A Transparent Path to Global Aircraft Registration: Unveiling the common misconceptions
Every civil aircraft must receive an aircraft registration to be authorized to fly, and an aircraft registration identifies a specific aircraft and ensures compliance with regulatory requirements. Typically, an aircraft is registered in the jurisdiction where the carrier is based, and each jurisdiction has an authority that is in charge of the jurisdiction’s civil aviation registry.
Many people perceive the aircraft registry process as being complicated, bureaucratic and costly. However, this is not necessarily the case. In this article, we will examine and debunk the top three myths surrounding aircraft registries from different parts of the world, revealing the truth behind each.
1. The aircraft registry process is full of inefficiencies.
Any new process, including registering aircraft, can seem challenging if you’ve never done it before. In addition, with each jurisdiction requiring specific qualifications, documents and signatures, the aircraft registration process could be perceived as inefficient.
In reality, familiarization with each requirement and the process and proper preparation ahead of time, will significantly reduce the challenges of registering an aircraft.
Typically, a lack of knowledge, preparation and lead time leaves applicants for aircraft transactions scrambling at the last minute. This is compounded by the fact that, in general, government agencies including the civil aviation authority (CAA) for each jurisdiction are formalistic in that documents submitted must meet certain signature and certification requirements, which can significantly increase lead time when there is a lack of preparation (a civil aviation authority (CAA) is a statutory authority, either national or supranational, responsible for regulating civil aviation and maintaining an aircraft register).
Each jurisdiction has a set of regulations to register an aircraft in that jurisdiction. Familiarizing yourself with the requirements and preparing the documentation with plenty of lead time can help debunk the myth that the process is full of inefficiencies. In addition, hiring a qualified aviation professional who works with aircraft registries regularly and can guide you through the process, will help smoothen the registration process allowing an aircraft to fly legally as quickly as possible.
In addition, when certain events occur such as an ownership transfer, citizenship issue or a corporation name change on the certificate, they can deem an existing registration invalid or ineffective (each country has a set of regulations that outline what makes an aircraft registration invalid). For example, in the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation FAR 47.41 states the events that would deem a certificate ineffective. In these cases, having a qualified aviation business professional who understands the ins and outs of aircraft registration can help with registration issues and make the process go more smoothly.
Kerwin Tan, Partner at Tan Hassani and Counsels in the Philippines adds that in other jurisdictions, the citizenship issue not only affects the registration of the aircraft itself, but also the operator of the aircraft. Those jurisdictions that have tighter foreign ownership legislations may impose that an aircraft cannot be operated by a foreign-owned operator. Therefore, knowledge of the specific local legislation regarding the aircraft operator is also crucial in terms of aircraft registration. This will prevent any surprise later on during aircraft registration and helps in budgeting both registration and operating expenses.
2. Registering aircraft is a long process
Although some countries have a lengthy registration process, in a survey conducted by L2b Aviation, most of the 23 countries reported a registration process of no longer than two weeks and some with same-day or within a few days’ turnaround. All of the jurisdictions in the L2b survey have clear directions on the lead time allocated for aircraft registration.
However, despite what the CAA of each jurisdiction has written in their registration regulations, some countries are experiencing registration delays, especially in the largest Registry, the United States. The U.S. has 295,000 active aircraft registered, or 42% of the world’s aircraft fleet. Currently, the wait for registry is now taking about six months to review, file and issue a hard card (or a denial), a process that used to take six to eight weeks.
Similar to the citizenship issue in some jurisdictions concerning the aircraft operator, an issue that may be perceived as affecting the length of the aircraft registration process is actually an operator issue that indirectly lengthens the aircraft registration process. In some jurisdictions, before an operator may register an aircraft, it should have an updated statement of account with its CAA. For example, this means that the operator should not have any outstanding dues payable to the CAA; otherwise, it would be required to update its statement of account before any application, such as aircraft registration, is acted upon. Discussing this with the air operator early on will help ensure that the aircraft owner is not dragged into this separate issue.
In general, on the condition that the operator or airline seeking a registration provides complete documentation that satisfies the standards written in the jurisdiction’s registration process, the time it takes to register an aircraft from when the documents start being filed should not be unduly lengthy.
3. The registration process is costly
The L2b survey found that most jurisdictions clearly outline the fee schedule for aircraft registration. This is important because it allows owners and operators of aircraft to know exactly what they will be required to pay to register their aircraft and budget accordingly.
According to the survey, the fees for registering an aircraft in most jurisdictions were reported to be low. In fact, all surveyed jurisdictions had registration costs starting at less than $1,000. The lowest fee for registering an aircraft is in the U.S., starting at $5. This is significantly lower than in other countries such as Portugal and Switzerland, which reported the highest registration fees.
It is worth noting that several countries have registration fees based on a schedule that considers the relative type of aircraft or gross weight of the aircraft. This means owners of larger or more expensive aircraft may be required to pay higher registration fees than those with smaller or less expensive aircraft. This is because larger or more complex aircraft may require more resources and oversight from regulatory bodies which may increase the cost associated with registering them.
“In terms of aircraft registration at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, the staff at the aircraft registration section are both knowledgeable and professional,” Tan said. “An applicant can rest assured that the list of requirements and fees for aircraft registration are readily and publicly available, and the aircraft registration section will expeditiously act on an application so long as the documents are complete based on the official list of requirements. This gives comfort to the public that there won’t be any surprises later on.”
Aircraft registration is an essential process that identifies an aircraft and ensures compliance with regulatory requirements. Although many people perceive the process as complicated, bureaucratic and costly, this is not necessarily the case. The top three myths surrounding aircraft registries have been examined, revealing the truth behind each.
First, familiarizing oneself with the requirements of preparing the documentation and plenty of lead time can significantly reduce the challenges of registering an aircraft. Hiring a qualified aviation professional who understands the ins and outs of aircraft registration can also help with registration issues and make the process go more smoothly.
Secondly, although some countries have a lengthy registration process, most jurisdictions have clear direction on the lead time allocated for aircraft registration with some even having same-day or a few days turnaround time.
Finally, the L2b Aviation survey found that the fees for registering an aircraft in most jurisdictions were reported to be low with all surveyed jurisdictions having registration cost starting at less than $1,000.
Overall, while the aircraft registration process can seem daunting, with the right knowledge, preparation and guidance from qualified professionals, it can be a straightforward process that ensures compliance with regulatory requirements and allow an aircraft to fly legally.
To learn more about aircraft registration regulations and requirements by jurisdiction, download the L2b Aircraft Title and Registration Publication.
About L2b Aviation
L2b Aviation is a network of over 45 law firms specializing in aviation, representing 54 countries around the globe. All members are carefully selected from the leading specialist aviation law firms in their jurisdiction.
Its members are widely recognized for providing tailored, responsive, consistent and personal service. It has in-depth knowledge and extensive experience in all aspects of aircraft/ engine leasing and financing, including operating leases, export credit financings, commercial debt financings and tax-based transactions.