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  Home > Newsletter > Missing Aircraft Information Shines Light on Mandatory Re-registration, January 2011

Missing Aircraft Information Shines Light on Mandatory Re-registration

An Associated Press article dated Dec. 10, 2010 revealed that The Federal Aviation Administration is missing information on who owns one-third of the 357,000 private and commercial aircraft in the U.S., and that this oversight could be exploited by terrorists and drug traffickers.

According to the FAA about 119,000 of the aircraft on their U.S. registry have “questionable registration” due to missing forms, invalid addresses, unreported sales or other paperwork problems. In many cases, the FAA cannot say who owns a plane or even whether it is still flying or has been junked.

There is grave concern that such unregistered planes could be used in terrorist attacks. There have already been cases of drug traffickers using phony U.S. registration numbers, as well as instances of mistaken identity in which police raided the wrong plane because of faulty record-keeping. In addition to law enforcement purposes, the FAA uses the database to contact owners about safety problems and locate planes that go missing.

Following this statement, North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat and the chairman of the Senate subcommittee overseeing aviation, said he would recommend holding congressional hearings on aircraft registration. The FAA reported taking proactive steps to update the database by requiring all aircraft owners to re-register their planes over the next three years. Re-registration will be mandatory, and the system will be similar to the one many states use to register cars.

Under the old voluntary plan, a plane had to be registered when it was purchased, but there was no requirement to re-register unless the aircraft was sold or scrapped, or the owner moved or died. Unfortunately, an increasing number of owners failed to update their registration and file paperwork.  

Last July, the FAA issued a final ruling requiring mandatory re-registration of all U.S. civil aircraft in a rolling program that will begin Nov. 1 and end in Dec. 2013. The first three-month window targeted aircraft issued in March of any year. The registration process will then move on to certificates issued in April and so on for the next three years. The ruling also calls for aircraft registration renewals every three years. While owners with no changes to their registration will be able to re-register their aircraft online, those with changes will be required to submit their applications through the mail.

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