Guide to Offshore Aircraft Registration

The process of registering an aircraft with an offshore registry is a relatively simple one. However, there is no clear-cut, single checklist to reference to get this task done.

A reputable offshore aircraft registry is one that is fully compliant with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines. Although some States’ requirements differ from ICAO, like the FAA in the US, overall, the requirements and guidelines for aircraft registration and renewal of registration are universally aligned to ensure that every aircraft is in compliance with the airworthiness and operations requirements set forth and that the aircraft remains in a condition for safe operation.

ICAO maintains the standards for aircraft registration, which includes the alphanumeric code that identifies the country where each aircraft is registered. Every aircraft must be registered with a single aviation authority in accordance with ICAO for the purposes of identifying the nationality assigned to the aircraft and designated by the registration mark appearing on the aircraft.

In turn, that specific registry then accepts international responsibility that every aircraft it registers meets, or exceeds, the ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices for Airworthiness, Operating Standards and Licensing.

The Certificate of Airworthiness (CoA) inspection and necessary documentation for the renewal of CoA is typically valid for a period of one year. With the implementation of performance-based oversight, a longer validity period can be offered, depending on the outcome of a risk assessment.

To renew the Certificate of Airworthiness, the applicable registry will require some type of form to be submitted, along with a summary of maintenance status performed, and payment of the associated costs for a new Certificate of Airworthiness. The application cost of the CoA is based on the MTOW (maximum takeoff weight) or MTOM (maximum takeoff mass) of the aircraft.

Each registry has its own protocol with regard to the inspection requirements, but since many offshore registries have a focus on providing outstanding customer service levels, in many cases, an aircraft is not required to fly to the location of its registry for its inspection and renewal. Many registries will be able to arrange for an inspector to meet the aircraft and perform the necessary inspections where the aircraft is at the time the renewal is needed.

The process – and cost – for aircraft registration varies from one registry and country to another, and while there are some differences in the fee structures, the overall costs are fairly equal. When the initial research is being done to select a specific offshore aircraft registry, this is also an ideal time to request the specific instructions, forms and all associated fees involved in maintaining the aircraft year to year with this registry.

It's also important to take note that in addition to the registration and renewal requirements under the ICAO, many offshore civil aircraft registries must abide by their local governing laws and regulations, which also may involve further forms and costs. Doing the homework on all of the above, up-front, is essential to ensure there are no surprises or issues maintaining an aircraft's flight privileges. The local staff will usually be a wonderful resource to turn to, as well as the specific registry's website, to verify the most current requirements are being referenced when the time comes to registering your aircraft.