Importing and Exporting Aircraft

AOPA's Guide to Aircraft Importing and Exporting

Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter I: Importing

  • Airworthiness Certification
  • Registration
  • Pilot Certification, Requirements and Limitations
  • Transporting the Aircraft into the United States
  • Customs
  • Using an Escrow Service
  • Title Searches
  • Frequently Asked Questions About Importing
  • Checklist for Importing Aircraft

Chapter II: Exporting

  • Export Certificate of Airworthiness
  • Registration
  • Pilot Certification, Requirements and Limitations
  • U.S. Department of Commerce Export Control Administration
  • Modified Military Aircraft
  • Transporting the Aircraft From the United States
  • Customs
  • Using an Escrow Service
  • Frequently Asked Questions About Exporting
  • Checklist for Exporting Aircraft
  • References
  • European Insurance

Introduction

You've found that perfect aircraft at a perfect price — unfortunately, it is located and registered in a foreign country! Is it worth the effort, time, and money to import the aircraft?

On the flip side, perhaps you've been trying to sell your aircraft and have found a foreign buyer who is offering more for your aircraft than you'd ever dreamed — you guessed it, the buyer wants to export the aircraft to Europe! What are the requirements and procedures?

Importing and exporting aircraft can be confusing, as a host of government agencies may become involved, including foreign civil aviation authorities (CAA), U.S. and foreign customs, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). An overview of each organization's particular rules and procedures will be provided followed by a checklist outlining the import/export procedure.

Important considerations such as airworthiness certification, registration, clearing customs, and obtaining special flight permits and pilot certificates will be discussed. From this information, you should be able to determine the best course of action for your particular situation.

A great deal of information in this document is based on the experiences of AOPA members who have imported or exported aircraft. This document is continually evolving, and any comments about your importing or exporting experiences would be greatly appreciated.

This publication is not all-inclusive, and in many cases you will need to contact individual government agencies for more information. You may also opt to use other professional services such as import/export brokers, ferry companies, or designated airworthiness representatives.

In addition to the U.S. FAA and foreign civil aviation regulations, there are many other U.S. laws to comply with when importing or exporting aircraft, avionics, and related parts. The U.S. Export Control Laws prohibit U.S. citizens from dealing with any foreign national or company the United States has placed on one or more denied persons lists. A list of U.S. government agencies and Web links to their requirements, including the denied persons list, is found in Appendix 1.

When aircraft are purchased or sold for import or export, commercial invoices meeting specific customs requirements and format must be provided for customs entry or exit purposes. Please refer to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Web site for the requirements.

If aircraft are disassembled and shipped as cargo in ocean containers or air freight, the services on an international freight forwarder should be utilized. AOPA can assist you with this selection and the requirements.

For more information about how these agencies and regulations may impact any purchase or sale transaction, please call the AOPA Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672.


Chapter 1: Importing

In this section we will discuss the most popular methods for bringing an aircraft into the United States. A higher potential for problems exists when buying an aircraft from another country. Buyers must consider not only the selling price, but also other important factors such as airworthiness approval, registration, clearing customs outbound and inbound, title searches, and protecting yourself by using an escrow service. Having an aircraft sales/purchase agreement in place and performing a pre-inspection is very important. Make certain the agreement specifically defines the point of sale.

Airworthiness Certification

Brian Hudson of Tampa, Florida, bought a Cessna 206 for a song. The aircraft was located and registered in Mexico. After the aircraft was flown to the United States, Brian started the process of obtaining a U.S. airworthiness certificate. After several days, he received some bad news: The aircraft had been modified in Mexico. The modification was not authorized in the United States, and it would cost over $27,000 to bring the aircraft back to U.S. airworthiness standards. Even though the airplane had a current Mexican airworthiness certificate when the airplane was purchased, the modification performed in Mexico was not valid for U.S. airworthiness certification.

Buyer beware! Before purchasing an aircraft for import to the United States, first determine whether the aircraft will meet U.S. airworthiness standards. If it will not, determine whether it can be certified in the United States through modifications. Also consider how much money will be required to bring the aircraft to an airworthy status. This should be one of the first considerations, as these costs may make importing an aircraft impractical. We will discuss how to determine whether a foreign-based aircraft will meet U.S. airworthiness standards.

Classes of U.S. Airworthiness Certificates

Prior to being flown, a U.S.-registered aircraft must have a U.S. airworthiness certificate. There are two classes of airworthiness certificates: (1) standard and (2) special. Knowing which class applies to the aircraft you plan to import is important, as the procedures for establishing airworthiness are different.

Standard airworthiness certificates are normally issued to production aircraft in the following categories: normal, utility, acrobatic, commuter, and transport. Production aircraft are manufactured by companies such as Beechcraft, Cessna, Piper, Mooney, Aerospatiale, Boeing, etc., which have been awarded a production certificate by the FAA. Special airworthiness certificates are issued to aircraft for the purpose of certifying homebuilt or amateur-built aircraft; ex-military exhibition and air-racing type aircraft; aircraft used in conducting research or agricultural applications; and to grant temporary airworthiness approval for ferry permits. Special airworthiness categories include experimental, limited, provisional, and restricted. Certain commercial operations may not be conducted with a special airworthiness certificate.

Production aircraft may be issued a standard or special airworthiness certificate. Because special airworthiness certificates are much more restrictive, most people opt for a standard airworthiness certificate.

Aircraft With Standard Airworthiness Certificates (Production Aircraft)

The FAA grants standard airworthiness certification for an aircraft design after flight testing is conducted and certification standards have been met. The aircraft design is then said to be type certificated, under a design type certificate. An aircraft produced under a design type certificate is eligible for a standard airworthiness certificate. Most U.S. aircraft manufacturers and many foreign aircraft manufacturers have their designs type certificated.

The FAA has determined that its airworthiness certification standards are equivalent to those of 29 other countries. In order to expedite the import/export process, an international agreement, called the Bilateral Airworthiness Agreement (BAA), has been established. Aircraft inspected and issued airworthiness certificates by the BAA countries are also considered to comply with U.S. standards and vice versa (this does not mean that an airworthiness certificate from a BAA country can substitute for a U.S. airworthiness certificate). This reciprocity means that establishing airworthiness when importing and exporting production aircraft is streamlined considerably. This does not apply to non-production-type civil aircraft such as homebuilt (experimental) or ex-military aircraft, which qualify for a special airworthiness certificate.

The following countries have Bilateral Airworthiness Agreements with the United States: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The best way to determine if a type-certificated aircraft based and registered in a BAA country is still in airworthy condition is to obtain an Export Certificate of Airworthiness (ECA). Sometimes referred to as an "Export C of A," an ECA is issued by the foreign country's civil aviation authority (CAA) and certifies that the aircraft meets the airworthiness standards prescribed for certification in that country.

Imported aircraft from a BAA country that were not manufactured in the United States are required to have an ECA. While import aircraft manufactured in the United States are not required to have an ECA, it is strongly encouraged for two reasons. First, any major problems with the aircraft will usually be revealed. Second, the process for obtaining a U.S. airworthiness certificate is much faster and easier.

You may include a clause in your purchase agreement that the aircraft be delivered with an ECA, or be delivered in "airworthy condition to the satisfaction of the FAA." Typically, the cost of an ECA inspection is borne by the seller.

An ECA may be obtained by contacting a certified aviation mechanic in the export country, preferably one who has had experience with performing ECA inspections and processing the required paperwork through that country's CAA.

Note: An ECA does not substitute for an airworthiness certificate! Remind the seller not to surrender the aircraft airworthiness certificate when obtaining the ECA. Whether or not an ECA is obtained, you should have a prepurchase inspection performed by a mechanic of your choice as you would when buying an aircraft in the United States.

AOPA has received reports that data plates on some imported aircraft have been tampered with, switched, or removed. Ensure that the aircraft you plan to import has a data plate and that all serial numbers are correct!

Note: Per FAR 43.17, Canadian maintenance personnel with approved licenses may perform maintenance on aircraft imported to the United States or on N-registered aircraft in Canada for compliance purposes under a renewed bilaterial agreement.

Establishing Airworthiness For Type Certificated (Production) Aircraft

Once your aircraft is imported, an airworthiness conformity inspection will be required before the FAA will issue your aircraft a U.S. standard airworthiness certificate. The conformity inspection will determine if the aircraft still meets the standards specified in the design type certificate.

To have a conformity inspection performed, contact an FAA-certified mechanic, preferably one who has had experience in the process of import aircraft certification. Your mechanic and you should complete FAA Form 8130-6, Application for Airworthiness Certificate. Your mechanic will then contact either an FAA airworthiness inspector or a designated airworthiness representative (DAR). Either the FAA airworthiness inspector or the DAR is authorized to issue a standard airworthiness certificate if the aircraft successfully passes the conformity inspection and other required paperwork are in order. Although DARs charge for their services, the process is usually much faster than working with an FAA airworthiness inspector.

It is advisable to contact your mechanic before importing the aircraft to determine any special requirements unique to your type of aircraft. If you are unable to find a mechanic who is knowledgeable of import airworthiness procedures, you may opt to find a shop that specializes in imported aircraft.

