Beginner’s Guide to corporate aircraft registration

Corporate Jet Investor Staff
By Corporate Jet Investor Staff November 1, 2014 14:33

Beginner’s Guide to corporate aircraft registration

Just like a car, every aircraft can be identified by a unique alphanumeric string, which differs from one jurisdiction to another. If ever a registration number is preceded by the letter ‘N,’ you immediately know that it has been registered in the US. Likewise, ‘G’ represents the UK registry, while ‘VP-C’ means that the aircraft has been registered in the Cayman Islands.

MUST-READ: The Official Guide to Aircraft Registration

The difference with aircraft registration is that an aircraft is not necessarily based in the jurisdiction in which it has been registered. This is evident in the fact that there are over 250 private jets currently registered in the Isle of Man when only two are actually operated from the island.

Where to register your aircraft?

Although many aircraft owners choose to register their aircraft in their native country, some owners are lured by islands or other countries, while others may seek a registry that can handle less conventional requests at short notice.

For owners that regularly fly into foreign countries, it can be beneficial to register the aircraft in a jurisdiction that is politically neutral, such as Aruba or the Cayman Islands. This can be particularly important as a highly-visible registration prefix will imply nationality, regardless of where the aircraft is actually based.

ALSO READ: 10 private jets on the Isle of Man Aircraft Registry

Although the effectiveness of an aircraft registry depends on the specific needs and demands of the aircraft owner, aviation lawyers generally agree that some aircraft registries are simply better than others (although this does not always tally with their popularity). This was proved in 2012 when around 20 business lawyers voted the Isle of Man – which has now registered over 600 aircraft in total – as the best overall aircraft registry, after Corporate Jet Investor conducted the world’s first ever aircraft registration survey.

As part of the survey, one lawyer said: “There are many really helpful and responsive registries, which are used to dealing with different structures and solving problems, however a number of the registries in some of the less-used jurisdictions can be difficult to deal with as they have not had the same level of experience.”

Gold standards of aircraft registration

What business aircraft owners should firstly to consider when deciding where to register their aircraft, is whether the aircraft is intended for purely private use, corporate-private use or to be chartered. “The answer to these three scenarios will entirely  decide the registration process,” says Aoife O’ Sullivan, partner at Kennedys Aviation (formerly Gates and Partners).

Looking at what makes a good aircraft registry in more detail, O’ Sullivan outlines the ‘gold standard requirements’ of aircraft registration as follows:

  • High regulatory standards
  • High service levels and quality international reputation
  • Neutral nationality registration prefix
  • Secure mortgage register
  • Insurance premium tax
  • Clear and simplified taxation regime
  • A stable legal and political environment
  • Insurance requirements

O’ Sullivan argues that aircraft owners should also take into serious consideration the interests and demands of the aircraft’s financier. “Banks have extremely strong views on the jurisdiction and registration,” she adds.

10 popular aircraft registries for business jets

Out of the 50 most popular aircraft registries, the US alone accounts for 67 per cent of business jets and around 63 per cent of the global fleet.

Position Country No. of aircraft Registration prefix Is charter permitted?
1. United States 12,051 N Yes
2. Brazil 764 PP-/PR-/PT- Yes
3. Mexico 704 XA-/XB- Yes
4. Canada 483 C- Yes
5. Germany 387 D- Yes
6. Isle of Man 264 M- No
7. Austria 244 OE- Yes
8. United Kingdom 241 G- Yes
9. China 203 B- Yes
10. Venezuela 168 YV Yes

How to register an aircraft

Regardless of which jurisdiction you choose, aircraft registration should be a relatively simple process that is completed quickly. However, making sure your business jet or helicopter has been properly registered can have huge implications on whether your aircraft is legally able to leave the ground, before we even look into the affect that registration can have upon cost and service.

In all cases, it is highly recommended that you check with the relevant authority to make sure you have followed the correct procedures and that your aircraft meets the necessary legal requirements.

Registering an aircraft in the US

In the US, it takes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) around six weeks to process registration documentation, however, this process was slowed considerably when the FAA Aircraft Registry in Oklahoma City was temporarily closed as a result of the federal shutdown in 2013.

In order to register an aircraft in the US, the owner must live in the country or must agree to start and end 60 per cent of their total flight activity in the US. To register an aircraft, an Aircraft Registration Application must be completed and sent to the Aircraft Registration Branch (FAA Form 8050-1), along with proof of ownership (the bill of sale) and a $5 fee. An alphanumeric sequence will be chosen at random or else it costs $10 to pick a custom sequence.

The FAA includes a simple list of instructions for aircraft registration on its website and the organisation is often praised for its accessibility. “At the FAA registry, you walk up to the window, hand them documents and the aircraft is registered,” says one US aviation lawyer. “It costs $5 to register an aircraft with the FAA. It costs me more in time than the cost of filling out the registration application using a paralegal.”

Registering an aircraft outside of the US

The process – and cost – for aircraft registration varies from one jurisdiction to another, but it should never be too taxing.

In the Isle of Man, for example, the aircraft owner must supply the Isle of Man Aircraft Registry (IOMAR) with a number of documents, including a Certificate of Airworthiness and a Maintenance Programme Declaration. Similarly to the Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man is open to Commonwealth citizens or people who own a residence or place of business within the jurisdiction.

“If potential applicants provide the IOMAR with the aircraft manufacturer and model of the proposed aircraft, the IOMAR can supply them with an estimated cost for the registration and initial Certificate of Airworthiness of the aircraft,” says Steven Quayle, senior associate at Cains legal firm.

It is worth repeating that many offshore aircraft registries – including the Cayman Islands and the Isle of Man – do not allow aircraft to be used for charter.

More on aircraft registration: The Official Guide to Aircraft Registration

Corporate Jet Investor Staff
By Corporate Jet Investor Staff November 1, 2014 14:33

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