December 2010

FAA Issues Final Rule Requiring Re-Registration of All U.S.-Registered Aircraft

Holland & Knight Newsletter
Marc L. Antonecchia

The FAA has issued a final rule, effective October 1, 2010, amending the FAA’s regulations concerning aircraft registration. The FAA anticipates that the rule will improve the accuracy of the Civil Aircraft Register database (the “Register”), which contains inaccuracies due to the failure of aircraft owners to report changes such as the sale or scrapping of an aircraft.

The FAA estimates that approximately one-third of the 357,000 aircraft that are presently registered have “questionable” registrations. The FAA seeks to avoid inaccuracies because the information collected at the time of registration is used for several purposes, including by the FAA and manufacturers to convey safety directives and by law enforcement agencies during investigations. The information also serves as a resource for parties involved with sale and financing transactions.

Overview of the Final Rule

The rule provides for the expiration and re-registration of all registered aircraft over a three-year period, followed by the expiration and renewal of aircraft registrations at three-year intervals:

  • For aircraft registered before October 1, 2010, re-registration (using AC Form 8050-1A) is required pursuant to a three-year schedule set forth by the FAA.1 By way of example, the schedule provides that the certificate of an aircraft registered in March of any year prior to October 1, 2010, will expire on March 31, 2011, and that re-registration should occur within a three-month window between November 1, 2010, and January 31, 2011.
  • For aircraft registered on or after October 1, 2010, certificates will be good for three years with the expiration date clearly shown. Renewal must be made using AC Form 8050-1B.

The re-registration and renewal applications are available on the FAA’s website2 and differ from forms used for initial registrations (AC Form 8050-1). An application may be submitted online if there are no changes to the current registration information. If there are any changes to the information, then the application must be submitted in hard copy. There is a $5 fee for re-registration/renewal.

FAA Reminder Notices

The FAA Aircraft Registration Branch (the “Registry”) will send owners two reminder notices, the first being 180 days before a registration is scheduled to expire. The reminder provides basic instructions and identifies the aircraft, its expiration date and the three-month filing window during which the application should be submitted. The notice will include a unique passcode for online filing that will be valid until the close of the assigned filing window. By way of example, an aircraft registration issued in March of any year that does not contain an expiration date will expire on March 31, 2011. The first notice should have been sent on or about October 1, 2010, and announced that the three-month filing window runs from November 1, 2010, to January 31, 2011.

The second reminder notice will be sent at the end of the filing window in the event that the FAA has not received the re-registration application. Although applications sent after the filing window closes will still be processed, the aircraft may be without authorization to operate until registration is completed.

Cancellation of Registration

The registration of an aircraft will be cancelled if an owner does not re-register or renew the registration in accordance with the rule. When registration ends, the Registry will wait 30 days to ensure that recently received requests from the owner have been processed. The Registry will then notify the owner of the pending cancellation and allow the owner to reserve the N-Number or register the aircraft within 60 days from the date of the notification. If no reply is received, an examiner will cancel the registration. Once cancellation is complete, that particular N-number will be unavailable for assignment for a period of five years.

Cancellation of U.S. registration will not have an impact on priorities established by interests recorded in the International Registry pursuant to the Cape Town Convention or the FAA Aircraft Registry. As stated in the rule: “The continued priority of an interest established by registering that interest with the International Registry is not dependent upon continued United States civil aircraft registration. For aircraft not covered by the Cape Town Convention, security interests properly filed and recorded at the FAA’s Aircraft Registry are arguably provided perpetual validity without further recording.”


Now that the rolling three-year re-registration period has commenced, owners need to be especially vigilant concerning the deadlines for re-registrations and renewals. Based on the number of inaccurate registrations estimated by the FAA, there are likely to be instances where the FAA reminder notices do not reach their intended target. As it is ultimately the owner’s responsibility to ensure re-registration or renewal is accomplished in a timely fashion, owners should check the FAA’s website to determine if the current information with respect to their aircraft is accurate and up to date.


1 The complete schedule may be found at 14 CFR 47.40 or on the FAA’s website at


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