Remember the troubles of Brian Hudson? An aircraft will not pass an airworthiness conformity inspection if modifications have been made to the aircraft that are not approved by the type certificate or a supplemental type certificate (STC). If this happens, you still have several options:

  • Perform maintenance or alterations to bring the aircraft back to airworthiness standards.
  • Modify the aircraft through field approval or STC. An FAA-certified mechanic together with an FAA airworthiness inspector will work with you to obtain field approval. Start the process rolling by contacting your mechanic.
  • Obtain a special airworthiness certificate. Types of special airworthiness certificates are experimental, limited, provisional, and restricted.

Establishing Airworthiness for Non-Type-Certificated Aircraft (Special Airworthiness Certification)

Aircraft that are not type certificated (homebuilt, ex-military, or with modifications that negate compliance with original type-certificate specifications) may be issued a special airworthiness certificate. Depending on the type of special certificate, there will be restrictions on the types of operations you may conduct.

The most popular categories of special airworthiness certificates used in certifying import aircraft are experimental and limited. Experimental certificates are issued to amateur-built aircraft and aircraft used for exhibition purposes. Limited airworthiness certificates are issued to certain U.S. surplus military aircraft.

Aircraft certified as experimental, amateur-built in a foreign country will usually qualify for a U.S. experimental, amateur-built airworthiness certificate if the buyer can prove that all U.S. requirements have been met. In order to do this, you may have to present the builder's records documenting flight testing and proving the 51% rule (to be certificated as amateur-built, the builder must complete at least 51% of the aircraft).

Special considerations apply when purchasing and importing foreign military aircraft. Most imported military aircraft can be certified only as experimental, for exhibition or air racing purposes, meaning that the aircraft is to be flown only to and from airshows or for other exhibition purposes, as defined in the special airworthiness certificate. The terms of the special airworthiness certification may further require that the FAA be notified in advance and approval be granted before each flight.

To obtain special airworthiness certification, the aircraft must be inspected by an FAA airworthiness inspector or designated airworthiness representative (DAR). It's best to start with an FAA-certified mechanic, preferably one who has had experience with the special airworthiness certification process. Your mechanic and you should complete FAA Form 8130-6, Application for Airworthiness Certificate. Advisory Circular 21-12, Application for U.S. Airworthiness Certificate, FAA Form 8130-6, provides guidance on completing this form. Your mechanic will then contact either an FAA airworthiness inspector or a designated airworthiness representative (DAR). Either the FAA airworthiness inspector or the DAR is authorized to issue a special airworthiness certificate if the aircraft successfully passes all required inspections and the necessary paperwork is in order. Although there is an additional charge for the DAR's services, the process is usually much faster than using an FAA airworthiness inspector.

Registration

Before being flown, your aircraft must be properly registered and display required registration N numbers and markings. FAR Part 47 outlines U.S. registration procedures, and FAR Part 45 provides guidance on aircraft letters and markings. In this section, we will discuss deregistration, U.S. registration, and obtaining N numbers.

Aircraft Deregistration

An aircraft cannot be registered in two countries at the same time. Before the FAA will register an aircraft that has previously been registered in another country, it must receive confirmation that the aircraft has been deregistered by that country's CAA. For example, before a Canadian-registered aircraft may be registered in the United States, the FAA will require a document from Transport Canada (the CAA of Canada) stating that the aircraft has been deregistered.

In order to deregister an aircraft, the seller must comply with all applicable laws and conditions of that country. Most countries require the seller to submit a request to deregister the aircraft with a completed bill of sale. Additionally, that country's registration numbers must be removed when the aircraft is deregistered and exported. Some countries require that the aircraft have a clear title before they will deregister it. The seller may request that the CAA notify the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch when the aircraft is deregistered.

The deregistration process has been known to have some snags. Mark Brandt, of Amarillo, Texas, imported a Piper Lance registered in a South American country. When the aircraft was being deregistered, it was found that the aircraft data plates containing the serial numbers did not match those in the CAA's registry. The CAA would not deregister the aircraft, and the FAA couldn't register the aircraft until it had been deregistered. The seller refused to refund the money, and Mark was stuck with a ton of aluminum that he could not fly.

Another pilot became frustrated because the seller in a foreign country took his good old time in submitting the paperwork to deregister the aircraft. Of course, the buyer had already paid for the aircraft!

The best means of protecting yourself from these kinds of problems is to put your money into an escrow account, releasable only when the aircraft is successfully deregistered to the satisfaction of the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch and is delivered with an export certificate of airworthiness (if required). AOPA Aircraft Title and Escrow Services (800/711-0087) has a great deal of experience in working with imported aircraft and international transactions.

Registering Aircraft in the United States

To register your imported aircraft in the United States, send the following documents to the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch:

  1. A document from the foreign country's CAA stating that the aircraft has been deregistered. This may also be done by having the CAA that is deregistering the aircraft mail or fax the documents to the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch.
  2. Completed Aircraft Registration Application, FAA Form 8050-1, and $5 registration fee. The pink copy of the Aircraft Registration Application is used as the temporary (valid for 90 days) registration certificate until the original arrives. THIS PINK TEMPORARY CERTIFICATE CANNOT BE USED FOR INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS OR FOR FLYING AN IMPORTED AIRCRAFT IN THE United States! For international operations, you must have a permanent registration or a faxed copy from the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch (405/954-3116). AOPA Aircraft Title and Escrow Services may assist you in obtaining permanent registration documents (800/711-0087).
  3. Bill of Sale or other evidence of ownership, signed in ink.

Use the following address if sending the forms via regular mail:

FAA Aircraft Registration Branch
ATTN: Import Examiner
P.O. Box 25504
Oklahoma City, OK 73125

If sending the forms through a priority mail delivery service, you should use this address:

FAA Aircraft Registration Branch
ATTN: Import Examiner
6425 S. Denning Street, Room 118
Oklahoma City, OK 73169

Special assistance with registration and documents may be obtained by contacting AOPA Aircraft Title and Escrow Services (800/711-0087) or by calling the FAA Registration Branch helpline: 405/954-3116 or 405/954-3131.

Reserving an N number: You may reserve an N number in advance with the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch. If you don't place your reserved number on a registered aircraft within a year, you will be able to keep this number reserved at a cost of $10 per year.

To apply for an N number, send a letter with the requested number accompanied by a check for $10 (payable to the FAA) to:

Aircraft Certification Branch (AVN-450)
P.O. Box 25504
Oklahoma City, OK 73125

The N number you request may already be assigned; therefore, it is recommended that you send a list of five to 10 acceptable N numbers ordered by preference. If you do not have an N number reserved when you register your airplane, a number will automatically be assigned. AOPA Aircraft Title and Escrow Services can assist you in obtaining your N number.

Pilot Certification, Requirements, and Limitations

There are many options available for transporting your aircraft to the United States. The decision to fly the aircraft yourself, or have the aircraft delivered by the owner or third party, will be based in part on pilot licensing requirements. A review of international pilot licensing requirements and limitations is provided below:

  1. With a U.S. pilot certificate, you may fly a U.S.-registered aircraft internationally.
  2. Holding only a U.S. pilot certificate, you may fly an aircraft of foreign registry in the United States only.
  3. To fly an aircraft of foreign registry in a foreign country, you must have a pilot certificate issued from the same country in which the aircraft is registered or obtain a validated foreign pilot certificate from that country. For example, to fly a Canadian-registered aircraft in Canada, you must obtain a Canadian pilot certificate or a validated foreign pilot certificate from Transport Canada, the Canadian CAA.

If you wish to fly a foreign-registered aircraft to the United States, the easiest way is to get a validated foreign pilot certificate. A foreign pilot certificate is issued by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) countries on the basis of a valid pilot certificate from another country. The foreign pilot certificate allows you to fly aircraft in that country and, for the purposes of importing and exporting, fly an aircraft registered in that country through other countries to the United States. For example, if you hold only a U.S. pilot certificate and want to fly an airplane located and registered in the United Kingdom (UK), you could fly the aircraft under UK registry to the United States by obtaining a foreign pilot certificate from the UK.

A validated foreign pilot certificate will usually give you rights and privileges equivalent to a U.S. private pilot certificate. In some countries, instrument and commercial operations on a foreign pilot certificate are prohibited or restricted.

To obtain a foreign pilot certificate, you must visit that country's regional or district CAA office and present your pilot certificate, medical certificate (some countries require that it be issued within the last 12 months), logbooks, and a radio operators permit, if required. Most ICAO countries can issue a foreign pilot certificate at the time of your visit. We recommend that you contact the CAA in advance for requirements unique to that country.

For additional information regarding FAA foreign pilot certificate validation, refer to AOPA's Guide to Foreign Pilot Certificate Validation .

Transporting the Aircraft Into the United States

There are several methods of transporting the aircraft from the export country to the United States. The AOPA Pilot Information Center (800/USA-AOPA) can provide advice on international flight planning requirements and procedures. For additional information, contact the international AOPA affiliate in that country, foreign country's CAA, and U.S. Embassy.

