Where to Register your Private Jet: Five Tips

What are some of the key considerations to make when choosing a registry for your aircraft? Gerrard Cowan speaks to the experts, sharing five tips to help make the best decision...

Gerrard Cowan  |  21st December 2022
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    Gerrard Cowan
    Gerrard Cowan

    Gerrard Cowan is a freelance journalist who focuses on aerospace and finance. In addition to his regular...

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    Where should you register your private jet

    There are a range of aircraft registries around the world for business jet operators to choose from. What factors should be prioritized when choosing one? We spoke with industry experts to get five top tips.

    Tip 1: Ensure the Highest Safety and Regulatory Standards

    When selecting an aircraft registry there are a wide range of organizations to consider, large and small, notes Thomas Dunstan, Director General of the Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA), which oversees the Bermuda Aircraft Registry.

    “The majority of aircraft registries offer the same end product, but to enhance their overall experience and ensure their assets are well protected, there are certain areas that aircraft owners or operators should pay special attention to,” he advises.

    Safety should be top of any aviator’s list, Dunstan says, with the highest regulatory standards being a top priority. “If a registry is well-regulated and has excellent safety standards, it tends to hold a good reputation within this space.

    “It is also worth knowing that if a specific registry has a reputation for failing to adhere to any ICAO standards, this will raise red flags to a potential buyer, and may affect the resale value of an aircraft if there are any concerns,” he warns.

    A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands (CAACI) also emphasizes the importance of safety standards, noting that operators should seek “a credible, reputable registry that is responsive to owners’ or operators’ needs while ensuring aircraft are maintained and operated in compliance with, or exceeding, ICAO standards.”

    This has long been a major focus for CAACI, which has published documentation on ‘How Safety as a Priority Creates Value for Aircraft Owners’, which notes that the authority employs highly qualified and experienced full-time safety regulatory inspectors, who are in turn “supported by highly competent staff to ensure aircraft are registered, maintained and operated at the highest standards”, benefitting all stakeholders.

    Indeed, Cayman Islands-registered aircraft must have a functioning and effective Safety Management System (SMS), “which increases value by adding another layer of asset protection,” the spokesperson highlights. The SMS is a series of processes that manage compliance, risk, and other areas.

    Tip 2: Understand Your own Obligations

    Demands around safety and regulatory standards are, of course, a complex area with many obligations for the owner and operator as well as the registry.

    Simon Williams, Director of Civil Aviation at the Isle of Man Civil Aviation Administration (IOMCAA), says owners should ensure that they employ high-quality airworthiness specialists to do regular audits of their aircraft, ensuring any obligations are being met.

    Do not simply rely on the aircraft having a certificate of airworthiness, he says, “as that’s only ever reliable on the actual day of the survey...I have seen many a penalty clause come into play that proves very expensive to address and causes delay for both owner and operators.”

    Similarly, when the aircraft is ‘parked up’ the operators must ensure they “diligently follow the requirements identified by the Type Certificate (TC) holder. Many choose not to do this and may end up paying a significant cost penalty at the end when bringing the aircraft back into service,” Williams warns.

    Applicants preparing an aircraft for any register should require that the airworthiness and maintenance records needed by the state of registry for a C of A survey are clear and readily accessible, he adds.

    “This should always be one of the very earliest requirements an airworthiness specialist asks for,” he says, noting that the Isle of Man Aircraft Registry (IOMAR) RP7 document has changed little over 15 years for proven airworthiness reasons.

    “Operators not following the above items diligently can generate risk to the aircraft survey process and outcome,” he highlights. “Non-compliance findings can prove costly to address, and cause delay which can readily be avoided by following the steps required by the state of registry.”

    The level of preparation they put in will be commensurate with aircraft survey timings and duration, outcomes, and associated costs. “Failing to prepare can be preparing to fail,” Williams warns, adding that essentially it comes down to owners recognizing these fundamental elements and employing the right people to undertake the appropriate activity in a timely manner that is compliant with state of registry requirements.

    “A high-quality aircraft register will be able to advise in detail and in a timely and efficient manner, so it is worth liaising with them at the earliest opportunity,” he advises, noting that owners must be clear, and ensure that they meet the ownership requirements of the registry prior to embarking on the registration process.

