Aircraft Titles 101: How to Search for FAA Records

By Jason Zilberbrand

April 13, 2021 Educational

There is no greater freedom than soaring among the clouds. Whether you are shopping for business or pleasure, shopping for an aircraft is often the antithesis of that freedom. Trying to figure out the maze of technical details and prices can be mind-boggling.

It doesn't have to be hard, though! There are tons of ways to help match you with a perfect airplane. From accessing FAA records to negotiating lien dismissal, there are several ways to help you take to the skies!

Keep reading below to learn more about some of them!

But First the Basics

Anyone considering purchasing an aircraft will have a basic knowledge of what they are looking for and what it is worth. What is less well known is how to access the registration and titles of an aircraft. While a seller may provide their own information on the aircraft, the best practice is to do your own research.

There are several different entities that you will see on your journey to discovering the full history of your aircraft. From title companies to third-party sites promising to request records on your behalf, it is important to know which is reputable.

While some reputable companies can take the task of tracking down records off your plate, most buyers prefer to find records on their own. The most surefire way to acquire complete and accurate records and title information is to go through the FAA directly. It is a simple and affordable way to look up aircraft records without having to involve another party.

Evidence Is Everything

A man may be as good as his word, but that means little in this day and age. There are countless stories of folks believing that all the paperwork was in order at purchase only to find out that they've inherited a financial nightmare. Avoid the hassle by getting your own papers in order.

It is easy to access the FAA records on any aircraft and have them on hand. It may seem like a hassle for many buyers, but it is important to be prepared. After all, having the ability to bring your own evidence to the bargaining table is the key to assuring the quality of your purchase.

Go to the Source With FAA Records

The FAA website provides a plethora of useful information for anyone looking to buy or sell an aircraft. This includes information such as the registration, any valid airworthiness certificates, notices of liens, and previous owner information. If there is a specific piece of information that you need, it is nearly guaranteed that you will find it within the FAA Records for an aircraft.

For twenty U.S. dollars, you can have a certified copy of an aircraft's records sent directly to you either on paper or in a digital format. Requesting them is as easy as going to the FAA website and having the N- Number and the serial number on hand. After your payment is complete, the records will arrive at your address in about a week.

Another bonus of getting your records directly from the FAA is that they can provide certification. This extra step ensures the validity of the documents you receive, as well as protecting against any erroneous claims against the aircraft. Likewise, if a seller will not provide a certified copy of documents, it is best to consider that a red flag about the aircraft.

Sifting the Wheat From the Chaffe

When you receive your records, there will be approximately seventy-five pages of information certificates that you will need to sort through. While this may seem overwhelming, knowing what to look for is half the battle. There are some keywords to look for that pertain to the process of purchasing specific.

If you see the words incident or accident on any page, it's time to stop skimming and take a closer look. A reported incident is not necessarily a red flag for the aircraft. Rather, it is something to take note of and have the information at hand for inspection and negotiation purposes.

The next keyword is a lien. If there is a lien against an aircraft, take a moment to consider if you want to go through the process of getting it dismissed. While this is not impossible, it is time-consuming and can delay take-off by several months.

Finally, search for bank-owned or repossessed. As with car purchasing, know that if a bank owns it, there is a reason. Failure to pay often comes with the additional baggage of revenge damage an inspector needs to be aware of.

Accidents Happen

One of the most harrowing moments in any pilot's life is an incident with their aircraft. From dinging pylons on the way into a hanger to making an unscheduled landing, every incident requires a report to the FAA. These are all kept with the records of every aircraft.

An additional inspection usually follows reported incidents to reconfirm the airworthiness of a craft. If you do not see an updated airworthiness certification in the documentation following an incident, then be wary of the craft in question. It is not a definite no-go, but it is something to be concerned about.

Lien Away

A significantly common item that you will find among aircraft records is a notice of a lien. A lien is a statement that an object, in this case, the aircraft, is to be used as collateral against the debt. While a lien is not the same as an aircraft being bank-owned, it does require an understanding that communicating with the holding entity will be required.

If you are on a time crunch, then you may want to pass on trying to buy the associated aircraft. Dismissal of liens is required to obtain ownership of an aircraft. A dismissal is often obtainable, though it is a time-consuming and often frustrating process to handle independently.

Take off With Confidence

While knowing is half the battle, the battle is easily fought. By acquiring FAA records on a potential purchase, you can have all confidence in your new aircraft.

If all of this seems like too much work, or you want a professional's help, the best company out there for aircraft record verification is VREF. Just subscribe to us online you want a professional's help and to learn more about planes!