Method I — Taking Delivery in the United States

The best method of transporting the aircraft to the United States is to have the owner (or an appropriately licensed pilot) fly the aircraft into the country and deliver the aircraft to you. This way you don't have to deal with validated foreign pilot certificates and learning foreign operating procedures. You may consider paying the owner to have the aircraft delivered, as the headaches you save will be worth it! Once the aircraft has been delivered, the sales transaction can take place, the seller deregisters the aircraft, and you can start the process of registration and airworthiness compliance. Note: Foreign-registered experimental aircraft must have a special flight authorization prior to being flown in the United States. To obtain a special flight authorization, contact your local FAA flight standards district office.

Method II — Flying the Aircraft Yourself Under Foreign Registry

This method requires a great deal of trust on the part of both the buyer and the seller, but it does work. Quite simply, you obtain a validated foreign pilot certificate from the CAA of the country in which the aircraft is registered and fly the aircraft (still under foreign registry) to the United States. This means that the owner still has ownership of the airplane while you are flying it. The owner will probably want a deposit or some sort of collateral. In order to clear customs, you will require a letter from the owner authorizing you to fly the aircraft. When the aircraft is in the United States, the sales transaction can take place and the seller deregisters the aircraft, and you can start the process of registration and airworthiness compliance. Note: Foreign-registered experimental aircraft must have a special flight authorization prior to being flown in the United States. To obtain a special flight authorization, contact your local FAA flight standards district office.

Method III — Flying the Aircraft Yourself Under U.S. Registry

This method is the most difficult, time consuming, and ideal for those with a powerful desire to do things the hard way! The procedure is outlined below:

  1. Conduct the sales transaction and deregister the aircraft in accordance with the laws of that country.
  2. Register the aircraft with the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch (see Registration Section for procedure)
  3. Contact an FAA flight standards district office for a special flight permit. This will usually require that an Export Certificate of Airworthiness inspection be accomplished or the aircraft be signed off as airworthy by a certified mechanic in the country of origin. The FAA will want to know the purpose of the flight and itinerary. The special flight permit will have to be validated in each country through which flight is to be conducted.
  4. Remove the foreign registration numbers from the aircraft and affix a temporary N number (12-inch letters) to the aircraft. This can be accomplished with 2-inch-wide tape or stick-on letters.
  5. Fly the aircraft to the United States. Do not attempt to fly the aircraft on a temporary (pink slip) registration! You must have the permanent registration or a faxed copy from the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch.

Method IV — Employ the Services of an Import/Export Broker or Ferry Company

You may want to use an import/export broker to accomplish the necessary paperwork and procedures. Your local port director customs office should be able to provide you with a list of brokers.

Method V — Disassemble the Aircraft, Containerize, and Transport

This may be the only option if the aircraft is not in airworthy condition or the proper documents are not in order for flight. If it is otherwise not possible or practical to fly the aircraft, this method must be used.

Customs

There is little room for error when passing through customs! Because U.S. and foreign customs agencies have the authority to levy large fines and penalties, customs procedures must be carefully followed. We will present some tips to help make clearing customs go smoothly.

Foreign Customs

Prior to export, some countries require outbound customs clearances and inspections. As these procedures vary greatly from country to country and are subject to change, you should contact the export country's customs or export agency for specific requirements.

U.S. Customs

Clearing U.S. customs is the last major hurdle in getting the aircraft to your destination. Regulations require pilots to submit to a customs inspection upon arrival in the United States. Customs offices are located at specified airports of entry (AOE). AOE locations, phone numbers, and customs procedures are outlined in the U.S. Customs Guide for Private Flyers . The goal of U.S. Customs is to verify that no illegal items are being imported, all documents and paperwork are in order, and that any tax or duty is collected. Pilots must carefully follow all procedures and have all required documents. A fine of $5,000 per violation may be assessed for noncompliance. Customs can and does seize airplanes for gross violations.

Clearing customs can be easy or difficult, depending on your having the proper forms and following the prescribed procedures. In order to get through customs as quickly and painlessly as possible, consider the following guidelines:

  1. Customs declaration forms: Contact the U.S. Customs office at your intended AOE for an assessment of duty, taxes, and forms that will be required for your situation. Normally, aircraft manufactured in the United States will not be subject to duty taxes.
  2. All aircraft documents must be in order:
    1. Valid registration and airworthiness certificates matching the same country and showing the same registration number. For example, if you are flying an aircraft registered in Canada, you must also present a Canadian airworthiness certificate and Canadian registration certificate. In some countries, these documents have expiration dates! Ensure that the documents are still valid.

      If flying under U.S. registration, you must have a permanent or faxed registration certificate from the FAA! Temporary registration certificates are not authorized for international flights.
    2. Letter of authorization: If flying the aircraft under the owner's registration, you must have a letter from the owner authorizing you to fly that aircraft. This will dismiss any ideas in the inspector's mind that the aircraft is stolen.
    3. If ferry tanks or other optional equipment is installed, you must have major repair or alteration forms ( FAA Form 337) aboard.
    4. Be prepared! Have your paperwork filled out in advance as much as possible. Ensure that required documents are on board and easily accessible. The inspector will be impressed if you are organized and considerate of his/her time. This will speed you through the customs process.
  3. Required pilot documents including pilot certificate and medical certificate. The country of issue on your pilot certificate must match the country on the aircraft registration. For example, if you are flying a Canadian-registered aircraft, you must also have a Canadian pilot license or validated Canadian foreign pilot certificate.
  4. Proof of citizenship for pilot and passengers: Passport, visas, resident alien card, or picture ID and birth certificate, etc.

You may opt to employ the services of a customs broker to help with all the required paperwork and procedures. Your local port director customs office should be able to provide you with a list of brokers, or contact the AOPA Pilot Information Center at 800/872-2672.

Using an Escrow Service

Many individuals have run into difficulties with sellers not honoring portions of their aircraft purchase contract, particularly after the money has been paid! Payment across international borders can cause many problems, and sorting out the mess can be a major and costly headache.

Before a seller agrees to import an aircraft to the United States, he/she will want to be assured that payment will be paid in full as stated in the purchase agreement; you will want to be certain that the aircraft will be delivered as stated in the purchase agreement before giving the seller money for the aircraft.

The best way to keep both parties happy is to use a third party to hold the funds in escrow until all provisions in the purchase agreement are satisfied.

The importance of using a reputable escrow service can't be emphasized enough! FAA regulations regarding imported aircraft are complex and require people experienced with these types of transactions. AOPA Aircraft Title and Escrow Services (800/711-0087) has been in business for more than 40 years and has processed numerous import/export transactions.

Title Searches

A common misconception is that an aircraft cannot be deregistered if there are any current mortgage liens on the airplane. While this is true of U.S. deregistration regulations, it is not true in all countries.

John Byerly of Corning, New York, imported an aircraft from Canada. The import process went smoothly, and soon John's aircraft was sporting U.S. registration numbers and airworthiness documents. One year later, he received a certified letter from a bank in Toronto that claimed to have a lien on the aircraft. Apparently the seller had skipped town and not paid the balance ($75,000) on the aircraft. The bank hired a U.S. attorney and won a judgment against Byerly.

Not all foreign CAAs have a central registry to record aircraft liens. In some countries, liens are placed with individual states and provinces. Checking all these states and provinces is not always possible or feasible. At the very least, the buyer should check with the seller's lending institution and ensure that they are aware that the aircraft is being sold and that the balance will be paid.

Contact the foreign CAA or international AOPA (IAOPA) office in that country for information on title searches. A list of IAOPA offices is provided online. You can also request a title search from AOPA Aircraft Title and Escrow Services (800/711-0087) to cover any time period the aircraft may have been previously registered in the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions About Importing:

  1. Should I do a title search before I buy a foreign-registered aircraft?
    Yes. A title search will reveal any liens recorded against the aircraft. These liens may be transferred to you when you assume ownership. A common misconception is that a country will not deregister an aircraft if there are any current liens. Not true! Not all countries have a formal aircraft registry like the United States and will deregister an aircraft simply upon the request of the owner. This means that the aircraft could still have a lien against it even though it is deregistered. In some countries, aircraft are registered in provinces or states. It is possible for a foreign creditor holding a lien to cross U.S. borders and win a judgment against your aircraft, meaning you are responsible!

