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Aircraft register

What are the requirements for entry in the domestic aircraft register?

To be eligible to be entered on the UK Register of Civil Aircraft, the aircraft must be owned or chartered by:

  • British citizens;
  • nationals of any European Economic Area (EEA) state;
  • undertakings formed in accordance with the law of an EEA state that have their registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the EEA, including companies or undertakings incorporated in the United Kingdom;
  • firms carrying out business in Scotland;
  • the Crown; and
  • British protected persons.

An aircraft owned or chartered by Commonwealth persons or entities can be registered in the United Kingdom if appropriate – for example, if the aircraft is based and maintained in the United Kingdom or the aircraft is in storage.

If an aircraft is owned by a national of, or company incorporated in, a state not specified above, it can be registered only if it is not used for commercial air transport while registered in the United Kingdom, and if it could not be more suitably registered in another state that is a member of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). 

Registration is effected by application to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which involves completion of a simple form, payment of a fee and provision of evidence of insurance.

Registration of an aircraft on the UK register of Civil Aircraft is separate from the procedure for obtaining a certificate of airworthiness or permit to fly that allows the aircraft to be flown legally.


Mortgages and encumbrances

Is there a domestic register for aircraft mortgages, encumbrances and other interests? If so, what are the requirements and legal effects of registration?

Aircraft mortgages may be registered against aircraft that are registered on the UK Register of Civil Aircraft. Once registered, the mortgage will have priority over any subsequent mortgage or charge created and/or registered against the aircraft. There are no statutory requirements relating to the terms of the aircraft mortgages in England, nor a need for it to even be in English.

An aircraft mortgage registered on the UK Aircraft Mortgage Register will take priority over all other mortgages or charges (but not necessarily against unregistrable interests, such as mechanics' liens or statutory liens). 

If the mortgage creates an international interest (for the purpose of the Cape Town Convention and its Aircraft Equipment Protocol), registration of that international interest at the International Registry means that the security will take priority over subsequently registered interests on it. Registration on the International Register is complementary to, not a substitute for, registration on the UK Aircraft Mortgage Register.

If the mortgagor is a company incorporated in England and Wales, it will be necessary also to register the mortgage at Companies House. Failure to do so within 21 days of the creation of the mortgage will render it void against an administrator, liquidator or secured creditor of the insolvent mortgagor.


What rules and procedures govern the detention of aircraft?

The UK CAA has statutory power to detain and ultimately sell aircraft for unpaid airport charges and unpaid navigation charges owed to the air traffic control provider NATS and/or the Danish or Icelandic authorities and/or Eurocontrol. The detention can operate either in respect of the aircraft that has incurred the charges, irrespective of whether the party that operates it at the time when the detention begins was the operator that incurred the charges, or in respect of any other aircraft operated by the defaulting party at the time when the detention begins. The latter situation, known in the United Kingdom as a ‘fleet detention’, can accordingly have the effect of one aircraft being detained for charges owed by an entire fleet and is a particularly sensitive issue for lessors and financiers; unless they are able to terminate leasing/financing arrangements promptly in respect of their aircraft such as to remove it from the fleet of a defaulting operator, it is not uncommon to find financiers facing detention of their aircraft for the charges owed by the whole fleet. If charges remain unpaid, the CAA has power to sell the detained aircraft with leave of the court.

The UK Environment Agency also has a power of detention and ultimately sale of aircraft in the event of non-compliance with the EU Emissions Trading System.

Safety and maintenance

What rules and procedures govern aircraft safety and maintenance?

Safety and maintenance regulation and certification in the United Kingdom falls largely under the aegis of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The key regulations are the EASA Basic Regulation (216/2008) 1321/2014 Part M (continuing airworthiness and maintenance), Part 145 (maintenance of EASA aircraft and engines), Part 147 (training) together with 748/2012 (design and production organisation approvals). National – as opposed to EU – safety and maintenance regulations (British Civil Airworthiness Regulations or BCAR) apply, however, to those aircraft excluded from the EASA regime, such as those used for military, customs, police, search and rescue, firefighting, coastguard or similar activities or services.


What is the state of regulation on unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in your jurisdiction?

Regulation in this area has existed for some time, but is also developing to meet the expanding recreational use of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The Air Navigation Order 2016 provides the following overriding legal obligation of general application also to drone users: "A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property". The Air Navigation Order also contains specific provisions relating to the operation of small UAVs and surveillance UAVs. The essential obligations are to maintain visual line of sight, and not to fly in controlled airspace, in the vicinity of aerodromes or at an altitude in excess of 400 feet. If a drone is to be used for commercial purposes, operation requires approval from the CAA. Additional rules apply where drones are fitted with a camera and they cannot be operated over or within 150 metres of congested areas, over or within 150 metres of certain open-air assemblies of persons or within 50 metres of any vessel or person.

Legislation is currently being contemplated that would require operators of drones weighing 250 grammes or more to register their drones and to complete competency training in matters of safety, security and privacy.

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