Trump plane ‘controversy’ reveals $5 government snafu

The New York Times is back with a new attack on Donald Trump for failing to re-register one of his private airplanes.

A week ago, the Times reported that the registration on Trump’s Cessna jet had lapsed. After the report, the FAA grounded the airplane. As I wrote a week ago, it’s not unusual for registrations to lapse, but it is unusual for the planes of presidential candidates to lapse. Thus, big story.

Today, the Times reports that Trump’s plane is flying again because he sold it to another corporation he owns, which allowed the plane to fly immediately rather than wait for renewal paperwork to be generated.

In so reporting today’s story, however, the Times noted something that it didn’t note in last week’s exclusive. Trump had already submitted the paperwork weeks earlier to renew the registration on his plane.

The wait Mr. Trump avoided could have been lengthy; the F.A.A.’s aircraft registry website says that the agency is still processing documents it received in mid-March.

Indeed, a Cessna used by a narcotics enforcement team of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in California had its registration expire, like that of Mr. Trump’s Cessna. The department filed the paperwork to renew it in early January, but the plane’s renewal came through on Friday, according to a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department, Jodi Miller.

Mr. Trump’s legal maneuver seems in character. The Republican front-runner prides himself on his ability to work the system. In a Forbes article in 2011, he described his companies’ bankruptcies in a positive light, “Basically I’ve used the laws of the country to my advantage.”

The Times, which has two reporters working on the story, might be missing a bigger picture: a federal agency that takes months to process a $5 registration renewal. Trump claims the corporation that owned the plane never received the renewal notice.

Says the Times:

The plane’s new registration expires on April 30, 2019. And in case the F.A.A. might have cause to send out another renewal notice, it should take note: The plane’s new owner shares the same Delaware address as the old owner.

Trump might want to send in the $5 renewal now to be sure the FAA can process it by the time it expires.