Aircraft owners whose paperwork is not in order could face action as a result of a stepped-up review of the FAA aircraft registry. The FAA will begin flagging records that don't meet registration requirements. The agency gave formal notice late last week that it will start listing status of aircraft with registry discrepancies as "In Question" in "the interest of national security."
"This is not a new regulation," said AOPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Melissa Bailey. "Aircraft owners have always been required to notify the FAA when the status of the aircraft changes, and aircraft buyers must send the FAA evidence of ownership and a registration application before operating the aircraft.
"AOPA's concern is that aircraft owners not be branded potential terrorists due to a clerical error or other innocent mistake."
An aircraft's registration may be called into question if the FAA learns from the last registered owner that the aircraft has been sold but paperwork to register the aircraft has not been received. Notification might include an endorsed certificate of registration, an original or copy of a bill of sale, or a letter to the FAA from the previous owner showing the aircraft had been sold.
FAR 47 states that an aircraft's registration becomes ineffective for operation when the aircraft changes hands. The new owner must file evidence of ownership, such as a bill of sale, and an application, and receive a temporary or new registration certificate in order to keep operating.
A check by AOPA found some 18,000 aircraft that could fall into the new "In Question" category.
The AOPA Title and Escrow Service (ATES) offers a number of services that can help rectify registration problems.
First, if the registration is correct but the owner can't find the certificate itself, ATES can quickly (24 to 48 hours) fax a temporary certificate to allow the aircraft to keep operating and follow up with a duplicate certificate in two to three business days.
If the aircraft is not properly registered, ATES offers a couple of options. Owners may request a title search to determine an aircraft's current registration status and the steps that need to be taken to properly register it. If the owner has recently (within 90 days) had ATES conduct a title search, then the owner can request a document review. ATES will review what the FAA has on file and determine the status of the registration.
If problems remain with the registration, owners may request Title and Escrow's title clearance service, in which ATES staff will track down previous owners, obtain the necessary paperwork, and file it with the FAA. If the owner prefers to do the legwork himself, ATES offers a document submission service to ensure that documents are in order, filled out correctly, and filed in a timely manner.
For a list of AOPA Title and Escrow services and rates, visit the Web site or call 800/288-2519.
The FAA says the "In Question" listing is informational only. It is intended as a flag to regional FAA representatives about aircraft that need to be checked, not a legal determination of an aircraft's registration status. But owners need to be aware that correctly registering an aircraft that had been improperly registered, whether deliberately or by accident, may make them liable for back state taxes.