airplane tail numbers

What Do Airplane Tail Numbers Mean? A 2022 Update

An airplane is a truly remarkable feat of engineering. With all of the mechanical components and design elements coming together to enable flight, planes instill a sense of wonder in individuals of all stripes. One aircraft aspect that you may find yourself curious about in particular are airplane tail numbers. If you have an interest in aviation that extends to the possibility of purchasing a plane, you will want to have a strong grasp of identification numbers and the registration process.

airplane tail numbers

N-Numbers and Other Identification Markers

If you have ever taken a moment to observe an airplane, taking note of its overall structure, you have probably noticed that there are a series of numbers placed on the tail. This number is commonly referred to as an “N-number” in the world of aviation, and it serves as a mode of identification for an airplane.

In the United States, N-numbers have been in use since 1949. These numbers are used for all types of aircraft, from large passenger jets to small prop planes. As the name implies, these numbers start with the letter “N” and are followed by several digits. They can also end with one or two letters, barring the letters “I” and “O”, as they could potentially be confused for ones and zeroes. 

In some rare cases, you may see a plane that has an identification number that starts with a letter besides “N”. For example, you may come across numbers that begin with “X” (experimental aircraft), “S” (an aircraft owned by the state), or “R” (a restricted aircraft). These planes would have been registered before 1948, so it is unlikely they are still in service, though they may be neat to look at.

Getting Your Initial Registration, Airplane Tail Numbers, and More

Have you recently purchased an airplane and are seeking to get tail numbers of your own? The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows for some customization in the selection of your number. When submitting your registration documents, you can list the numbers that you would like to have on your plane’s tail. Provided these numbers are not already in use, as every n-number must be unique, you can put your individual touch on your plane with a chosen N-number.

No matter what FAA documentation you need, you may find that working with a private service, such as ours at the National Aviation Center, can save you time and money. We offer all of the forms you need on one convenient website and you can submit these easy-to-fill forms online through our secure portal.

Work with Us Today to Get Your Documents

Whether you need an aircraft registration, certificate of airworthiness, or an aircraft security agreement, the National Aviation Center can help. Take a few minutes to browse our offerings to see which forms suit your needs. If you have any questions, feel free to contact one of our helpful customer service representatives.