For years, registering an aircraft in the
United States was relatively easy, painless and inexpensive: Fill out a
multi-part FAA form, keep the pink copy and send in a check for $5.
Presuming no other complications, the aircraft was properly registered
as long as you owned it and remained at the same address.
On October 1, 2010, however, the FAA will
begin transitioning to a new set of registration procedures, which will
require re-registering each aircraft in the agency’s registry—and
paying a fee—every three years.
Note: The FAA will cancel the N-numbers
of aircraft that are not re-registered or renewed under the new
procedures. An aircraft whose registration has been canceled is, under
FAA regulations, no longer airworthy and cannot legally be flown.
The new procedures result from a
rulemaking process begun in 2008 and concluded on July 20, 2010. As the
new rule states, over a three-year period, it will “terminate the
registration of all aircraft registered before October 1, 2010, and will
require the re-registration of each aircraft to retain U.S. civil
aircraft status.” Thereafter, an aircraft’s registration must be
renewed every three years and the appropriate fees—which will be
greater than $5—paid during the renewal process.
“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 in a
press release issued earlier this month. “We also are responding to
calls from law enforcement and other government agencies for more
accurate, up-to-date registration data.” In other words, changes to
the FAA’s registration procedures are being driven, at least in part,
by continuing security concerns.
Beginning October 1, 2010, the FAA will
mail re-registration notices to all aircraft owners of record. Mailings
will be staggered according to a published schedule based on the month
in which the aircraft’s existing registration was granted and will
take place over a three-year period. Once the re-registration notices
are mailed, owners will have six months to renew. Thereafter,
registrations will expire every three years unless renewed.
Currently, some 357,000 civil aircraft
are registered in the United States. The FAA believes as many as
one-third of those registration records are inaccurate in some way, and
it expects as many as 30,000 aircraft will be dropped from the registry
as a result of the new procedures. Once the three-year re-registration
process concludes, the FAA expects the registry to have only a
5-to-6-percent error rate.
Although the FAA’s original regulatory
proposal sought to continue the existing $5 registration fee,
legislation pending in Congress would allow the agency to increase it.
According to the FAA, the legislation’s $130 fee “would not apply as
the fee for re-registration or renewal.” Instead, the agency expects
the new fee would be approximately $45, payable every three years when a
registration is renewed.
Commenting on the new registration procedures, EAA’s Director of
Government Relations Randy Hansen said, “This is a very costly burden
on the public that the FAA can accomplish using other means. The FAA’s
own data would indicate that the issue is much smaller than presented,
and that a major change in the FAA registration system is not warranted.”