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My perfect aircraft register?

We are often asked to advise which aircraft registry is best for a client. The answer should be a simple one, however, an increasing range of competing factors and the ever growing list of new aircraft registers has complicated matters.

One of the easiest ways to narrow down the potential options is to consider the primary use and location of the aircraft. For example, if the primary use will be third party charter then the choices will be immediately narrowed to a register on which commercial air transport is permitted. Similarly, if the aircraft will be located, operated and flown within one primary location there is often a strong argument to register the aircraft in that location (especially if that jurisdiction has a reputation for ramp checking foreign registered aircraft!).

Continuing the elimination process, the matters of tax, finance and security are considered:

Tax: an aircraft entering a jurisdiction on a regular basis or a client having a right of residency in multiple jurisdictions can cause unintended tax consequences. Mitigation of such tax consequences may become a significant factor in selecting one registry over another. For example, if a non EU client is flying into the EU on a regular basis it may be possible to use temporary admission (rather than a full import) on entry into the EU. However, as temporary admission is only available for certain aircraft owners and registries (EU or Isle of Man registered aircraft are not permitted to use TA and Channel Islands registered aircraft may only use TA if the owner is a residents of those islands) the client would want to make a selection of registry based on tax advice.

Finance and security: if an aircraft is financed by a third party, the ability to register security against that aircraft (and ease of enforcement in a default situation) will be of key importance to the financier. Simple differences in jurisdictional laws may deter a specific registration being an option for some financiers. For example it is not possible to register a mortgage against an Austrian registered aircraft; this could be an issue for a financier who uses an aircraft mortgage as a standard part of their security package.

Sadly it is often only at this stage that consideration is given to the regulatory and safety standards of a registry. Notwithstanding this, the flexibility of the register to accept aircraft of different certification types, high safety standards and good standing with ICAO are influencing factors. Moreover, and particularly true of the 'new' aircraft registers, the standards of service provided to those using the register (including the operations and maintenance team who will have more regular contact with the registry) will encourage the choice of one registry over another for reasons of efficiency, helpfulness and ease of access.

By no way last and certainly not least is the desire to have a registration linked to the clients' nationality or to achieve a vanity (non-sequential) registration mark. While this may not seem like an important factor, if the client is passionate about this it can become a significant component in the desire to purchase the aircraft.

Taken as a whole, it is important to understand the clients' purpose and how and where the aircraft will be used before setting out to choose an aircraft registry. There will always be some factors that will drive the choice even if they do not always appear to be as logical as others to the transaction parties. However, while the choice of registry is generally flexible given the factors discussed above, it does remain an important choice. Moreover the choice must be made in advance of completion as registration does require more than just a selection and payment!

So which is the perfect registry? Well that depends! The above are only a few factors which may influence choice of registry. There is a current trend towards fashionable and/or new registries that promote efficiencies, high service standards and USP's that the traditional registries are unable to provide. However, fashion should be secondary to the actual needs of the client even if they are 2-COOL, G-REAT or D-BANG.

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