Expired Registration Woes

If your registration expires soon, should you still consider flying?

Tip Aircraft Registration
Tip Aircraft RegistrationTip Aircraft Registration

If the registration for your airplane is expiring at the end of this month and the government shutdown continues past October 31, you could face a thorny proposition: Should you consider your airplane grounded or keep flying as though nothing has happened?

Based on an unscientific survey of pilots on online message boards, most appear to be taking the position that if FAA employees are on furlough there won't be anybody around to perform ramp checks, and so why not continue flying on an expired registration?

That's a bad idea. As Robert Goyer discovered earlier this year while unwittingly flying a Cirrus with an expired registration, an unregistered airplane in the ATC system sets off alarm bells for controllers. In other words, the FAA will know about it without ever having to conduct a ramp check.

There's also the question of insurability. If you have an incident or accident in an unregistered airplane, you're in violation of your sacred duty as pilot in command to ensure all pertinent regulations are adhered to on every flight. In this instance, your insurance company could take one look at your expired registration and refuse to pay your claim.

The good news is that aircraft registrations don't expire until the end of the month, so there's still time for Congress and President Obama to agree to on a compromise that reopens the federal government. Or — short of that — Congress could craft legislation that allows the FAA to reopen its registration office in Oklahoma City.

If neither of these scenarios comes to pass and the FAA Registry remains closed into November, our advice is simple: Don't fly on an expired registration. The potential negative consequences of doing so just aren't worth it.

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