Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority Announces Proposed Changes to National Aircraft Registration Marks

Robert Frola (GFDL or GFDL), via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – Australia’s aviation regulatory body, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has announced proposed changes to its national aircraft registration system.

CASA has advised of an upcoming change to Australia’s traditional VH- registration marking system, whilst noting that applicants would need to wait a little longer to reserve one of the new format aircraft registrations.

Australian aircraft are presently identified by the ‘VH’ nationality mark, followed by a sequence of three alphabetic characters.

CASA’s proposed change to future Australian aircraft registrations will see the introduction of a 3-character alphanumeric combination – for example VH-2AB, VH-A9B, and VH-A22.

This will be the first time in the nation’s history that an alphanumeric registration system is to be used, and it will accommodate new aircraft registrations for the coming three decades.

CASA Chief Executive Officer and Director of Aviation Safety, Ms. Pip Spence stated that: “Introducing a 3-character alphanumeric system will mean the availability of more than 20,000 additional marks. This will give us enough marks for at least another 30 years.”

Ms. Spence went on to state that the regulator will allow for sequential reservations and selective individual marks.

The Australian national identifier ‘VH’ remains unchanged.

Origins of the Australian VH- national code

The International Commission for Airline Navigation (ICAN) was responsible for the initial allocation of civil aircraft registration for every nation, in July 1919.

Originally, member nations of the British Empire were allocated the letter ‘G-‘ followed by a one or two-letter code identifying the nation concerned. Australia’s registration was thus G-AU and New Zealand was allocated G-NZ.

A specific aircraft on the national register would be then allocated a further unique two-letter identifier.

Arguably the most famous of the early Australian aircraft registrations was that of the Fokker F.VIIb Trimotor named ‘Southern Cross’, flown by legendary aviator Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith. The aircraft was registered G-AUSU on 4th July 1928.

Kingsford-Smith made the first nonstop Trans-Tasman flight across the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand in September 1928.

In 1927, the International Radiotelegraph Convention in Washington, USA produced a new table of Nationality and Registration markings for aircraft. These recommendations were adopted by ICAN in 1928, and Australia was allocated the default national identifier ‘VH’.

Australian civil aircraft thus transitioned from the original British Empire registration markings and began displaying the nationality mark VH- from January 1929.

It is a commonly held belief that the Australian national identifier VH- was a nod to the noted Australian aviation identity Victor Hargreaves, however, the truth is far more mundane.

Commencement of new Australian marking system

CASA has not yet provided a proposed start date for the new alpha-numeric aircraft identification system.

The regulator will make a further announcement when the new marks become available.

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