June 18, 2014 – Newsletter
The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me!
N-Numbers and the FAA
The U.S. received the “N” as its nationality designator under the International Air Navigation Convention held in 1919. The convention prescribed an aircraft-marking scheme of a single letter indicating nationality followed by a hyphen and four identity letters (for example, G-REMS). The five letters together were to be the aircraft’s radio call sign. Since the U.S. did not ratify the 1919 Convention use of the markings was voluntary and the markings were generally only used on aircraft operating internationally. The United States had radio call letters N, K and W exclusively for its use and so N’s were chosen as our nationality mark – it was the radio call sign of the United States Navy.
No mention of N-numbers appeared in the initial Air commerce Act which caused the Department of Commerce to create the Civil Aeronautics Branch, the first predecessor to the FAA. The first mention of N-numbers is found in a 1927 amendment to the Air Commerce Regulations, mandating that any U.S. aircraft engaged in foreign air commerce display the N at the beginning of its identification markings. Later this requirement was extended to all U.S. aircraft no matter where they were operated.
A second letter was then required, indicating the aircraft’s airworthiness category following the N: that is: “C” for standard, “R” for restricted; “X” for experimental and “L” for limited – and this was the rule until 1948 when the requirement for the second letter following the “N” was dropped.
In l934 the Civil Aeronautics Act transferred the civil aviation responsibilities from the Commerce Department to a new independent agency: the Civil Aeronautics Authority. In 1940 the Civil Aeronautics Authority was split into two groups: The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB).
The approaching introduction of jet airliners and a series of midair collisions spurred passage of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 and created the Federal Aviation Agency.
The Federal Aviation Agency became the Federal Aviation Administration when the Department of Transportation was created in 1967. Concurrently with the implementation of the FAA, the previous accident investigation function of the Civil Aeronautics Board was transferred to the new National Transportation Safety Board.
The above information was gleaned (and paraphrased) from the FAA’s website: A history of N-Numbers and A Brief History of the FAA! Found at FAA.gov
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