    For the names of reputable title search companies, we recommend contacting the foreign CAA or international AOPA (IAOPA) affiliate in that country. A listing of IAOPA affiliates is online. You can also request a title search from AOPA Aircraft Title and Escrow Services (800/711-0087) to cover any time period the aircraft may have been previously registered in the United States.
  2. Can foreign ex-military aircraft be imported and flown in the United States?
    Yes, but you will be restricted as to the type of operations you may conduct. Ex-military aircraft are granted special airworthiness approval for exhibition and air racing purposes only. This means that you may fly the aircraft to and from airshows and within a prescribed area for proficiency.
  3. Why should I insist on having the aircraft delivered with an ECA?
    This only applies to type certificated, production aircraft from BAA countries. An ECA will certify that the aircraft meets the standards prescribed in the type certificate. First, the ECA inspection will disclose any potential problems with the aircraft. Second, if you are importing an aircraft from a BAA country, an ECA will considerably streamline the U.S. airworthiness certification procedure. If you are importing an aircraft not manufactured in the United States, an ECA is required.
  4. How long is an export certificate of airworthiness (ECA) valid?
    There is no expiration date. An ECA is simply a document issued from the foreign country's CAA stating that the aircraft still meets the criteria specified in the design type certificate at the time of issue. Once the aircraft is imported, you should start the airworthiness approval process as soon as possible, as a DAR or airworthiness inspector may not accept the ECA if an extensive period of time has elapsed.
  5. Does an ECA substitute for an airworthiness certificate for the purposes of flying the aircraft to the United States?
    No, an ECA only certifies that the aircraft meets airworthiness certification standards at the time of issue. It is not a substitute for an airworthiness certificate. The airworthiness certificate must still be in the aircraft prior to flight. You should remind the seller not to surrender the airworthiness certificate when obtaining an ECA!
  6. I have decided to buy a foreign-registered aircraft. I am going to fly the aircraft to the United States under foreign registry. Why do I have to wait until the aircraft is at my destination before filling out the bill of sale?
    The bill of sale states that the aircraft has been sold and transfers ownership. When an aircraft is sold, this voids the registration on the aircraft, since the aircraft must be registered to its legal owner. You will experience difficulties when trying to clear U.S. customs inbound if you have a bill of sale and foreign registration papers in another name!
  7. What if I decide to buy a foreign-registered aircraft with missing logbooks?
    The aircraft will have to undergo a more extensive conformity inspection. In some cases, all airworthiness directives will have to be redone.
  8. Can I fly internationally with the temporary or pink copy of the U.S. registration?
    No. You must have a permanent registration or a faxed registration document from the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch.

Checklist for Importing Aircraft to the United States

Prior to Import

  1. Verify the airworthiness of your aircraft. If the aircraft is type certificated (production aircraft) and from a BAA country, you should have the aircraft delivered with an export certificate of airworthiness. Be assured that any modifications to the aircraft are approved under a U.S. STC or the U.S. type certificate. If the aircraft is not in airworthy condition, find out how much it will cost to make the aircraft qualify for a standard airworthiness certificate. If the cost is prohibitive, consider the special airworthiness certificate (experimental) option. Before importing the aircraft, check with your mechanic to see whether there are any specific considerations or requirements unique to your type of aircraft.
  2. Check the requirements for deregistration in the export country. Some countries require that the aircraft have a clear title, making a title search advisable. In many foreign countries the recordkeeping is not very accurate, and the serial numbers on your aircraft may not match the numbers in the CAA's registration records. These discrepancies should be corrected before buying and importing the aircraft!
  3. Ensure that your aircraft has a clear title. Do not assume that just because an aircraft is deregistered there will be no liens. Not all countries require a clear title for deregistration or even have a system to track liens! Foreign lienholders can cross international borders, hire a U.S. attorney, and win a judgment against you. In some instances where a title search may not be possible or feasible, you should at least check to see that the seller's lienholder is aware that the aircraft is being sold. Contact the foreign CAA or international AOPA (IAOPA) affiliate in that country for information on title searches. A list of IAOPA affiliates is provided online. You can also request a title search from AOPA Aircraft Title and Escrow Services (800/711-0087) to cover any time period the aircraft may have been previously registered in the United States.
  4. Consider using an escrow service to hold payment until you are satisfied all items specified in your purchase agreement have been fulfilled, such as aircraft delivery with an export certificate of airworthiness and aircraft deregistration with the foreign country CAA.
  5. You may reserve an N number with the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch.
  6. Determine the best means of transporting the aircraft into the United States. If you decide to fly the aircraft yourself, carefully follow U.S. customs procedures.
  7. Ensure that all paperwork is complete and that all aircraft documents and pilot certificates match.
  8. Transport the aircraft to the U.S. destination base. Ensure that your aircraft documents are current, because some countries issue pilot certificates and aircraft documents with expiration dates. If your aircraft is experimental, you must have a special flight authorization from the FAA prior to flying in the United States after import.
  9. If the aircraft was imported under foreign registry:
    • Complete the transaction and transfer of ownership ( U.S. bill of sale form is available online).
    • Seller must deregister the aircraft with the foreign CAA and obtain a deregistration document and/or have the document mailed or faxed to the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch.
    • Register the aircraft with FAA Aircraft Registration Branch. (U.S. registration form is available from the AOPA Pilot Information Center (800/USA-AOPA).
  10. Contact an FAA-certified mechanic who is familiar with airworthiness conformity procedures for imported aircraft.
  11. Purchase aircraft insurance: AOPA Aircraft Insurance Agency (800/622-AOPA).
  12. Have N number and other required markings placed on your aircraft.
  13. Do not fly the aircraft until an airworthiness certificate has been issued and all required documents are in the aircraft:
    • A — Airworthiness certificate (clearly displayed)
    • R — Registration
    • O — Operating limitations
    • W — Weight and balance

Chapter II: Exporting

What are the proper procedures for exporting aircraft from the United States? Export certificates of airworthiness, clearing customs, protecting yourself by using an escrow service, aircraft deregistration, and many other important considerations are discussed below. It is very important to have an aircraft sales/purchase agreement in place, and the specific point of sale must be identified.

Once your aircraft is successfully exported and deregistered, you are not responsible for registration or airworthiness compliance in the destination country. The laws governing aircraft registration vary greatly from country to country; therefore, registration and airworthiness compliance in foreign countries will not be discussed. For information on aircraft registration and airworthiness certification in a particular foreign country, contact that country's civil aviation authority (CAA), embassy to the United States, or International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) affiliate in that country.

Export Certificate of Airworthiness

Prior to export from the United States, an aircraft that has been type certificated in the United States (most production models) must have an export certificate of airworthiness (ECA). The ECA document will certify that the aircraft meets the airworthiness standards prescribed for certification. If the buyer is in a Bilateral Airworthiness Agreement (BAA) country, the ECA will streamline the airworthiness certification process there.

Type-certificated aircraft include manufactured aircraft with a standard airworthiness certificate. For example, a Beechcraft, Cessna, Mooney, or Piper would be type certified; a homebuilt or any aircraft certified as "experimental" would not.

A Bilateral Airworthiness Agreement (BAA) has been established between the United States and 29 other countries to expedite airworthiness acceptance on imported and exported aircraft.

To obtain an ECA, contact an FAA-certified mechanic. We recommend finding a mechanic who has had experience in performing ECA inspections and processing the required paperwork through the FAA. Your aircraft must have an annual inspection within 30 days prior to the issuance of an ECA.

Your mechanic will contact either an FAA airworthiness inspector or a designated airworthiness representative (DAR), either of whom is authorized to issue an ECA if the aircraft successfully passes the inspection and other required paperwork is in order. Although DARs charge for their services, the process is usually much faster when using a DAR than working with an FAA airworthiness inspector.

The ECA will be issued without an expiration date. An ECA is not a substitute for an airworthiness certificate! If you are planning to fly the aircraft after the ECA is issued, do not surrender your airworthiness certificate.

The person buying your aircraft should ensure that the aircraft will qualify for airworthiness certification in his/her country. As a guideline, if the same type of aircraft has been previously registered in that country, chances are that your aircraft will also qualify.

Registration

Before another country will register an aircraft that has previously been registered in the United States, it must receive verification from the FAA that the aircraft has been deregistered. For example, before a U.S.-registered aircraft may be registered in Canada, the CAA of Canada will require proof of ownership (bill of sale) and a document from the FAA stating that the aircraft has been deregistered. The FAA will fax deregistration documents to another country upon request. AOPA Aircraft Title and Escrow Services (800/711-0087) may assist you in deregistering your aircraft.

Deregistering Aircraft in the United States

To deregister your aircraft, send the following documents to the Aircraft Registration Branch:

  1. Written request to deregister the aircraft. You must include the following information:
    1. N number
    2. Manufacturer
    3. Model and serial number
    4. Reason for deregistering aircraft (export)
    5. Country of export (destination country).
      Example:
      Please cancel U.S. registration of N_______ , (manufacturer), (model), and (serial #).
      Reason: export to (country).
      Signature of owner/title.
  2. Bill of sale or other evidence showing transfer of ownership, signed in ink.
  3. Consent to export from lienholders or lien release form (if applicable). The FAA cannot deregister your aircraft with any mortgage liens outstanding unless authorization is received from the lienholder(s) to export the aircraft. "Nonconsensual" liens (liens that you have not specifically agreed to) such as mechanics and tax liens will not prevent the aircraft from being deregistered.

    Prior to export, you should have a title search done to ensure that the aircraft has no liens outstanding that would delay the deregistration process.

    If your aircraft has any current mortgage liens, submit a lien release form or an authorization statement for export signed by the lienholder(s). AOPA Aircraft Title and Escrow Services (800/711-0087) may assist you in filing these forms.

    Example of an authorization for export:
    I/We consent to the export of N________, (manufacturer), (model), and (serial #).
    Security holder's name, signature.
  4. Original aircraft registration document, with the back side signed and completed.
  5. Copy of export certificate of airworthiness (if applicable).

