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Aircraft and ELT Registration - Sellers Take Note

AOPA’s Legal Services Plan receives hundreds of calls each year related to aircraft transactions. When it comes time to sell an airplane, many owners are familiar with standard FAA paperwork such as a bill of sale. 

However, the seller of an aircraft has some regulatory requirements that may be easy to miss regarding the registration of the aircraft itself and sometimes of the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT).


Per FAR 47.41, an aircraft’s registration becomes ineffective upon the transfer of ownership of the aircraft. It is then the seller’s responsibility to remove the registration certificate from the aircraft, complete the reverse side, and mail it back to the FAA within the prescribed time period (typically 21 days). The buyer is responsible for applying for a new registration.


If the aircraft being sold is equipped with a 406 MHz ELT, then the seller is also responsible for notifying National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT). Similar to how an aircraft owner is responsible for notifying the FAA when there is a sale as discussed above, or when there is an address change per FAR 47.45, FCC regulations require that Aircraft owners shall advise NOAA in writing upon change of aircraft or ELT ownership, or any other change in registration information” (see 47 CFR § 87.199(f)).


For more information, see FAA Advisory Circular 91-44A which addresses ELTs including information on registration at section 7.8.


Chad Mayer

Legal Services Plan, Attorney
Chad Mayer is an in-house attorney with AOPA’s Legal Services Plan who counsels Plan members on a daily basis. He is also a Commercial Pilot, a Remote Pilot with sUAS Rating, and an Advanced/Instrument Ground Instructor. The AOPA Legal Services plan is offered as part of AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services.

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