Who is eligible to register an aircraft in the U.S.?
- An individual who is a U.S. citizen.
- A partnership where each partner is an individual U.S. citizen.
- A corporation or association organized under State laws in which the president and at least two thirds of the board of directors and other managing officers are U.S. citizens, and at least 75% of the voting interest is owned or controlled by U.S. citizens.
- An individual citizen of a foreign country lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the U.S.
- A U.S. government unit or subdivision.
- A non-U.S. citizen corporation organized and doing business under the laws of the U.S. or one of the States if the aircraft is based and primarily used in the U.S. Sixty percent of all flight hours must be from flights starting and ending in the United States.
- According to the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), any party who qualifies as a U.S. citizen or a resident alien can hold legal title to an aircraft in trust for a third party, pursuant to a written trust agreement that is submitted to and filed with the FAA.
What if an aircraft owner does not meet FAA requirements for U.S. registration?
Entities not eligible for aircraft ownership under FAA requirements may still have legal and valid reasons for registering their aircraft in the United States. For these individuals or entities, including public figures or publicly traded corporations, establishing a trust is normally the best and most common way to maintain registration in the U.S.
An aircraft trust agreement is entered between a trustor/beneficiary and a trustee when the legal title to an aircraft is transferred to the trustee. Legal title, and U.S registration, are then issued in the trustee’s name. This structure has been in use and approved by the FAA for over forty years, and all owner trustees are under the same obligation as all other aircraft owners to comply with FAA laws and regulations. Accordingly, any member of the public examining FAA records can identify the trustor/beneficiary.
People register aircraft in trust for a variety of reasons – the most common relate to the FAA being a desirable registry that is widely respected. Because of this, if the aircraft remains U.S. or ‘N-registered’, a higher resale value is generally assured.
Many publicly traded U.S. companies, including commercial airlines, choose to place their aircraft in an owner trust structure, because the FAA’s requirements (that the president, 2/3 of board of directors, and 75% voting interest reside in U.S. citizens) can be difficult to determine in a large corporate structure, and can be subject to change over time.
Do you require proof of insurance from your clients?
As an established business practice and contractual requirement all our trustors/beneficiaries are obligated to insure, maintain, and operate the aircraft, and we require an annual proof of insurance from each of our clients to stay registered in trust.
Prior to closing, we follow a standard process to gather relevant information on the ownership, management and control of all potential clients. Our process is based on the federal Know Your Customer (KYC) laws. These laws do not apply to our company, but we developed and implemented protocols to make sure we appropriately vet prospective trustors/beneficiaries according to their guidelines. A transaction isn’t closed until we are satisfied that we have accurate responses to our KYC questions.
Why are many aircraft registered to the same address?
The registered address at the FAA in most cases is not where the aircraft is ‘based and primarily used’. The FAA currently requires the main address of the company or registered owner (i.e. trustee’s address), but most planes are hangared in a different location.
What is AGC’s relationship with the FAA?
The FAA provides workstations to all title companies and law firms who work in this area, request a workspace and pay a reasonable fee – allowing for more efficient services to customers with the nearby Public Documents Room (PDR). The PDR is also open to the public after standard security screening. There is no special access or treatment given to the title companies and law firms that have workspaces at the FAA.