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Aircraft Registration

Oceanskies is a specialist in the registration of private and corporate aircraft

Aircraft Registration


Every aircraft must hold a registration. An aircraft's registation provides a unique identity to an aircraft and confirms its nationality and what law applies to the airworthiness and operation of that aircraft.

The choice of aircraft registry is therefore an important choice for any aircraft owner. Many factors will effect the choice of aircraft registration ranging from operational considerations such as the type of operation, flight crew licensing, airworthiness systems, maintenance regimes and cabotage restrictions.

The purchaser of a private or corporate aircraft usually has the choice of registering their aircraft in their own home country of operation or they can choose to register their aircraft in a third country registry. As private and corporate aircraft will typically operate internationally aircraft owners will often register aircraft outside of their own home territory to take advantage of operational benefits that might not be afforded by their home state.

Oceanskies works with the majority of the most popular internationally aircraft registries for private and corporate aircraft to assist owners with their initial choice and subsequent registration of their aircraft.

Aircraft Registration Markings

 In the United Sates they are most commonly called 'tail numbers' whilst in Europe and the rest of the world they are simply known as 'registrations'.

In earlier days, the registration was located on the tail of the aircraft itself, so hence the registration number is often referred to as the "tail number".

The registration applied to an aircraf is unique at that point in time in that there will be no other aircraf flying with the same registration in order to avoid confusion and/or mistaken identity.

The registraiton of an aircraft can and usually will change during its lifeitme. For exemple an aircraft may be sold betwen owners who choose their own registraiton marking or the aircraft may change nationaliy and be registered with another registry.

History Of Aircraft Registration

The first aircraft registration was issued during 1913 in London at a time when radio call signs were used for aircraft identification.

In 1919 at the International Air Navigation Convention held in Paris, specific registration numbers for all aircraft were implemented. In addition to the 1913 call-signs, aircraft registrations would begin with a letter to specify the nation of registration, followed by a hyphen and a series of four letters, of which one had to be a vowel.

The registration markings assigned to aircraft was revised and adopted in Washington during 1928. That system of registration numbers is the basis of the current registration in place today. Every registration must be prominently displayed on the aircraft in the designated place and manner.

Reading An Aircraft Registration

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) allocate each state of registry with its own specific prefix. These prefixes are allocated by the International Telecommunication Union, or ITU. Each country has its own specified tail number.

An example are the registrations assigned to aircraft registered in the United KingdomThe United Kingdom’s registration prefix, which tells the county of origin, is G. The following aircraft registration then follows after a dash with four letters, i.e. G-ABCD. Registrations can be issued in sequence or can be personalised, i.e. G-WHIZZ.

A further example are the registrations assigned to aircraft registered in the United States where the prefix is the letter "N" followed by a series of up to five alpha-numeric characters. The first character must be a digit, other than zero, and the tail number must have more than two letters together. Additionally, there must not be a letter "L" or letter "O." This is due to the fact that these letters are so close to the numbers "1" and "0."In the U.S., aircraft owners or pilots typically just refer to the designated registration number as their "N" number.

Some countries do not allow the re-allocation of markings (the United Kingdom for example) whereas many other registries allow a registration to be re-used on different aircraft provided always that only one aircraft holds a particular registration mark at any point in time.

Choosing An Aircraft Registration

 We would always recommend that owners contact us at an early stage of the acquisition process, ideally before any agreement to manufacturer or purchase is signed as the final choice of registration will impact on various contractual and practical aspects of the process.

We would always recommend that owners contact us at an early stage of the acquisition process, ideally before any agreement to manufacturer or purchase is signed as the final choice of registration will impact on various contractual and practical aspects of the process.

It is our philosophy that every owner has a unique set of circumstances and requirements and therefore we approach every situation on a bespoke case by case basis taking into account various considerations including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Nationality of aircraft owner
  • Residence of the aircraft’s principal user(s) and their passengers
  • Physical characteristics of aircraft
  • Existing registration of aircraft (if applicable)
  • Usage of aircraft (i.e. private or for charter)
  • VAT or equivalent tax status of the aircraft
  • Area of operation and primary base airport
  • Specific crew and operational considerations

Notwithstanding the above listed considerations we believe it important that simple owner preference should always be an important factor in the final choice of registry.

Further information concerning our most popular aircraft registries can be found in the guides below. 

Relevant Guides

Guernsey Aircraft Registration (2-REG)
Isle of Man Aircraft Registration (M-)
Cayman Islands Aircraft Registration (VP-C)

More information


Who to Contact


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