraft has been sold, destroyed or retired. For example N3794N is assigned to a Mooney M20F. It had been previously assigned to a Beechcraft Bonanza (specifically, the aircraft in which Buddy Holly was killed). Also note that an individual aircraft may be assigned different registrations during its existence. This can be because the aircraft changes ownership, state of registration, or in some countries, like the United States, for vanity reasons. An example of this is Middle East Airlines which has changed registrations on part of its Airbus A321-200 fleet from French registrations to Lebanese ones.

The schedule for re-registration and registration expiration is:

Certificate Issued   Certificate Expires Re-registration Required  (Any year)
March   March 31, 2011 Nov. 1, 2010-Jan. 31, 2011
April    June 30, 2011 Feb. 1 - April 30, 2011
May   Sept. 30, 2011 May 1- July 31, 2011
June   Dec. 31, 2011 Aug. 1- Oct. 31, 2011
July   March 31, 2012 Nov. 1, 2011-Jan. 31, 2012
August   June 30, 2012 Feb. 1- April 30, 2012
September   Sept. 30, 2012 May 1- July 31, 2012
October   Dec. 31, 2012 Aug. 1- Oct. 31, 2012
November   March 31, 2013 Nov. 1, 2012-Jan. 31, 2013
December   June 30, 2013 Feb. 1- April 30, 2013
January   Sept. 30, 2013 May 1- July 31, 2013
February   Dec. 31, 2013 Aug. 1- Oct. 31, 2013


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