In the aviation industry, it’s no secret that we are experiencing a serious delay in the FAA’s turnaround time for aircraft registration. At the time of this article’s publication, the FAA is processing registration documents at a staggering 6-month delay. When the FAA Aircraft Registry is at proper capacity, the standard registration process should take between 16 and 20 working days, only demonstrating the severe workload that the pandemic brought to the registry.
According to sources at the registry, there has been a significant increase in the number of transactions since the start of 2020. The Registry is currently handling closer to 15,000 filings each month. The pandemic brought on a wave of aircraft transactions that is yet to slow down. There simply are not enough workers in the registry to satisfy the growing backlog of registration applications. As demand grows, the registration turnaround time continues to increase. At the time of this article (October 2022), filings made in April are just now receiving their Certificate of Registration (COR).
The good news is that relief for the registry is on the horizon. The FAA has approved an increase in staff for the registry, with a 20% increase being active today, and an additional 5% increase to come. The bad news is that this does not provide immediate relief to application turnaround. Registry employees must undergo a meticulous training process that will keep them from having an impact on reviewing applications for some time. Nonetheless, it is both appreciated and encouraging that the FAA is actively seeking solutions to this problem.
These delays have placed a heavy emphasis on the temporary authority to operate under the filed application for registration. After your application has been duly filed with the FAA, a copy of the application provides temporary authority to operate the aircraft domestically for up to 90 days. Obviously, this 90-day registration will not adequately cover the current 180-day waiting time for a certificate. As of August, the FAA has offered an automatic extension to the temporary registration that will add 180 days to the standard 90-day period.
To ensure that this extension is applied, the team at Gilchrist Aviation Law personally maintains detailed verification from the FAA that our client’s aircraft are properly registered. We recommend people filing documents with the FAA use counsel that understands the complexities of the registry, especially given the volume of transactions that the registry is having to deal with and the time required by the FAA to process filed documents.
Despite delays in other areas, the registry continues to make every effort to honor its commitment to process priority filings within three working days. Priority registrations are processed according to the date and time received, so the volume of transactions can still fluctuate and affect processing time. While some filings can be processed in less than three working days, it is wise to account for the extra time when planning your aircraft operations post-closing. It is equally important to know if your aircraft transaction qualifies for a priority filing.
Planning your Transaction
The FAA is actively working to find solutions to the delay in processing registrations, but it will likely be a while before we can return to pre-pandemic timelines. Therefore, we must carefully consider ways that we can both alleviate pressure on the registry and ensure that our aircraft transactions are taking no longer to process than necessary.
In theory, the registration process seems rather straightforward. In practice, the nuances of the registry are complex and delays resulting from improper registration can be costly to an owner or a transaction. With today’s hurdles, a transaction cannot afford to be delayed by an erroneous filing. Doing so could turn a 6-month registration process into a 12-month one. When planning your transaction, be certain every aspect of your documents is in order.
Another recommendation for a timely registration is to purchase an aircraft using a simple transaction structure. The perfect aircraft for your mission may have popped up on the market, but you must consider its current registration, location, airframe and equipment life and history. As the elements surrounding a transaction become increasingly complex, the speed of the transaction will likely slow down. Your team must have the experience required for documenting and interpreting an aircraft’s circumstances and give a clear understanding of what to expect from your transaction.
Gilchrist Aviation Law is ready to handle the closing and registration of any type of aircraft. From single-engine aircraft to helicopters, business jets, to commercial jets, our team can be a vital partner in the acquisition of your newest asset.