If sending the forms via regular mail, use the following address:

FAA Aircraft Registration Branch
ATTN: Export Examiner
P.O. Box 25504
Oklahoma City, OK 73125

If sending the forms through a priority mail delivery service, use this address:

FAA Aircraft Registration Branch
ATTN: Export Examiner
6425 S. Denning Street Room 118
Oklahoma City, OK 73169

Questions regarding deregistration may be directed to AOPA Aircraft Title and Escrow Services (800/711-0087) or the FAA Registration Branch helpline: 405/954-3116 or 405/954-3131.

Note: The last registered owner (seller) is responsible for removing the N numbers from his/her exported aircraft when the aircraft is deregistered.

Pilot Certification, Requirements, and Limitations

There are many options available for transporting your aircraft from the United States. The decision to fly the aircraft yourself or have the aircraft delivered by the owner or ferry company will be based in part on specific pilot licensing requirements. A review of international pilot licensing requirements and limitations is provided below:

  1. With a U.S. pilot certificate, you may fly a U.S.-registered aircraft internationally.
  2. Holding only a U.S. pilot certificate, you may fly an aircraft of foreign registry in the United States only.
  3. To fly an aircraft of foreign registry in a foreign country, you must have a pilot certificate issued by the same country in which the aircraft is registered, or obtain a validated foreign pilot certificate from that country. For example, to fly a Canadian-registered aircraft in Canada, you must obtain a Canadian pilot certificate or a validated foreign pilot certificate from the Canadian CAA.

If the buyer of your aircraft wishes to fly your aircraft under U.S. registration for the purposes of transporting the aircraft to the destination country, he/she may opt to get a validated foreign pilot certificate. The foreign pilot certificate allows the pilot to fly aircraft in that country and, for the purposes of importing and exporting, to fly aircraft registered in that country through other countries. For example, if your buyer holds only a Canadian pilot license and wishes to fly your U.S.-registered aircraft from the United States to Canada, he/she could do so by obtaining a foreign pilot certificate from the United States.

A foreign pilot certificate is issued by most ICAO counties on the basis of a valid pilot certificate from another country. A validated foreign pilot certificate will give you rights and privileges equivalent to a U.S. private pilot certificate.

A foreign pilot certificate may be obtained by visiting an FAA flight standards district office (FSDO). The FSDO inspector will need to see a pilot certificate, medical certificate, and pilot logbooks. A foreign pilot certificate can usually be issued at that time. It is recommended that the FSDO be contacted in advance to verify any unique requirements and ensure that an inspector will be available.

U.S. Department of Commerce Export Control Administration: Regulations and Requirements

The U.S. Department of Commerce Export Control Administration regulates all exports from the United States regardless of article, merchandise, or equipment. This requirement is separate from any FAA requirement of airworthiness, registration, or de-registration. U.S. State Department and Treasury Department (OFAC) Regulations may also apply to an aircraft and related equipment export transaction. The export control regulations are end-use and end-user driven, depending on what article is exported.

The information is provided for you because it may be applicable when selling aircraft and equipment for export. Should there be opportunities to sell aircraft to any foreign national, including Canadian citizens who come to the United States to buy N-registered aircraft, additional care must be taken to complete all steps to make the transaction legal. The Export Administration Enforcement and OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) make it clear that in today's terrorist environment, penalties for non-compliance with U.S. regulations will be costly.

Below for your information and guidance are selected excerpts from the Export Control Regulations.

Important information for AOPA members concerning the information below:

  1. Although U.S. citizens can sell aircraft to foreign nationals, an effort must be made to use the Denied Persons List to be sure their contacts are not on that list. If you sell to a U.S. entity or person, then it becomes that entity or person's responsibility to comply with the Export Control Regulations — but only to the extent you do not have knowledge the aircraft will be exported. See the definition of knowledge below.
  2. If the member is selling to anyone in Canada, you must ask and make sure the aircraft will remain in Canada and not be resold, re-exported, or otherwise leave the buyer's possession to get into another foreign country. You also need to know if you are selling to a trader, broker or third party who has the intent of re-exporting or re-selling. Have a sales/purchase contract defining all terms and conditions of the sale and the exact point of sale. One important reason for this has to do with the U.S. Customs Shippers Export Declaration (SED) filing requirement. If the aircraft remains in Canada, the SED is not required. If the aircraft is moving on, it is required.
  3. If the member is selling or potentially selling to any other foreign national, have a good sales/purchase contract with all specific terms and conditions of the transaction clearly defined. Understand that transactions cannot be done with any foreign national or third party doing business with an embargoed country or a national from that country.
  4. It is essential that you know who you are dealing with, understand the terms and conditions, and are confident the transaction is legal. Keep records of transactions and dealings with any foreign national.
  5. Aircraft, avionics/navigation equipment, and engines are controlled by the Export Administration for reasons of anti-terrorism, missile technology, national security, and regional stability. While general aviation aircraft are not a specific threat, the government does control exports, and there are certain formalities that must be complied with.
  6. The Export Control Regulations, Parts 300-799, are the specific parts with the Commerce Control List and Country Listings based on any foreign national's citizenship or country of origin.
  7. If you are selling only GPS, navigation, or communication equipment, the equipment manufacturer (Garmin, Bendix King, etc) may have already obtained some prior export classification and authorization for their own international sales and shipping purposes. You should contact the technical support staff of the unit manufacturer to verify this.

Call AOPA's Pilot Information Center (800/872-2672) with any additional inquiries or questions or to request clarification of the regulations. Additional Export Control Regulations information and any necessary forms are contained in this guide in the Appendix section.

Congress makes the following findings:

  1. The ability of United States citizens to engage in international commerce is a fundamental concern of United States policy.
  2. Exports contribute significantly to the economic well-being of the United States and the stability of the world economy by increasing employment and production in the United States, and by earning foreign exchange, thereby contributing favorably to the trade balance. The restriction of exports from the United States can have serious adverse effects on the balance of payments and on domestic employment, particularly when restrictions applied by the United States are more extensive than those imposed by other countries.
  3. It is important for the national interest of the United States that both the private sector and the Federal Government place a high priority on exports, consistent with the economic, security, and foreign policy objectives of the United States.
  4. The availability of certain materials at home and abroad varies so that the quantity and composition of United States exports and their distribution among importing countries may affect the welfare of the domestic economy and may have an important bearing upon fulfillment of the foreign policy of the United States.

It is the policy of the United States to minimize uncertainties in export control policy and to encourage trade with all countries with which the United States has diplomatic or trading relations, except those countries with which such trade has been determined by the President to be against the national interest.

Important definitions in the Export Control Regulations:

  • Aircraft. (Cat 1, 7, and 9) — A fixed-wing, swivel wing, rotary wing (helicopter), tilt rotor or tilt-wing airborne vehicle. (See also "civil aircraft.")
  • Civil aircraft. (Cat 1, 7 and 9) — Those "aircraft" listed by designation in published airworthiness certification lists by the civil aviation authorities to fly commercial civil internal and external routes or for legitimate civil, private or business use. (See also "aircraft.")
  • Commerce Control List (CCL). A list of items under the export control jurisdiction of the Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce. Note that certain additional items described in part 732 of the EAR are also subject to the EAR. The CCL is found in Supplement No.1 to part 774 of the EAR.
  • Knowledge. Knowledge of a circumstance (the term may be a variant, such as "know," "reason to know," or "reason to believe") includes not only positive knowledge that the circumstance exists or is substantially certain to occur, but also an awareness of a high probability of its existence or future occurrence. Such awareness is inferred from evidence of the conscious disregard of facts known to a person and is also inferred from a person's willful avoidance of facts. This definition does not apply to part 760 of the EAR (Restrictive Trade Practices or Boycotts).

Export Control Regulation Categories relating to Aircraft, Avionics/Navigation Equipment, and Engines:

CATEGORY 1 — MATERIALS, CHEMICALS, "MICROORGANISMS," AND TOXINS, COMPOSITE STRUCTURES OR LAMINATES.Composite Structures and Laminates can be airframe parts and associated fuselage parts manufactured from carbon fiber composite materials 

CATEGORY 7 — NAVIGATION AND AVIONICS
7A005 Global navigation satellite systems (i.e., GPS or GLONASS) receiving equipment, and specially designed components therefore. (These items are subject to the export licensing authority of the U.S. Department of State, Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. See 22 CFR Part 121.)

Note to 7A005: See also 7A105 and 7A994.

7A103 Instrumentation, navigation equipment and systems, other than those controlled by 7A003, and specially designed components therefore.

7A105 Receiving equipment for Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNNS) (e.g., GPS, GLONASS, or Galileo) having any of the following characteristics, and specially designed components therefore. (These items are subject to the export licensing authority of the U.S. Department of State, Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. See 22 CFR Part 121.)

  1. Designed or modified for use in "missiles"; or
  2. Designed or modified for airborne applications and having any of the following:
    1. Capable of providing navigation information at speeds in excess of 600 m/s (1,165 nautical mph);
    2. Employing decryption, designed or modified for military or governmental services, to gain access to GNSS secured signal/data; or
    3. Being specially designed to employ antijam features (e.g., null steering antenna or electronically steerable antenna) to function in an environment of active or passive countermeasures.

