FAA offers registry searches

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 (registry.faa.gov), 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. Users can also search by state and county, serial number (similar to a vehicle identification number), owner names and more.

Since April 4, when the N-number search option went live, users have made about 800,000 queries, 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. As with license plates, aircraft owners often request personalized numbers, Lash said.

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