The FAA says its records are in such disarray that its afraid that criminals could buy planes “without the government’s knowledge” or use the registration numbers of other planes. The agency has ordered all aircraft owners to re-register.
CBSNews says planes with “questionable registration” are rampant, and the FAA can’t tell if the planes are flying or if they’ve been junked.
Already there have been cases of drug traffickers using phony U.S. registration numbers, as well as instances of mistaken identity in which police raided the wrong plane because of faulty record-keeping.
Next year, the FAA will begin canceling the registration certificates of all 357,000 aircraft and require owners to register anew, a move that is causing grumbling among airlines, banks and leasing companies. Notices went out to the first batch of aircraft owners last month.
“We have identified some potential risk areas, but I think we’re trying to eliminate as much risk as possible through the re-registration process,” said FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown.
The paperwork disaster has already lead to some unpleasant consequences for flyers. CBS tells the story of a couple of flight instructors who were held at gunpoint by federal agents who mistook their plane for one that was stolen in 2002.
“It’s very, very scary,” the flight instructor told CBS. “If this keeps happening to people, somebody’s going to get shot.”