Note to 7A105: See also 7A005 and 7A994

7A994 Other navigation direction finding equipment, airborne communication equipment, all aircraft inertial navigation systems not controlled under 7A003 or 7A103, and other avionic equipment, including parts and components, n.e.s.

EAR99 Items subject to the EAR that are not elsewhere specified in this CCL Category or in any other category in the CCL are designated by the number EAR99. General Aviation nav equipment IE Garmin 430 or 530 or King GPS units are classified EAR 99 and are usually only controlled for export purposes when modified to be used with inertial nav systems, HSI or gyros, in any aircraft that has been modified and/or used for military training purposes by any country.

CATEGORY 9 — PROPULSION SYSTEMS, SPACE VEHICLES, AND RELATED EQUIPMENT

9A991 "Aircraft", n.e.s., and gas turbine engines not controlled by 9A001 or 9A101 and parts and components, n.e.s.

EAR99 Items subject to the EAR that are not elsewhere specified in this CCL Category or in any other category in the CCL are designated by the number EAR99.

RESTRICTIONS ON CERTAIN ACTIVITIES OF U.S. PERSONS

  1. General prohibitions
    1. Activities related to exports
      1. No U.S. person as defined in paragraph (c) of this section may, without a license from BIS, export, re-export, or transfer to or in any country any item where that person knows that such items:
        1. Will be used in the design, development, production, or use of nuclear explosive devices in or by a country listed in Country Group D:2 (see Supplement No. 1 to part 740 of the EAR).
        2. Will be used in the design, development, production, or use of missiles in or by a country listed in Country Group D:4 (see Supplement No. 1 to part 740 of the EAR); or
        3. Will be used in the design, development, production, stockpiling, or use of chemical or biological weapons in or by any country or destination, worldwide
      2. No U.S. person shall, without a license from BIS, knowingly support an export, re-export, or transfer that does not have a license as required by this section. Support means any action, including financing, transportation, and freight forwarding, by which a person facilitates an export, re-export, or transfer without being the actual exporter or re-exporter.
    2. Other activities unrelated to exports. No U.S. person shall, without a license from BIS:
      1. Perform any contract, service, or employment that the U.S. person knows will directly assist in the design, development, production, or use of missiles in or by a country listed in Country Group D:4 (see Supplement No. 1 to part 740 of the EAR); or
      2. Perform any contract, service, or employment that the U.S. person knows will directly assist in the design, development, production, stockpiling, or use of chemical or biological weapons in or by any country or destination, worldwide.
  2. Additional prohibitions on U.S. persons informed by BIS
    BIS may inform U.S. persons, either individually or through amendment to the EAR, that a license is required because an activity could involve the types of participation and support described in paragraph (a) of this section anywhere in the world. Specific notice is to be given only by, or at the direction of, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Export Administration. When such notice is provided orally, it will be followed by a written notice within two working days signed by the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Export Administration. However, the absence of any such notification does not excuse the exporter from compliance with the license requirements of paragraph (a) of this section.
  3. Definition of U.S. person
    1. For purposes of this section, the term U.S. person includes:
      1. Any individual who is a citizen of the United States, or a permanent resident alien of the United States.
  4. Aircraft, parts, accessories and components (from Export Administration Regulations)
    Aircraft, parts, accessories, and components defined in Categories VIII and IX of the Munitions List are under the export licensing authority of the U. S. Department of State (22 CFR parts 120 through 130). All other aircraft and parts, accessories and components therefore, are under the export licensing authority of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The following aircraft, parts, accessories and components are under the licensing authority of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
    1. Any aircraft (except an aircraft that has been demilitarized, but including aircraft specified in paragraph (i) (2) of this section) that conforms to a Federal Aviation Agency type certificate in the normal, utility, acrobatic, transport, or restricted category, provided such aircraft has not been equipped with or modified to include military equipment, such as gun mounts, turrets, rocket launchers, or similar equipment designed for military combat or military training purposes.
    2. Only the following military aircraft, demilitarized (aircraft not specifically equipped, reequipped, or modified for military operations):
      1. Cargo, bearing designations "C-45 through C-118 inclusive," and "C-121";
      2. Trainers, bearing a "T" designation and using piston engines;
      3. Utility, bearing a "U" designation and using piston engines;
      4. Liaison, bearing an "L" designation; and
      5. Observation, bearing an "O" designation and using piston engines.
    3. All reciprocating engines.
    4. Other aircraft engines not specifically designed or modified for military aircraft.
    5. Parts, accessories, and components (including peopellers), designed exclusively for aircraft and engines described in paragraphs (i)(I); (i)(2), (i)(3), and (i)(4) of this section.
    6. General purpose parts, accessories, and components usable interchangeably on either military or civil aircraft.
  5. Interpretation 10: Civil aircraft inertial navigation equipment
    1. The Department of Commerce has licensing jurisdiction over exports and reexports to all destinations of inertial navigation systems, inertial navigation equipment, and specially designed components therefore for "civil aircraft".
    2. The Department of State, retains jurisdiction over all software and technology for inertial navigation systems and navigation equipment, and specially designed components therefore, for shipborne use, underwater use, ground vehicle use, spaceborne use or use other than "civil aircraft".
  6. General Prohibition Ten - Proceeding with transactions with knowledge that a violation has occurred or is about to occur (Knowledge violation to occur).
    You may not sell, export, reexport, finance, order, buy, remove, conceal, store, use, loan, dispose of, transfer, transport, forward, or otherwise service, in whole or in part, any item subject to the EAR and exported or to be exported with knowledge that a violation of the Export Administration Regulations, the Export Administration Act or any order, license, License Exception, or other authorization issued thereunder has occurred, is about to occur, or is intended to occur in connection with the item. Nor may you rely upon any license or License Exception after notice to you of the suspension or revocation of that license or exception. There are no License Exceptions to this General Prohibition Ten in part 740 of the EAR.

RESTRICTIONS ON CERTAIN EXPORTS TO AND FOR THE USE OF CERTAIN FOREIGN VESSELS OR AIRCRAFT

  1. General end-use prohibition
    In addition to the license requirements for items specified on the CCL, you may not export or re-export an item subject to the EAR to, or for the use of, a foreign vessel or aircraft, whether an operating vessel or aircraft or one under construction, located in any port including a Canadian port, unless a License Exception or NLR permits the shipment to be made:
    1. To the country in which the vessel or aircraft is located, and
    2. To the country in which the vessel or aircraft is registered, or will be registered in the case of a vessel or aircraft under construction, and which is currently controlling, leasing, or chartering the vessel or aircraft.
  2. Exception for U.S. and Canadian carriers
    1. Notwithstanding the general end-use prohibition in paragraph (a) of this section, export and re-export may be made of the commodities described in paragraph (b)(3) of this section, for use by or on a specific vessel or plane of U.S. or Canadian registry located at any seaport or airport outside the United States or Canada except a port in Country Group D:1 (excluding the PRC), (see Supplement No. 1 to part 740) provided that such commodities are all of the following:
      1. Ordered by the person in command or the owner or agent of the vessel or plane to which they are consigned;
      2. Intended to be used or consumed on board such vessel or plane and necessary for its proper operation;
      3. In usual and reasonable kinds and quantities during times of extreme need, except that usual and reasonable quantities of ship's bunkers or aviation fuel are considered to be only that quantity necessary for a single onward voyage or flight; and
      4. Shipped as cargo for which a Shipper's Export Declaration (SED) or Automated Export System (AES) record is filed in accordance with the requirements of the Foreign Trade Statistics Regulations (15 CFR part 30), except that an SED or AES record is not required when any of the commodities, other than fuel, is exported by U.S. airlines to their own aircraft abroad for their own use.

RESTRICTIONS ON EXPORTS AND RE-EXPORTS TO PERSONS DESIGNATED IN OR PURSUANT TO EXECUTIVE ORDER 13224 SPECIALLY DESIGNATED GLOBAL TERRORIST) (SDGT)

BIS maintains restrictions on exports and re-exports to persons designated in or pursuant to Executive Order 13224 of September 23, 2001 (Blocking Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Persons Who Commit, Threaten to Commit, or Support Terrorism). These persons include individuals and entities listed in the Annex to Executive Order 13224, as well as persons subsequently designated by the Secretary of State or Secretary of the Treasury pursuant to criteria set forth in the order. Pursuant to Executive Order 13224, the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) maintains 31 CFR part 594, the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations. OFAC announces the names of persons designated pursuant to Executive Order 13224 in the Federal Register and includes such persons in Appendix A to 31 CFR Chapter V, which lists persons subject to various sanctions programs administered by OFAC. The Department of State also announces the names of foreign persons designated pursuant to Executive Order 13224 in the Federal Register. All persons designated in or pursuant to Executive Order 13224 are identified in Appendix A to 31 CFR Chapter V by the bracketed initials [SDGT] and are also known as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs).

  1. License requirement(s)
    1. A license requirement applies to the export or re-export to an SDGT of any item subject to the EAR.

