FAA provides aircraft number search

A Federal Aviation Administration unit has added a "tail number" search capability to its Web-based aircraft registry, enabling tax officials, safety inspectors, aviation enthusiasts and others to look up information based on a plane's "license plate."

The FAA's Civil Aviation Registry, based in Oklahoma City, added the tail or "N-number" search capability to facilitate queries regarding all U.S. registered civilian aircraft, said Mark Lash, manager of the registry. In the United States, every civilian aircraft has an individual tag—similar to an automobile license plate—that begins with the letter N and is displayed on its body, often on its tail. The number is an easy identifier for those seeking more information on a particular aircraft.

By entering a number, searchers can obtain information on an aircraft's manufacturer and model, registered owner or co-owners, engine type, weight and more. The information is public and has no Privacy Act restrictions, Lash said. Searches can also be made by state and county, serial number (similar to a vehicle identification number, or VIN), owner names and more.

Since April 4, when the N-number search option went live, users have made 788,975 queries with it, Lash said. Before the Web-based directory became available, a registry database was available for downloading, but in most cases searchers didn't need all of the information provided. In addition, the database was updated only once a month, while the online service is updated daily. There are about 325,000 aircraft records in the database, Lash said.

By providing a more detailed search capability, registry officials will be able to provide better service when aviation community members have questions, Lash said. "One of the biggest benefits for us is [that] it cuts down on our phone calls," he said, adding that those who do call will be able to ask more detailed questions.

In addition to N-number searching, visitors can reserve or renew a number for themselves and pay for it online. Like license plates, aircraft owners often request personalized numbers for themselves, Lash said.

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