    Tip 3: Look for a Simple and Straightforward Process

    Aircraft registration should be simple and straightforward, according to Dunstan. “If you can find a registry with a level of service that takes the hard work out of it for you, it will allow you to focus on the other important factors of managing a private aircraft.”

    He shares how Bermuda aims to deliver a more integrated experience for customers, providing a high degree of customer service and interaction that both enhances the experience and leads to quicker turnaround times.

    Williams highlights how owners should be clear that the registry allows for legitimate costs and ownership structures, noting that Isle of Man Aircraft Registry (IOMAR) legislation sets out circumstances to enable operations ranging from demonstration and delivery flights to the sharing of direct costs and jointly operated aircraft.

    And there are a range of other areas where operators and owners should seek clarity. Williams says they should be sure that the registry accepts the weight category of the aircraft in question, or whether it requires an export certificate of airworthiness (something not required by the Isle of Man if the aircraft holds a current Certificate of Airworthiness).

    Among other questions, owners should know whether the aircraft operator needs to be approved by the registry (not a requirement for IOMAR), “but the registered owner must nominate an operator who shall have accountability for the safe operation, management and control of the aircraft,” Williams says.

    The operator must appoint a Nominated Airworthiness Technical Representative (NATR) who is delegated responsibility for the full airworthiness management of the aircraft, as well as a Flight Operations Representative (FOR), who has responsibility for all flight operational matters.

    Tip 4: Consider the Cost Implications

    Of course, it’s always important to know the costs involved with registering your aircraft with a particular jurisdiction. Williams says that IOMAR publishes its charges on its website, while its Registry Services team can provide clients with an estimate on registering their aircraft.

    Dunstan notes that while offshore registration can have attractive cost benefits, owners and operators might not think about the number of inspectors a registry has or their geographical distribution.

    “Think about how far an inspector will have to travel to inspect your aircraft because this adds to the cost of the inspection,” he elaborates. “This expense can add up if you have more than one aircraft to consider.”

    Brian T. Richards is Director of RegisterAnAircraft (RANA) at Sovereign Group, which supports a range of private clients on registration issues. He says that particular registries could offer tax advantages to owners, though this would be a matter for tax experts, and any buyer will arrange for the most tax-efficient structure for their private or corporate interests.

    In Richards’ experience, the second-most important factor is privacy. “A client for whom I might be suggesting kidnap and ransom insurance because of their operation in global ‘hotspots’ wants a degree of anonymity,” he explains.

    While registries must look at the source of funds and client backgrounds, the fact that the ultimate beneficial owner is not immediately apparent or published online can be a big factor, according to Richards, helping explain the popularity of some jurisdictions that do not publish such a register.

    Tip 5: Seek Flexibility

    There is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ registry, Richards notes. What will work for one client will not work for another. Flexibility is the chief requirement, he says, in its widest sense.

    “This can include something as simple as being available when the client or their representative needs them – [so] being in the same time zone as the client/ aircraft base is a big advantage unless the registry runs 24/7.”

    It also encompasses customer service in its widest sense, he says. Service is important to a client, but perhaps even more so to their operators, lawyers, etc. “who need a registry that is approachable and replies to emails.” Additionally, they must have flexibility in such areas as a willingness to work with technical standards from different regulatory bodies, which makes cross-border sales more attractive.

    Karl Mills, chief commercial officer at TAG Aviation, which offers clients a range of aviation services including support with aircraft registration, reveals the company bases its approach on the owner’s operational and fiscal requirements.

    “Factors such as economics of the total operation, crew locations and licences, aircraft base, maintenance access, trip schedule lead times, the owner’s flying profile (including regular routes and remote destinations requiring additional security), aircraft onboarding timeframe, and finally third-party charter appetite can all define the chosen registry,” Mills elaborates.

    Ultimately, the main goal when choosing a registry is to maintain maximum flexibility and ease of operations. “This not only ensures efficiency when transporting the current owner but can also support a transition of ownership – prospective buyers do look favourably upon reputable registries, established brands and esteemed operators,” Mills concludes. ❚

    More information from:

    Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority: www.bcaa.bm
    Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands: www.caacayman.com/aircraft-registry/
    Isle of Man Aircraft Registry: www.iomaircraftregistry.com/safety-with-service
    Sovereign Group: www.sovereigngroup.com
    TAG Aviation: www.tagaviation.com

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