The Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") is softening its regulations for aircraft owners. On November 22, 2022, the FAA published a direct final rule in the Federal Register that lengthens valid aircraft registration from three (3) years to seven (7) years (the "Rule"). The Rule amends the duration of all Certificates of Aircraft Registration ("Registration Certificates") issued under Part 47 of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations ("Part 47"). Additionally, the Rule removes the requirement that the FAA issue a letter extending temporary authorization if a registration has not been issued or denied within 90 days of application. The Rule is anticipated to become effective on January 23, 2023.
This new registration Rule is prompted by the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, where Congress directed the FAA to extend the three-year period to seven for noncommercial general aviation aircraft. However, the FAA rebuffed the burden of distinguishing between commercial and noncommercial general aviation aircraft as impractical and instead opted to create a seven-year registration period for all aircraft.
A primary goal of the Rule is to alleviate administrative burden; thus, its scope is broad in effect. The Rule will not only apply to new initial Registration Certificates going forward, but also to existing valid Registration Certificates. New initial Registration Certificates and renewal registrations issued after the effective date will expire seven (7) years after the last day of the month in which either is issued. Moreover, the duration of "valid registrations in effect on the date of this direct final rule will be extended such that the total term of registration will be seven years from the date of issuance of the currently valid renewal, notwithstanding the expiration date on the Certificate of Aircraft Registration."
The published Rule provides the following table for clarification:
If the certificate was issued in ____
The certificate expires in ____
The Rule's Other Amendments to Part 47
As previously mentioned, the Rule amends Part 47 by removing the time limit within which the FAA must either issue a letter extending temporary authority to continue to operate, or deny the application, as required by 14 CFR 47.31(c)(1). The FAA's rationale behind this change is that Section 47.31(c)(2) provides for a 12-month overall limit on temporary authority, making the Extension Letter unnecessary and unduly burdensome on the agency and the applicant.
Furthermore, the Rule amends Section 47.40 by adding a subsection (c) which requires aircraft owners to submit a registration form and fee to update a registration at any time prior to the expiration date of the Registration Certificate if the information provided to the FAA Registry is determined inaccurate. Because the Rule elongates the time period between registrations, the FAA anticipates more frequent updates to registry information. Accordingly, this new regulation allows the FAA to compel new registration or early renewal as a method to clean the public registry records for the sake of accountability and transparency. Previously, it had no authority to do so under Party 47, thus hamstringing the FAA's efforts to correct registration inaccuracies.
Reasons for a Direct Final Rule:
Typically, when an administrative agency attempts to amend its rules and regulations, it is required to follow and meet a lengthy and costly notice and public comment procedure to effectuate the change ("Notice of Proposed Rulemaking"). However, an agency will issue a direct final rule as an expedited form of rulemaking when it anticipates the rule will be noncontroversial and is not likely to receive any adverse comments.
Here, the FAA will receive and accept comments for a 30-day period following its publication in the Federal Register, but it appears that the FAA's direct final rulemaking will prove appropriate. It accomplishes desired benefits to both the administrative agency and the aviation industry. In fact, the National Business Aviation Association has already given its public endorsement of the Rule's extension of the duration of Registration Certificates to seven (7) years.
NBAA director of flight operations and regulations Brian Koester remarked: "We applaud the FAA for hearing our concerns over the current requirements and making this change. The new rule comes with tangible benefits that will help drive convenience and efficiency for business aircraft owners."
Suppose no adverse comments are submitted to the FAA within the 30-day comment period. In that case, the FAA will publish a confirmation notice in the Federal Register within 15 days after the comment period closes and will announce the exact effective date of the Rule, which as stated above, could be as early as January 23, 2023.