April 13, 2020
The FAA Aircraft Registration Branch continues to process aircraft transaction documents during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the process has been slowed. In a recent NBAA News Hour webinar, experts discussed how to successfully complete aircraft transactions during these challenging times.
Peter Korns, NBAA’s senior manager of tax, operations and workforce engagement, moderated the webinar. Scott McCreary – shareholder and aviation group leader of McAfee & Taft – and Chris Younger – principal at GKG Law, P.C., – provided expert guidance.
The FAA aircraft registry maintains information on more than 300,000 civil aircraft to facilitate aviation safety, security and commerce. The registry accepts and processes documents to register and operate aircraft in the United States, as well as to “perfect” or validate interests in an aircraft, explained Younger. The registry typically accepts filings by mail or commercial delivery services, via email or in person at the FAA Public Documents Room in Oklahoma City, OK.
Several new, temporary policies are in place to mitigate concerns about COVID-19 exposure and ensure appropriate social-distancing practices for filers and registry employees. The Public Documents Room is currently closed for direct filing, although parties may leave documents in a nearby bin for regular pickup by registry staff. All mailed documents are subject to a 72-hour quarantine period, which means those documents will not be processed or file stamped until at least 72 hours following receipt or acceptance. Filers should be aware that due to this quarantine, the accepted date of the documents is not the same as the file stamp date.
Fortunately, the FAA has expanded the ability to file documents by email. McCreary summarized new email filing procedures, including a requirement for documents to be digitally executed through a digital signature program, such as DocuSign. As is the case for mailing documents, an email receipt message does not constitute the date of formal filing with the FAA.
Younger added that import and export processes can also be more complicated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, imports from Mexico are subject to a 72-hour quarantine.
The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 designated registry employees as “excepted” or “essential employees” in the event of a government shutdown or emergency furlough.
Although it’s unclear if the legislative language is broad enough to cover the COVID-19 crisis, the experts see no signs at this time of a disruption of operations or possible closure of the registry. However, the experts caution this is a fluid situation, and there is no projected timeframe to return to normal registry and transactions procedures.
“In business aviation, there’s always an urgency to get transactions closed,” said Younger. “Now there’s an increased tension because the process is slower to be more protective of FAA employees.”
Aircraft transactions can still be completed, but patience is key.
This webinar, titled “FAA Transaction Guidance During the COVID-19 Crisis,” is just one in a series of educational opportunities NBAA has planned for the coming weeks. Learn more, register for upcoming webinars and view recordings of past webinars on the NBAA News Hour site.