Acronyms defined in the regulations:

  • BIS — Bureau of Industry and Security
  • SDGT — Specially Designated Global Terrorist
  • SDN — Specially Designated Nationals
  • EAR — Export Administration Regulations
  • CCL — Commerce Control List
  • SED — Shippers Export Declaration
  • AES — Automated Export Service
  • OFAC — Office of Foreign Assets Control
  • N.E.S. — Not Elsewhere Specified

Modified Military Aircraft

Pilots who are operating modified military aircraft or restored military aircraft and later sell the aircraft to any foreign national in any foreign country must obtain a license for temporary or permanent export from the

Office of Defense Trade Control Department of State 20520 Washington, D.C. Telephone (202) 663-1282

and file it at least 45 days prior to the aircraft departure or sale date.

The license application must be a letter and must contain the following minimum information:

  • Name of aircraft owner and how registered with aircraft N number
  • Type aircraft, make, model, year of manufacture
  • Reason for export and length of time in the foreign country
  • Complete name, address and country of destination
  • Dates of departure and return back into the U.S.
  • U.S. Airport of Entry for U.S. Customs purposes
  • Names and addresses of pilot in command, all crew members, and/or passengers
  • Buyers complete name and address

In addition to contacting the Office of Munitions Control, AOPA recommends contacting the CAA/Civil Aviation Authorities in the country of re-registration to make certain the seller is not responsibile for providing additional information.  Otherwise the foreign buyer will assume all this responsibility.

Transporting the Aircraft From the United States

Once all the required paperwork and inspections are completed, you must determine the best method of transporting your aircraft from the United States. Questions regarding international flight planning and procedures may be answered by the AOPA Pilot Information Center (800/USA-AOPA). Additional information may be obtained by contacting the international AOPA office in that country, foreign civil aviation authorities, and U.S. embassies.

Method I — Deliver the Aircraft to the Buyer

One popular method of transporting the aircraft to the destination country is to fly the aircraft yourself (or find another appropriately licensed pilot). Once the aircraft has been delivered, the sales transaction can take place. You will deregister the aircraft with the FAA, and the new owner can start the process of registration and airworthiness compliance. This method is the least risky, because the aircraft is under your control until delivery.

Method II — The Buyer Flies the Aircraft to the Destination Under U.S. Registry

This method requires a great deal of trust on the part of both buyer and seller, but it does work. Quite simply, the buyer will obtain a validated foreign pilot certificate from the FAA and fly the aircraft (still under U.S. registry) to the destination country. This means that you still have ownership of the airplane while the buyer is flying it. You will want a deposit or some sort of collateral! In order to clear customs, a letter from you authorizing the buyer to fly the aircraft will be required. When the aircraft is in the destination country, the sales transaction can take place, you will deregister the aircraft, and the new owner can start the process of registration and airworthiness compliance.

Method III — Fly the Aircraft Under Foreign Registry

This method is the most difficult, time consuming, and may be impractical. The procedure is outlined below:

  1. Conduct the sales transaction and deregister the aircraft with the FAA.
  2. Register the aircraft with the foreign CAA and obtain an airworthiness certificate or temporary flight permits.
  3. Remove the N number from the aircraft and affix the temporary foreign registration to the aircraft (12-inch letters). This can be accomplished with 2-inch-wide tape or stick-on letters.

Method IV — Employ the Services of an Import/Export Broker or Ferry Company

You may choose to use an import/export broker to accomplish the necessary paperwork and procedures. Your local port director customs office should be able to provide you with a list of brokers.

Method V — Disassemble the Aircraft, Containerize, and Transport

This may be the your only option if the aircraft is not in airworthy condition or the proper documents are not in order for flight.

Customs

There is little room for error when passing through customs! Because U.S. and foreign customs have the authority to levy large fines and penalties, customs procedures must be carefully followed. We will present some tips to help make clearing customs go smoothly.

U.S. Customs

Clearing U.S. customs is a major hurdle in getting the aircraft to your destination. Pilots are required to submit to a customs inspection prior to exporting an aircraft from the United States. Customs offices are located at specified airports of entry (AOE). AOE locations, phone numbers, and customs procedures are outlined in the U.S. Customs Guide for Private Flyers .

The goal of U.S. customs is to verify that no illegal items are being exported, all documents and paperwork are in order, and that taxes or duty are collected. Pilots must carefully follow all procedures and have all required documents. A fine of $5,000 per violation may be assessed for noncompliance; worse yet, Customs can and does seize airplanes for gross violations.

A Shipper's Export Declaration (Form 7525 V) must be filled out in triplicate, with one copy filed with U.S. Customs. The other two copies should be stamped by customs when clearing outbound and retained in the aircraft until delivery to the destination country, then kept in your permanent records. The Shipper's Export Declaration is a U.S. Census Bureau form and is used to track aircraft within the United States.

Note: If the aircraft is being shipped to Canada, with Canada being the final destination, the Shipper's Export Declaration form is not required. If the aircraft will not remain in Canada and is to be exported to another person or country, then the declaration must be completed. Be sure to explore this thoroughly so you know where the aircraft will ultimately stay.

In order to get through the customs process as quickly and painlessly as possible, consider the following guidelines:

  1. Customs forms: Contact the U.S. Customs office at your intended AOE for an assessment of duty, taxes, and forms that will be required for your situation. Normally, aircraft manufactured and/or exported from the United States will not be subject to duty taxes. Forms are available on AOPA's Web site or from the U.S. Government Printing Office, 202/783-3238.
  2. All aircraft documents must be in order:
    1. Registration and airworthiness certificates matching the same country and showing the same registration number. You must have a permanent or telex registration certificate! No temporary registration certificates will be accepted. For example, if you are flying an aircraft registered in Canada, you must also present a Canadian airworthiness certificate and Canadian registration certificate.
    2. If you are flying the aircraft under the owner's registration, you must have a letter from the owner authorizing you to fly that aircraft. This will dismiss any ideas in the inspector's mind that the aircraft is stolen.
    3. If ferry tanks or other optional equipment are installed, you must have major repair or alteration forms (337) aboard.
    4. Be prepared! Have your paperwork filled out in advance as much as possible. Ensure that required documents are on board and easily accessible. The inspector will be impressed if you are organized and considerate of their time. This will also speed your time through the customs process.
  3. Required pilot documents including pilot certificate and medical certificate. Country of issue on pilot certificate must match country of aircraft registry. For example, if you are flying a U.S.-registered aircraft, you must also have a U.S. pilot certificate or validated U.S. foreign pilot certificate.

Foreign Customs

Aircraft being imported to another country may be subject to a customs inspection and duty taxes by the destination country. This cost should be entered into the equation. To determine these costs and verify import procedures, it is recommended that the customs agency at the airport of entry (AOE) be contacted in advance. Additional assistance can be obtained from an international AOPA (IAOPA) affiliate in that country, or from the embassy to the United States.

Using An Escrow Service

Countless individuals have run into the difficulty of not receiving payment for their exported aircraft. Payments sent across international borders can be a source of major problems, and sorting out the mess can be a time-consuming and costly headache. Before you export your aircraft, you will want to be assured that you will be paid the price stated in your purchase agreement; before giving you money for your aircraft, the buyer will want to be certain that the aircraft will be delivered as stated in the purchase agreement.

The best way to keep both parties happy is to use a third party to hold the funds in escrow until all provisions in the purchase agreement are satisfied.

The importance of using a reputable escrow service can't be emphasized enough! FAA regulations regarding exported aircraft are complex and require people experienced with these types of transactions.

Insurance — Europe

When flying any aircraft to Europe, there are specific European Union special insurance requirements. These special requirements are applicable to the European Union (EU) member states of:

Austria Finland Greece Luxemborg Spain
Belgium France Ireland Netherlands Sweden
Denmark Germany Italy Portugal United Kingdom

All exporters shipping civil aircraft from the United States to a member state of the EU must comply with these EU insurance requirements to meet regulatory requirements of Appendix 12. These EU insurance requirements replace the previous insurance requirements. For aircraft engine, propellers, appliances, and parts, U.S. exporters must also continue to comply with all other provisions identified in any existing bilateral agreement associated with the EU member state. FAA Order 8100.14, Interim Procedures for Working with the European Community on Airworthiness Certification and Continued Airworthiness, contains guidance on export documentation, including certifying statements. These bilateral import requirements will remain in effect until any new bilateral agreement is concluded between the United States and the EU. All U.S. export control regulations must be complied with.

