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The FAA’s aircraft registration rules for new purchases

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2024 | Aviation Law |

Purchasing a new aircraft involves several steps, not least of which is ensuring that the aircraft is properly registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Compliance with the FAA’s aircraft registration rules is mandatory for operating an aircraft legally within the United States. 

Before a new aircraft owner can begin the registration process, they must meet the agency’s eligibility criteria. To register an aircraft with the FAA, the owner must be:

  • A U.S. citizen or a permanent resident; or
  • An entity lawfully admitted for permanent residence; or
  • A corporation or a governmental entity that meets specific requirements regarding ownership and operation; or
  • A foreign corporation lawfully doing business under the laws of the United States.

The registration process begins by completing the Aircraft Registration Application (FAA Form 8050-1), available through the FAA’s Aircraft Registration Branch or can be downloaded from the FAA website. The form requires detailed information about the aircraft, such as the make, model, serial number, and the owner’s contact information.

Documentation, fees and other necessary considerations

An applicant must provide the FAA with evidence of ownership, typically through a bill of sale (FAA Form 8050-2) or an equivalent transfer of ownership document. This document must be submitted along with the registration application to establish legal ownership. This fee is relatively modest, but it is subject to change, so it is advisable to check the current fee on the FAA website to confirm the amount necessary before submitting. 

Additionally, new aircraft owners need an N-number. Also known as the tail number, the N-number is a unique identifier required for all aircraft. Owners can reserve a specific N-number in advance, or one will be assigned during the registration. If a specific N-number is desired, additional forms and fees are required.

Finally, suppose the aircraft in question was previously registered in another country. In that case, it must be deregistered from that country before it can be registered in the U.S. Proof of this deregistration must be provided to the FAA.

Upon filing a registration application, a new aircraft owner will receive temporary authority to operate the aircraft while the registration is being processed. This temporary authority is usually valid for 90 days and allows the owner to use the aircraft during this interim period.