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How to Receive Temporary Authority to Operate an Aircraft While Waiting on FAA Registration

Updated: May 17, 2023

Generally speaking, an aircraft may only be operated when it has been registered with the FAA in the name of its owner. This means that prior to initial operation the owner of an aircraft must apply to the FAA for registration pursuant to 14 CFR §47 and then wait for the FAA to approve the FAA Form 8050-1 Aircraft Registration Application (“Application”) and issue a Certificate of Aircraft Registration (“COR”). As of the date of this article the FAA requires between five and six weeks to process documents including Applications. If you are just flying for fun, waiting five to six weeks is inconvenient. If you are flying for business, waiting five to six weeks could be detrimental to your bottom line.

Fortunately, there are a couple ways to operate an aircraft before the FAA issues a COR. One way involves placing a second copy of the Application onboard the aircraft once the original has been duly filed with the FAA. This second copy of the Application grants temporary authority to operate the aircraft for up to 90 days while awaiting the COR.

Until recently the “second copy of the Application” referred to the pink carbon copy attached to the back of all Application forms. The “Pink Copy,” as it is commonly referred to, would simply be detached from the Application upon completion and sent to the location of the aircraft. Then, once the Application had been duly filed, the Pink Copy would act as the second copy of the Application for purposes of temporary authority to operate the aircraft. However, in early 2016, the FAA announced that Pink Copy Applications would be phased out and a new electronic Application form was introduced as a replacement.

The electronic form is similar to the Pink Copy form with the only real difference being that the electronic form only requires a photocopy of such to be placed onboard the aircraft for temporary authority to operate. Some remaining Pink Copy forms are still in circulation and they remain acceptable, but the FAA will not print more. We will still see Pink Copies in use for some time to come even though the electronic form is easier to use.

Unfortunately using a second copy of the Application as your basis for temporary authorization to operate an aircraft has two major downsides. First, the second copy can only be used when the aircraft being registered was last previously registered in the United States. Second, the second copy only grants temporary authority to operate the aircraft within the United States. This has been interpreted to include even flights that just pass over foreign soil or international waters. These downsides pose a problem for purchasers of new aircraft from a manufacturer, purchasers of aircraft previously registered in a foreign country, or purchasers who need to make an international flight.

Fortunately, there is another temporary authorization mechanism that can help. The FAA has the ability to issue a Temporary Certificate of Registration (“TCOR”) which grants full registration to operate an aircraft for a limited period of time.

The TCOR doesn’t have any of the drawbacks associated with using a second copy of the Application for temporary authority to operate, but a TCOR is more difficult to obtain and only remains valid for 30 days. In some limited instances the FAA will automatically issue a COR, such as with the import of an aircraft onto the FAA registry. But normally additional documentation must be filed to trigger the issuance of a TCOR. In most cases, this additional documentation comes in the form of a Declaration of International Operations (“DIO”). A DIO is essentially a document that tells the FAA that an international flight has been planned for the aircraft and requests that a TCOR be issued so that the flight can be made. Only once the international flight has been planned and the DIO properly submitted will the FAA issue the TCOR which must then be placed onboard the aircraft prior to its operation.

As seen above, temporary authority to operate an aircraft can be very important given the amount of time it currently takes for a COR to be issued. However, the many nuances and exceptions involved in obtaining the proper temporary authority to operate can make the process difficult. Accordingly, if you find yourself needing temporary authority to operate an aircraft and have questions, give us a call and we will be glad to help.


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