Frequently Asked Questions About Exporting

  1. How long is an Export Certificate of Airworthiness (ECA) valid?
    There is no expiration date. An ECA is simply a document issued from the FAA stating that the aircraft, at the time of issue, meets the criteria specified in the design type certificate.
  2. I am going to export my aircraft to Canada. I plan to fly the aircraft under my own registration. Why should the sales transaction take place after the aircraft is delivered?
    FAR Part 47 requires that an aircraft be registered to its legal owner before being flown. When the sales transaction takes place and bill of sale is completed, the ownership is transferred and the aircraft is no longer registered to the legal owner. Pilots transiting customs have experienced difficulty when showing a bill of sale and registration documents in another name.
  3. I am flying my aircraft to a buyer in South America. What documents must to be sent to the FAA after the transaction? Do I have any other responsibilities?
    Airworthiness and registration certificates must be sent back to the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch. Don't forget to complete and sign the back of the registration certificate. Most importantly, the N numbers must be removed from the aircraft.
  4. If I am selling my aircraft, why should I have a title search performed?
    The FAA will not deregister your aircraft if there are any mortgage liens against the aircraft, unless authorization from the lienholders is received. "Nonconsensual" liens (liens that you did not specifically agree to) such as mechanics or tax liens will not prevent deregistration. A title search will reveal any liens that could delay the deregistration process.
  5. How can I ensure that I will be paid the full price before I export my aircraft? This sounds like a shaky prospect!
    International transactions can get very sticky, and many people have been swindled. Contract with an escrow service to hold the funds until all provisions of your purchase agreement have been satisfied.

Checklist for Exporting Aircraft From the United States

This checklist assumes that the aircraft is flown under U.S. registry to the destination.

Prior to Export

  1. If the aircraft is type certificated in the United States (a manufactured aircraft), obtain an Export Certificate of Airworthiness (ECA). Contact an FAA-certified mechanic experienced in performing these inspections and working through the paperwork process with the FAA. The FAA requires that an annual inspection be accomplished within 30 days of application for the ECA.
  2. Perform a title search to establish that the aircraft has no outstanding liens or debts that would delay the deregistration process. Contact AOPA Aircraft Title and Escrow Services (800/711-0087).
  3. Contact U.S. Customs at your intended airport of exit to ensure that you have all required forms and paperwork prior to exiting the country. You will be required to have three copies of the Shippers Export Declaration (Form 7525 V). One is filed with U.S. Customs when clearing outbound; the other two copies should be stamped by customs and retained in the aircraft until it reaches your destination, then kept in your permanent records.

    Note: The Shippers Declaration Form is not required if exporting to Canada, provided the aircraft will remain in Canada. Be sure to explore this thoroughly so you know where the aircraft will ultimately stay.
  4. Contact the foreign customs inspection agency at your intended airport of entry office in the destination country to determine proper procedures and required paperwork.
  5. Determine the best method of transporting the aircraft to the destination country.
  6. If the aircraft is being flown under your registration, check with your insurance company for any added coverage that may be needed for flying internationally.
  7. Verify that money is in an escrow account prior to export.

Exporting the Aircraft

  1. Fly the aircraft to the destination country.
  2. Upon reaching the destination, complete the sales transaction.
  3. Deregister the aircraft with the FAA and remove the N numbers. Note you are responsible for removing the N number from the aircraft and returning the registration and airworthiness certificates to the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch.
  4. The new owner can then start the process of registration and airworthiness approval in that country.

References

AC Form 8050-124I Information to Aid in the Registration of Imported Aircraft
U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Aircraft Registration Branch, Oklahoma City, OK
AC Form 8050-124E Information to Aid in the Cancellation for Export of United States Registered Aircraft
U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Aircraft Registration Branch, Oklahoma City, OK
Order 8130.2F
(4/1/05)
Airworthiness Certification of Aircraft and Related Products
U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, D.C.
Order 8300.10
(2/23/05)
Airworthiness Inspector's Handbook
U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, D.C.
A Basic Guide to Exporting
(1998 edition)
U.S. Department of Commerce,
Domestic and International Business Administration Washington, D.C.
U.S. Customs Guide for Private Flyers Department of the Treasury, U.S. Customs Service, Washington, D.C.
FAA International Flight Information Manual FAA, Washington, D.C.

Appendix 1

Following is a list of Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) that affects international import or export transactions and international travel of personnel.

19 CFR U.S. Customs Laws Responsible for the export and import laws of 40 other government agencies and more than 400 laws. Includes the collection of customs duties on imported merchandise.
15 CFR U.S. Export Control Laws Responsible for the export control of all U.S. assets and merchandise. Controls embargoed countries and denied persons list and establishes export license controls.
22 CFR U.S. State Department Responsible for passport, U.S. citizenship, and visa requirements. List foreign country entry requirements and controls U.S. embassies.
7 CFR U.S. Department of Agriculture/PPQ Responsible for the inspection and approval of entry into the United States of all live animal, meat, and food products, and prohibits foreign soil and insects through the Plant Protection and Quarantine service.
31 CFR U.S. Treasury Laws Responsible for the financial control of prohibited persons, seizures of bank accounts, other monies, and foreign assets of U.S. citizens and companies.
49 CFR U.S. Department of Transportation Responsible for the hazardous materials lists and requirements for the packaging, labeling, and documentation and overall transport requirements for any hazardous material.
47 CFR U.S. Federal Communication Commission Responsible for aircraft radio station license requirements internationally and pilot restricted radio telephone operators permit.

Appendix 2

Embargo Country List

  • Balkans
  • Cuba
  • Dem Rep of Congo
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Ivory Coast
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • North Korea
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Zimbabwe

Enforcement and Intelligence Watch List

  • Dubai
  • India
  • Jordan
  • Pakistan
  • United Arab Emirates

Appendix 3

International Forwarding

Barthco International

  • Provides full export freight forwarding service including all documentation:
    • Airway bills
    • Ocean bills of lading
    • Shippers Export Declarations
  • Provides full import customs-house brokerage service including all documentation
    • Import entry documents
    • Customs HTS classifications
    • Payment of duties, taxes, and fees
  • Freight rate negotiations
  • Has office in foreign countries or can recommend foreign brokers and freight forwarders
  • All client has to do is provide Barthco with a power of attorney and certain other specific information and details related to the transaction.

Appendix 4

U.S. State Department

Passports: U.S. citizens who travel to a country where a valid U.S. passport is not required will need documentary evidence of their U.S. citizenship and identity. Proof of U.S. citizenship includes an expired U.S. passport, a certified (original) birth certificate, certificate of naturalization, certificate of citizenship, or report of birth abroad of a citizen of the United States. To prove identity, a valid driver's license or government identification card are acceptable provided they identify you by physical description or photograph. However, for travel overseas and to facilitate reentry into the United States, a valid U.S. passport is the best documentation available and unquestionably proves your U.S. citizenship.

Before you send your passport through the mail to apply for a visa, sign it in ink, and write in pencil your current address and daytime telephone number in the space provided. This will help the U.S. Postal Service return it to you should it become separated from the envelope during processing.

Some countries require that your U.S. passport be valid at least six months or longer beyond the dates of your trip. If your passport expires before the required validity, you will have to apply for a new one. Please check with the embassy or nearest consulate of the country that you plan to visit for their requirements.

Some Middle Eastern or African countries will not issue visas or allow entry if your passport indicates travel to Israel. Consult the National Passport Information Center (900/225-5674, or TDD 900/225-7778 (fee of $0.35 per minute), or 888/362-8668, or TDD 888/498-3648 (flat fee of $4.95 for people using a major credit card) for guidance if this applies to you.


Appendix 5

Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States

Chapter 88 (requires Adobe Reader)


Appendix 6

Aircraft Radio Stations


Appendix 7

Travelers' Tips on Bringing Food, Plants, and Animal Products into the United States


Appendix 8

U.S. Department of Commerce: Bureau of Export Administration

Export Administration Regulations Forms (requires Adobe Reader)


Appendix 9

Definitions/Acrynoms

APHIS Animal Plant Health Inspection Service
CBP Customs and Border Protection
ECCN Export Control Classification Number aka Export Commodity Control Number
HTS Harmonized Tariff Schedule
OFAC Office of Foreign Assets Control (part of Treasure Department)
PPQ Plant Protection and Quarantine
USDA United States Department of Agriculture

Appendix 10

FAA International Flight Information Manual (IFIM)

Guide for Private Flyers
Issued by the Department of Homeland Security: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Exporting Private Aircraft

Ferry pilots — that is, pilots transferring their aircraft for importation or exportation — should be aware that when they leave the United States with an aircraft for export, that aircraft is subject to CBP inspection. The pilot should be prepared to show his FAA pilot license, his medical certificate, aircraft registration and airworthiness certificate, and an approved FAA Form 337 if the aircraft has ferry tanks. A Shipper's Export Declaration, which is a U.S. Census Bureau form, must also be filed with CBP before departure. The Shipper's Export Declaration can be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, telephone 202/512-1800. The Shipper's Export Declaration is not required for shipments to Canada when Canada is the ultimate destination for the exported aircraft.

Importing a Private Aircraft

CBP considers parties involved in ferrying aircraft for importation into the United States (e.g., for sale or sale on approval) to be operating commercially, and the aircraft is considered merchandise. Prior to arriving in the United States, importers should arrange for formal entry of the aircraft, which normally requires the services of a customs broker or posting a bond. Release of the aircraft will be delayed if it arrives and no entry release documents are available. All imported private aircraft are subject to formal entry requirements. The pilot should also be prepared to present his FAA pilot license, medical certificate, aircraft registration, airworthiness certificate, and an approved FAA Form 337 if ferry tanks are installed.


Appendix 11

U.S.-Registered Aircraft Deregistration Letter


Appendix 12

European Insurance Requirements

Updated Tuesday, March 11, 2008