Sunday, July 14, 2013

FAA General Aviation Records Incomplete

It is not the case that anybody can own an airplane in America.  This statement is not a comment about who can or cannot afford a general aviation airplane, but rather a legal fact.  Federal regulations strictly limit and mandate ownership and registration of airplanes to American citizens.  Alternatively, non-U.S. interests can take ownership stakes in airplanes through legal mechanisms called trusts.

Under federal law aircraft owners must keep the registration of their airplanes current with the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA").  The FAA has a corresponding interest in keeping its records fresh, but apparently that has not been done.

Given the above background, it is interesting to note recent news that, according to an audit by the Department of Transportation's Inspector General, the FAA's civil aviation registry is incomplete with respect to the identify of non-citizen aircraft owners and pilot certifications.

“We found incomplete registrations for about 5,600 aircraft, or 54 percent, owned under trusts for non-U.S. citizens,” the audit report said. “As a result, the FAA has been unable to provide information on these aircraft to foreign authorities upon request when U.S.-registered aircraft are involved in accidents or incidents in foreign lands, as required by the Convention on International Aviation.”

(The full report is here.)

All of this follows the FAA's release of long-anticipated policy clarification related to the registration of aircraft to U.S. citizen trustees in situations involving non-U.S. citizen trustors and beneficiaries.