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Aircraft register

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

In order to be eligible to register aircraft in Malta, the applicant must be:

  • the government;
  • a citizen of Malta, an EU or EEA member state or Switzerland;
  • an undertaking formed and existing in accordance with the laws of Malta, an EU or EEA member state or Switzerland; or
  • a citizen of, or an undertaking established in, a qualified jurisdiction.

Further, an eligible applicant must be:

  • the owner and operator of the aircraft;
  • the owner of an aircraft that is under construction or temporarily not being operated or managed;
  • the operator of an aircraft that is under a temporary title which satisfies the prescribed conditions; or
  • the buyer of an aircraft under a conditional sale, title reservation or similar agreement which satisfies the prescribed conditions, who is authorised thereunder to operate the aircraft.

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 are registered in the National Aircraft Register in the order in which they are received. A mortgage is easily registered by submitting a copy of the mortgage deed and an application form with the Civil Aviation Directorate (CAD). Malta has also ratified the Cape Town Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment; therefore, international interests may be recorded in the International Registry.

Registered mortgages rank according to the date and time of the registration. International interests rank before locally registered mortgages. Both registered mortgages and international interests rank after special privileges and possessory liens that are granted ipso jure – for example, over:

  • judicial costs;
  • fees due to the CAD;
  • unpaid wages; and
  • fees due to an aircraft repairer or manufacturer.

The principal advantages of mortgage registration are:

  • registered mortgages constitute an executive title and may therefore be enforced without first having recourse to a court;
  • a clause may be inserted in the mortgage deed prohibiting further mortgages and the transfer of ownership of the vessel without the prior consent of the mortgagee. Such a prohibition will be noted in the National Aircraft Register and the CAD will thereby refuse to register any further mortgages unless the holder of a prior mortgage consents in writing; and
  • registered mortgages attach not only to the aircraft itself, but also to any proceeds from indemnity or insurance.

In the event of default, the mortgagee is entitled to:

  • take possession of the aircraft for which the mortgagee is registered or a share therein;
  • sell the aircraft for which the mortgagee is registered or a share therein;
  • apply for an extension, pay fees, receive certificates and generally do all such things in the name of the owner or registrant as may be required in order to maintain the status and validity of the aircraft registration;
  • lease the aircraft so as to generate income therefrom; and
  • receive any payment of the price, lease payments and any other income which may be generated from the aircraft’s management.


What rules and procedures govern the detention of aircraft?

Aircraft detention may be obtained for unpaid debts principally through two warrants:

  • Executive warrant of arrest – such a warrant may be filed by a creditor that has an executive title against the aircraft or the company owning or operating the aircraft. Pursuant to this warrant, the aircraft will be seized and Transport Malta will assume supervision of it. Once this warrant has been filed, the Maltese courts will fix a period for payment of the debt. If the debt remains unpaid after this period, the courts will order the sale of the aircraft by auction or approved private sale.
  • Precautionary warrant of arrest – this warrant may be filed if the applicant proves that the departure of the aircraft may frustrate its claim for debts over said aircraft. The warrant will seize the aircraft and put it under the supervision of Transport Malta and the applicant will be given a period in which to institute a lawsuit. After the lawsuit becomes res judicata, the precautionary warrant will remain in force for another 15 days, after which the precautionary warrant will be converted into an executive warrant.

Safety and maintenance

What rules and procedures govern aircraft safety and maintenance?

Pursuant to EU Regulation 1008/2008 on common rules for the operation of air services, the Civil Aviation (Air Operators Certificates) Act requires air carriers to obtain an air operators certificate (AOC) from the CAD. 

The CAD will grant an AOC only if it is satisfied that the air carrier is competent, having particular regard to:

  • its previous conduct and experience; and
  • its equipment, organisation, staffing, maintenance and other arrangements to secure the safe operation of its aircraft.

In determining the carrier’s competency to operate aircraft, the CAD will take into account its capability of meeting the applicable safety requirements, according to law.

The certificate will remain valid for one year in order to ensure that the safety standards are met from each year.

Further, the monitoring of safety standards and the safety requirements issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency apply.  


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

At present, no EU-wide or local laws govern the use of drones. However, the CAD issues permits for drone operations. The authority has adopted a risk-based approach on a case-by-case basis depending on the scope and complexity of a permit request and the risk of such an operation.

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