Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here

Aircraft Registration, Re-Registration and Renewal

Table of Contents

Importance to Members

The FAA estimates that approximately one-third of the 357,000 registered aircraft records it maintains are inaccurate and that many aircraft associated with those records are likely ineligible for United States registration.

Aircraft Title and Escrow Services

Let Aircraft Title and Escrow Services, provided by Aerospace Reports, help guide and protect you every step of the way. Aircraft Title and Escrow Services has created a proprietary informational system that will work in conjunction with the FAA’s system to monitor your aircraft’s registration status. We will make certain that you do not open yourself up to the greater costs and added liability that come with de-registration of your aircraft. Aircraft Title and Escrow Services also provides you with complete title, escrow, and document services including in-depth research of the FAA registry, and fast, efficient and thorough reporting to help you complete your transaction. Protect your investment before, during, and after your purchase.

Aircraft Re-registration

Effective October 1, 2010, aircraft owners were required to re-register their aircraft every three years. The plan called for the re-registration of all U.S. civil aircraft  by December 31, 2013. Then, all aircraft owners move from re-registration to registration renewal on a three-year cycle. Effective January 2023, the duration of aircraft registration certificates has been extended from three to seven years.

The FAA re-registration fee is $5.00. The FAA will cancel the N-numbers of aircraft that are not re-registered or renewed. To ensure that their aircraft do not slip through the cracks, owners should check the FAA website now and make sure the FAA has accurate information regarding their aircraft.

How re-registration works

Here is how the re-registration process works. All aircraft owners will receive a notification from the FAA, which includes an online re-registration code (to be used for electronic filing), 180 days before the expiration of their current registration. The notice will give a three-month time frame (see chart below) in which the aircraft owner is able to log onto the FAA website and renew the registration using the re-registration code included in the notice. Note: The online option is available only if no changes need to be made. Owners have to re-register during the specified three-month window in order to use the electronic option. If an online application has not been processed at FAA by the deadline, an 8050-1 will need to be completed and mailed to FAA.

Owners can consult the chart below to determine when their registration expires. The expiration of a current registration is based on the month the aircraft was registered - the year the aircraft was registered does not matter.

If an owner does not want to utilize the electronic option or if changes need to be made, he can instead use a new re-registration form (8050-1a) and mail it to the FAA Registry in Oklahoma City. The 8050-1a must be on file at the FAA before the current registration expires, so, be sure to mail it early enough in the cycle (allow 6 - 8 weeks for processing) to ensure it is received and filed at FAA before the registration expiration date. An N-number search has been added to the FAA home page, where owners can verify their applications have been received by the FAA.

Aircraft operators need to wait to fly their aircraft until they have received their new certificate from the FAA (the pink slip will not qualify as a temporary registration, as it does with a new purchase.)

After you've re-registered, you'll still have to renew every three years.

Once owners have transitioned to the new registration, their certificates will expire three years from the month in which re-registration was accomplished. For example, if an owner whose registration expired March 31, 2011, renewed in November, 2010, the three-year registration will display an expiration date of November 30, 2013.

Owners will be notified by FAA when their three-month renewal window is approaching. AOPA encourages owners to renew early in the three-month renewal window, so there is time to resolve any unexpected issues that may arise.

Technical Information

The Regulation

An aircraft may not be operated unless it is properly registered and the registration certificate (or other authorizing documentation) is on board the aircraft while it is being operated. The specific wording of the applicable regulation, FAR 91.203(a)(2), provides that "no person may operate a civil aircraft unless it has within effective U.S. registration certificate issued to its owner or, for [a pending application for registration] operation within the United States, the second duplicate copy (pink) of the Aircraft Registration Application as provided for in Section 47.31(b), or [for foreign aircraft] a registration certificate issued under the laws of a foreign country." In addition to this regulatory requirement, and what is not commonly understood, is that operating an improperly registered aircraft is also a federal crime if it is done "knowingly and willfully."

Failure to Comply

What is troubling is that except for the drug smuggling cases, virtually all of the violations we have seen have been technical, inadvertent, and eventually cured. For example, we have sometimes seen the operation of an aircraft with a registration certificate in the name of a former owner, sometimes for years. Eventually, the aircraft have become properly registered without a problem. A related typical inadvertent violation has been the failure to return the original registration certificate to the FAA once the aircraft has been sold or the ownership transferred. Current regulations require that when an aircraft is sold, the seller must notify the FAA of the sale and the certificate of registration must be returned to the FAA. Another violation that we see, though sometimes it is not inadvertent, is the operation of an aircraft outside the United States on the pink copy of the application for registration (which is good temporary authorization, but only for operation within the United States). Another one to watch out for is a U.S. registration that does not meet the U.S. citizenship requirement for registration. There are more. FAR 47.41(a) enumerates the circumstances under which a certificate of registration becomes ineffective. These types of violations are being treated more seriously.

There is another often-inadvertently violated regulation that needs to be noted. FAR 47.45 requires that the holder of an aircraft registration certificate notify the FAA of a change of address within 30 days. If the FAA is notified of a change of address, a new certificate of registration will be issued, without charge. Failure to notify of a change of address within that time doesn't make the registration ineffective, but it does cause other problems and it is a regulatory violation. Fortunately, many of the old addresses are updated through the aircraft registration report that is sent to the owners of record of aircraft that have not had registry activity within the past three years.

Don't get caught unaware. The mere fact that the aircraft contains within it a registration certificate that appears valid doesn't necessarily mean that it is. For example, it should be a red flag if the name that appears on the registration certificate is not the name of the current owner. If you have doubt, check. There is an easy way, though not foolproof, to help determine if an aircraft is properly registered or if the registration is "in question." The FAA aircraft registry may be searched and updated electronically. Visit the website for more information.


How to change your address (aircraft)

The FAA has posted information on how to report a change of address. Notify the Aircraft Registration Branch.

FAA Oklahoma City telephone number: 405/954-3116 or toll-free: 866-762-9434

Alternatively, aircraft owners may change their addresses using the FAA's Aircraft Owner Change of Address Notification Form, which can be filled out online but must be printed, signed, and mailed to the FAA.

Remember, you also need to update your address on your airman certificate.

How to change your address (airmen)

FAR 61.60 Change of address. The holder of a pilot, flight instructor, or ground instructor certificate who has made a change in permanent mailing address may not, after 30 days from that date, exercise the privileges of the certificate unless the holder has notified in writing the FAA, Airman Certification Branch, P.O. Box 25082, Oklahoma City, OK 73125, of the new permanent mailing address or, if the permanent mailing address includes a post office box number, then the holder's current residential address.

NOTE: Even if you changed your address when you renewed your medical this aircraft registration address change must be made in addition to address changes you may have made when you renewed your medical certificate or added ratings to your airman certificate.

Aircraft owners are responsible for updating their aircraft's registration address within 30 days of any address change and reporting any discrepancies in the address shown on the Certificate of Aircraft Registration.

How do you know if you're on the FAA's list of bad addresses?

You can search the FAA's aircraft inquiry database, which contains aircraft registered with known incorrect addresses. To avoid your aircraft registration being suspended or revoked and the N-number assignment canceled, update your address as soon as possible. The FAA states that the data is updated each federal working day at midnight.