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ARROW: Checking your registration more important than ever


Ron Golden

Ron Golden

  • Attorney, Counsel to AOPA
  • More than 30 years of aviation legal experience
  • Serves on the Board of Directors, Seaplane Pilots Association
  • Pilot since 1975, owns a Cessna Cardinal RG

For now, checking an aircraft registration certificate is not that simple. As you probably recall, the FAA has initiated a process of re-issuing all aircraft registration certificates. The new certificates will be valid for only three years, and they will be issued with an expiration date. The process is only partially complete at this point. That makes checking the registration certificate somewhat complicated. It is beyond the scope of this note to try to explain the complete process. Hopefully this will be enough information to help you comply with the regulations. If you want more information on this topic, review AOPA’s Aircraft Registration and Re-registration subject report.

We need to remember that all aircraft registration certificates are expiring, or have already expired.

So the next time you check the registration certificate for the aircraft you are about to fly (and we always do … right?) remember to look a little closer. Does it have an expiration date or does it only have an “issuance” date? If it has an expiration date and it has not expired you’re good to go … so long as it's otherwise effective. If it only has an “issuance” date but does not have an expiration date, you need to determine if the registration is still current. The easiest way to do that is simply to look it up on the FAA website.

Once we get to Dec. 31, 2013, it becomes easier again. All “old” registration certificates will have expired and the one in your aircraft must have an expiration date. Then it will just be a matter of making certain that your certificate has an expiration date and that it has not expired.

As of June 30, we’re about halfway through the process. All registration certificates issued prior to Oct. 1, 2010, with issuance dates in March, April, May, June, July, or August have expired. I recommend you simply verify your aircraft expiration date online or review FAR 47.40 for more details.

If you’re getting ready to fly and don’t have your copy of Part 47 of the FARs handy feel free to call AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services.  This program—designed by pilots, for pilots—features the AOPA Legal Services Plan* and the medical protection you need to keep flying. The Plan is there to help if you have a problem, but we particularly enjoy helping you avoid a problem. Please call 800/872-2672 or visit

* Legal coverage provided by the AOPA Legal Services Plan.

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Many of us have long used the memory aid ARROW to remember the documents required on an aircraft. The first R pertains to the aircraft registration certificate. FAR 91.203 tells us we may not “operate a civil aircraft” unless it has within it an “effective U.S. registration certificate issued to its owner….” (“Pink slips” are reserved for another discussion.) For years it has been an easy task to check for the registration certificate onboard the aircraft. We find it, and make sure the N number matches the aircraft and the owner and address are current.

Topics: Pilot Protection Services, AOPA Products and Services, Ownership

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