Friday, February 22, 2008

Changing An Aircraft N-Number

If you regularly read this blog you may have noticed that N252Q is also referred to as N5236G. When I bought 252Q she was named N5236G. We are changing the N-Number as part of the Exterior Restoration Project. Changing an aircraft registration number is not difficult, but there are several steps that have to be completed. Some of my frequent blog readers are considering a number change, so I thought I would write a bit about the process.

There are many reasons why owners want to change their registration number. Most of the time it is simply to change it to something that means something to them like a personalized license plate on their car. Personally I didn't have a problem with 5236G, but when I speak with others over the radio they often transposed the numbers. 5236G is simply too many numbers that does not flow easily when being regurgitated back over the airways. It is irritating to me and the controllers to constantly repeat ourselves, so one of the first decisions I made when deciding to upgrade 36G was to change the N-number to something easier to say and read back.

How to Find a Number
The FAA has a nice search site that will let you search a range of numbers with the same ending letters. This is easy to use. You type in the first box the letter(s) you would like the number to end with, then a starting number range in the second and an ending number range in the third. For example, I entered JK as the letters, the starting number of 100 and ending number of 199 and got the following numbers that are available:
110JK 113JK 116JK 119JK 120JK 122JK 128JK 132JK 134JK 135JK
136JK 138JK 139JK 141JK 142JK 143JK 144JK 146JK 151JK 152JK
154JK 155JK 156JK 157JK 158JK 160JK 161JK 163JK 164JK 166JK
168JK 169JK 175JK 176JK 178JK 181JK 183JK 184JK 189JK 194JK
195JK 196JK 197JK 198JK 199JK

Many people like their numbers ending in the same letters and this search site makes it quick and simple to find one. However, since my Mooney is the coveted 252, I thought it would be nice to use 252 as the base numbers and then add one or worse case two letters at the end. In other words, I wanted to keep the numbers and change the ending letters. I was not able to find an automated way to do this on the FAA website, so I had to do it by trial and error...

I'm sure there is an easier way, but what I did was go to the main FAA N-Number inquiry site and started searching for 252a, 252b, 252c, 252d, etc. until I found a few that were available. This is a tedious process, but only took a few minutes to blast through the alphabet. All you have to do is search for the first number, click the back button on your browser, change to the next letter and submit the query again...

There were only four 252 N-Numbers available:
252H - 252Q - 252W - 252Y

We decided to use N252Q because Quebec is unique, clear and easy to say.
By the way, as of this writing the other numbers are available. If you are a 252 driver thinking of changing your N-Number you may want to reserve one of these. When the numbers are used they are typically gone forever.

Reserving Your New N-Number
After finding an N-Number, the next thing to do is reserve it by using the FAA N-Number Registration Site. Currently the cost to do this is $10.00 per year, but there are talks of increasing the fee to help the FAA raise funds from other sources besides the Federal Government. AOPA has many articles on the subject of user fees...

NOTE: The FAA will send a reminder via postal mail every year about a month before the reservation expires. You will have to pay this fee every year until it is transferred to an actual airplane. If you miss the annual renewal they will release the number back into circulation.

When you reserve your new number on the site above it is important to register it using the name and address that appears on your aircraft registration. It can slow the transfer process down considerably if it isn't clear to the Registry Office who owns what. If they are in different names (e.g. personal name on one company name on the other), you will have to prove ownership of both the airplane and the new N-Number before the Feds will process the paperwork. If the names and addresses are the same a simple letter is all it takes to get the transfer process started.

How to transfer your number to your airplane?
It is very simple to find a number and to reserve it online. However, the FAA will only accept transfer requests in writing that are signed by the registered owner (or officer if a company). The FAA site is clear that you need to send the request to them in writing, but they aren't clear on where to send the letter or what to say. Here's what you need to do.

The correspondence address for all Registry inquiries is:

ATTN: Aircraft Registration
Federal Aviation Administration
PO BOX 25504
Oklahoma City OK 73125

The Aircraft Registration Office phone number is not that easy to find on the website. Here's the number if you have questions about the process or want to check the status of your paperwork:

(866) 704-4715

I was not able to find a canned letter on the FAA website and they were not clear on what you need to say. I did a bit of research and found out that they will accept just about anything as long as it is legible and includes the Make, Model, Serial Number, current N-Number, what you want to do (e.g. transfer a N-Number) and it is signed in ink.

Here's a copy of the letter I wrote. Feel free to use it as a guideline:
No, we're not done yet!
Sending the above letter will get the process started, but we're not done yet. The letter is only the first step in the transfer process.

NOTE: At this point you are NOT authorized to change your N-Number or remove your old one. Doing so is a Federal Crime!

You may have noticed in the letter above that I requested FAA Form 8050-64, Assignment of Special Registration Numbers. Form 8050-64 is the form that the registration office sends back to you that authorizes the Number change process to begin.

Nope, we're not ready yet!
After receiving form 8050-64 you are now authorized to move froward with the N-Number change. You may remove the old number and paint the new one on the airplane. At this point, however, the plane is grounded. You have 5-days after removing the old N-Number to change your Airworthiness Certificate to one that reflects the new number.

NOTE: The Airworthiness Certificate is often an overlooked piece of paper in the back of the plane, but it is actually one of the most important documents in an aircraft. Getting a certificate replaced if lost is a monumental task. Trust me, You do not want to loose this certificate! A plane is grounded until it is replace and it could take months!

The FAA realizes the Airworthiness Certificate is a critical piece of paper, so they require that you visit a local FAA Field Office (FISDO) to exchange it for a new one. You will need to bring a copy of the form 8050-64 with you. The field office will keep your old certificate and you will get a brand new certificate with the new N-Number.

We're almost done!
There is one last step in the process. You now need to change your aircraft registration to reflect the new N-Number. To do this you simply sign and date the Form 8050-64 and mail it back to the Registry Office within 5-days after painting the new number on the plane. The aircraft may be flown after the Airworthiness Certificate is swapped, but you must also have a copy of form 8050-64 in the aircraft along with the original registration. The Feds will send the new registration paperwork to the address where the aircraft is registered.


Jim Savage said...

This is a great reference document. I'm currently thinking about changing my N number and have already reserved a new number. However, prior to reading this, I really didn't know what all of the subsequent steps would be. This answers all of my questions.

Anonymous said...

This is very helpful. What did you have to do to the transponder, ELT, etc.?

Mooney N252Q said...

252Q has a Mode-S Transponder, so you go into the configuration page of the unit and change the N-Number. It's very easy; however, unless you have a Mode-S unit (e.g. Mode-C) you don't need to do anything to the transponder.

We currently have a legacy 121.5 MHz ELT. Those units do not send specific Aircraft Data. Nothing needed to be done. If you have one of the newer 406 MHz units, you go into the website and update the aircraft info (these details come with the unit).

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have a Cessna 150 with the number N29X and was wondering if the number itself has any value due to it's low status. I know license plates with low numbers are very valuable. Can this number be transferred to another plane?



Mooney N252Q said...

Numbers are valuable if they mean something to someone, but in and of itself it probably isn't worth much. There are still a lot of 2 number/1 letter combos available.

You can transfer to another plane, but you first have to decom your current number. You can select an option to reserve your old number when transferring your new number to the plane. The FAA will charge $10/year to keep it.