airplane tail numbers

What Do Airplane Tail Numbers Mean?

If you happen to have your pilot’s license, the odds are good that you know a fair amount about airplanes. In fact, you have probably been pretty enamored by aircraft since you were a child, getting to know the various different makes and models. Perhaps you can identify a plane and the year it was built just by looking at it. Of course, as you trained to become a pilot, you got to learn how these aircraft work inside and out. If you are relatively new to aviation as a hobby, though, there may still be things that you need to learn. One such item might be airplane tail numbers, which are also known as N-numbers. These alphanumeric strings are issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and they play an important role in your airplane’s documentation.

The FAA, as you likely know, has a number of important duties when it comes to regulating the airspace above the United States. Not only does this agency issue pilot licensing exams, but they also manage air traffic control at airports across the country. Additionally, the FAA manages a comprehensive database of all aircraft operating within the country–this registry is key to protecting our skies and crafting new legislation and safety guidelines. As a part of this registry, the FAA issues N-numbers in order to identify registered aircraft. If you own or are thinking about buying an airplane, you should know that you cannot take off without a valid registration and N-number.

How Do You Get Airplane Tail Numbers?

The practice of assigning airplane tail numbers has been around since the 1919 International Air Navigation Convention. At that conference, it was decided that different countries would use different letters to identify their aircraft. The United States was given the letter “N.” Though the process has evolved a bit, N-numbers are still very much used by the FAA. A typical tail number will begin with the letter “N,” and then be followed by three to five numbers, sometimes bookended with one or two additional letters. When you register an aircraft for the first time, you have the option to request a custom N-number, provided it is not already in use.

To get your aircraft tail number, there is a process that you will need to complete. You will need to source and complete what is called an FAA Form AC 8050-1 – Aircraft Registration Application. This document will serve to register your aircraft with the FAA. To complete this form, you will want to provide your name and address, as well as the make, model, and serial number of your aircraft. Once completed, you can process your registration with the FAA’s office in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. FAA registrations are valid for a duration of three years, at which point the registration holder will need to submit a renewal request.

airplane tail numbers

Apply for Your Tail Number Online

Get your tail number by completing an AC 8050-1 online. We have fillable web forms for this and a number of other FAA paperwork matters. To learn more, take a look around our website, or visit our Frequently Asked Questions page today.