A haven for aircraft registration

Relatively inexpensive registration makes Norway a go-to country

Photo: Kjetil Ree / Wikimedia Commons SAS Boeing 737-883 registration LN-RRU at Gardermoen, Norway’s gateway airport.

Photo: Kjetil Ree / Wikimedia Commons
SAS Boeing 737-883 registration LN-RRU at Gardermoen, Norway’s gateway airport.

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

Norway is becoming a preferred country for commercial aircraft registration. Two-thirds of the SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) fleet of 123 aircraft and a greater percentage of the Norwegian Air Shuttle fleet of 103 aircraft are registered in Norway.

The registration of a civil aircraft functions like the license plate on a car. A registration number is an alphanumeric string painted both sides of an aircraft’s fuselage, usually close to its tail. According to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, a registration number consists of a one- or two-letter prefix that identifies the country of registry, followed by an alphanumeric string that is unique to the aircraft registered. Norwegian registration numbers are made up of the prefix LN followed by a hyphen and three letters. In comparison, U.S. registration numbers are made of a single prefix letter N with no hyphen, followed by an alphanumeric string of two to five characters.

According to an article in the financial section of the Sunday, October 11, edition of Aftenposten (Further reading), comparatively low registration cost is the principal reason for Norway becoming a haven for aircraft registration. Registering an aircraft in Sweden may cost nearly NOK 10 million ($1.2 million), or up to NOK 1 million ($123,000) in Denmark, while in Norway registration is at a fixed price of NOK 14,100 ($1,743). There’s another financial incentive in that unlike Denmark and Sweden, Norway is a contracting state of the Cape Town Treaty of 2001 that sets safeguarded conditions for aircraft purchase, leasing, and sale.

The favorable Norwegian financial climate for aircraft registration is reflected in the numbers of aircraft registered. Of SAS’s 123 aircraft, 80 are registered in Norway, 27 in Denmark, and 16 in Sweden. The first of three SAS long-distance Airbus 330 aircraft is registered in Norway, as the following two will be when they are delivered. Norwegian Air Shuttle has registered two Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 11 Boeing 737-800s in Ireland, but the remaining 89 aircraft of its fleet are registered in Norway.

From its founding in 1946 until it grew to be a major international airline in the early 1960s, SAS often was scornfully spoken of in Norway and in Denmark as standing for Svensk Alt Sammen (“Altogether Swedish”), reflecting Swedish dominance in its ownership (42.8% Swedish and 28.6% in both Denmark and Norway). That view no longer is valid. Today, Danish and Swedish civil aviation authorities are concerned that SAS soon may be almost all Norwegian.

Further reading:
“Aldri før har SAS vært mer norsk” (“Never before has SAS been more Norwegian”), online version of article in the financial section of Aftenposten, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, link at: www.aftenposten.no/okonomi/Aldri-for-har-SAS-vart-mer-norsk-8197200.html.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 23, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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