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The Associated Press (AP) reports the FAA has lost or misplaced enormous amounts of registration data for small private and commercial jets. In total, 119,000 planes have either incomplete registration information or none at all, leading to fears that improperly registered aircraft could easily fall into the hands of terrorists or drug smugglers.
The FAA has ordered all aircraft owners, including major carriers, to re-register their planes. It will begin canceling registrations next year as a way of forcing people to sign up again. Air Transport Association spokesman David Castelveter told the AP the move could "wreak havoc on the commercial air transportation system."
According to the AP, "The records are in such disarray that the FAA says it is worried that criminals could buy planes without the government's knowledge, or use the registration numbers of other aircraft to evade new computer systems designed to track suspicious flights.
"About 119,000 of the planes on the U.S. registry have 'questionable registration' because of missing forms, invalid addresses, unreported sales or other paperwork problems, according to the FAA. In many cases, the FAA cannot say who owns a plane or even whether it is still flying or has been junked."
Apparently the concern about drug traffickers using vulnerable registrations isn't new. According to the AP, "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."
As part of the re-registration process, the FAA will switch to three-year registrations, rather than the one-time registrations aircraft owners currently get.