Why Donald Trump’s plane isn’t registered with the FAA

In the overblown story department, the New York Times’ revelation that Donald Trump is illegally flying his jet on the campaign certainly qualifies.

It makes for a great headline that isn’t really supported by great drama.

Dozens of those flights were made after Jan. 31, when the registration expired. The plane flew as recently as Monday, when it was used to transport Team Trump between La Guardia Airport and Buffalo for a campaign event on the eve of the primary in New York. On Friday, it flew to Plattsburgh, N.Y., and to Hartford for rallies in those cities, according to radio transmissions broadcast by the plane that were archived on a flight data website and reviewed by The Times.

The F.A.A. warned Mr. Trump that the Cessna’s registration was set to expire, records show.

How could it be that a plane is no longer registered? Easy. Stop at any big or small airport, and there’s a fair chance you’ll find people who don’t know they have to renew their plane’s registration, because up until a few years ago, they didn’t have to.

Up until 2010, once an aircraft registration was assigned, it lasted forever without renewal. That year, the FAA announced it would cancel all registrations over a three-year period and owners would have to register them every three years.

The reason is the FAA has lost track of how many airplanes in the nation were actually still around. By requiring registration, the theory goes, the FAA will have a better idea of the size of the country’s aviation fleet, big and small.

The cost for registration? $5. That assumes you get the renewal notice from the FAA, which many pilots don’t because planes changed hands all the time and there was no mechanism — or at least incentive — for owners to keep the names and addresses of owners current.

Of course, the registration has nothing to do with the plane’s suitability to fly. Registration has nothing to do with the mandated maintenance and inspection schedule.

What the lack of registration could provide, is a means for the anti-Trump crowd to make life slightly more aggravating. They can take his registration number and force him to spend the money to repaint the plane with a new one.

However, the FAA isn’t making that easy. By its own rules, the FAA will only hold a registration numbe for 30 days after expiration. So time should be up for N725DT (which consists of the address of Trump Tower and his initials), whose registration expired in January. But the FAA is not allowing anyone to claim it as their own, a task that would also require only $10.