FAA Has No Clue About Who Owns Approximately 1/3 Of All Private And Commercial Planes

from the our-government-at-work dept

johnjac points us to the news that the FAA’s record keeping is so bad that it is “missing key information” on who owns 119,000 out of 357,000 registered private and commercial airplanes. Apparently, the FAA is so bad at record keeping that its solution is to phase out every plane’s registration and demand that everyone apply for a new registration to get its database back on track. Apparently, the old system was that you just had to register once, and then you were responsible for letting the FAA know if info changed, but not everyone does that. So, basically, the FAA is rather clueless about approximately 1/3 of what’s in the sky.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: faa

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “FAA Has No Clue About Who Owns Approximately 1/3 Of All Private And Commercial Planes”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Michial Thompson (user link) says:

Re: It's not like there is a rash of unknown plane incidents

Airplanes was one of the last sensibly registered things in this country…

The FAA has numerous requirements for maintenance on planes in order for them to be airworthy which makes sense, Registration is when you first buy it which puts you as owner of record for the plane. Then you are obligated to send in a change of address if you move and that is essentially all.

At the state levels you have some issues with taxes, but it’s in the states with Property (not land) Taxes.

It sounds like the FAA is about to complicate a system that doesn’t need it.

As for the airplanes that they have no clue about, most likey most of them aren’t airworthy and will never fly again anyway.

Vidiot (profile) says:

Re-documenting only works with follow-up

It’s not unheard of to try to fix a porous system by requiring a one-time re-documentation… witness the large number of US states which forced drivers to appear in person with multiple high-value forms of identification, once the high number of phony licenses became apparent. The issue here, though, is follow-up — a small plane with a lapsed or incorrect registration still has its original “N-number” painted on the tail, and unless the FAA begins spot-inspections in the field, it’s possible to completely avoid any contact with system. In a few years’ time, you’re back to an identical state of affairs… once-registered aircraft now junked or sold, leaving meaningless entries on the books.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re-documenting only works with follow-up

For that matter is there any review or enforcement linking the tail number to actual registration documents. I can’t imagine that it would be difficult to register a plane, then get out a bucket of paint and put the same tail number on 3 more planes. Would anyone notice as long as you didn’t park them next to each other.

Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

I don't know that I'd blame the FAA...

…because every time they try to do something sensible, they get shot down by Congress, et al. Quite a few of my family members work for, and have worked for, the FAA, and they’ve all been frustrated, time and time again, as their ability to both enforce existing regulations and to pass new regulations have been stymied.

MD says:

Let's Be Fair

Most of these planes are probably small 2 or 4-seaters that have either been retired, or owners have neglected to keep up the paperwork when they are sold. Add a few dodgy owners (drug smuggling) and the occasional paperwork flub, and I.m not surprised the numbers are that high. There’s no paperwork requirement to say “my plan no longer flies”.

he simplest path is to make various actions – airworthiness cert, flight plans, air traffic control use, etc. – require valid registration.

The other problem is that real enforcement means money, and I bet the FAA has been starved for small plane rule enforcement, concentrating on other issues.

Freedom says:

For what's it worth...

There is no federal tax on airplanes. At least in Arizona, you do have to register with the state and renew your registration on a yearly basis. In case you were wondering, AZ feeds off the FAA database, not the other way around. The registration fee is also minimal in AZ.

Taxes are paid to feed the FAA via embedded fuel taxes.

In the US, we enjoy a great deal of freedom to fly. Most smaller plane pilots are able to fly as easy as someone drives around town – they just hop into the plane and go without talking to a tower, FAA, etc.

In short, even if the FAA had a 100% accurate ownership database, they still could never know who and what is flying in the skies at any single point of time without a massive change in the system.

In the small plane world, a pilot will only deal with the FAA when they’ve broken some rule and gotten caught. In that case, then the FAA will make sure everything is in order, but the system is very much a reactive system and definitely not a proactive/check-point system.

Just my two cents – freedoms are extremely hard to obtain and yet we give them up so easily. Only in a country as rich as America would you give up your Freedoms AND gladly pay more taxes to Uncle Sam to “protect you”.


Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...