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Thread: What's the problem with a changed N number?

  1. #1

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    What's the problem with a changed N number?

    Newbie here.

    I've seen posts on here with people expressing a concern for a changed N number on a plane when purchasing.

    I've seen other posts where people want to change the N number back to the original N number.

    What exactly is the potential problem when looking at a plane that may have had a changed N number? Why would people want to change it back to oringal?

  2. #2
    LisaWi's Avatar
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    To my mind nothing.

    I noticed, just before I purchased "The Snow Owl" that the N-number of the airplane that I soloed in was unclaimed, so I bought it... $5.00 to reserve it for 12 months IIRC.

    OTOH:

    I know someone who bought a PA-28 at auction. A flight school had shut down and they sold four airplanes. Two years later he started being harassed by authorities. It seems that one of the other airplanes sold that day was bought by a smuggler and crashed into a Florida lake. The smuggler had used his N-number on paperwork. (The four planes were sequential, like: N123ABC, N124ABC, N125ABC and N126ABC. Numnuts FAA types got to be annoying-- Gee, the smuggler crashed,,, And this airplane is intact, doesn't that prove that this airplane isn't that airplane? But that requires an IQ over 7-- which apparently disqualifies one from government employment. Long story short, he changed the N-number and problem solved.
    Last edited by LisaWi; 10-12-2021 at 09:48 PM.
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  3. #3

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    I have changed a N number on a 210 and kept an N number on a PA-14. Here is my thinking-on old airplanes, the N number is part of the history of the airframe and should be kept. On a generic traveling plane, do whatever you want.
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  4. #4
    Eddie Foy's Avatar
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    My 180 has had four. No El Problemo!
    "Put out my hand and touched the face of God!"

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    Richgj3's Avatar
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    Some people who might want to hide damage might change the number. Always search FAA records by serial number as well as registration. Odds are most changes are not done for this reason. But, when buying it doesn’t hurt to be thorough.
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  6. #6

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    Nah - it is just decoration. My Dec got changed to 44 ZW because I like fours and probably would like a refreshing African beverage.

    Edit: I flew a Mooney with N- number ending in "November." What a mouthful on the radio. Keep them to two syllables.
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  7. #7
    aktango58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eddie Foy View Post
    My 180 has had four. No El Problemo!

    As I recall there was a story about smugglers using different N- numbers??

    Bought my first cub and on the title search it came up with a number change by previous owner. Story was husband and wife had matching numbers and one had J the other K at the end. Easy Peasy...

    The rest of the story is that they had purchased the plane at a police auction. It has been confiscated from Robert Hanson after his arrest.
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!
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  8. #8
    RaisedByWolves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob turner View Post
    Nah - it is just decoration. My Dec got changed to 44 ZW because I like fours and probably would like a refreshing African beverage.

    Edit: I flew a Mooney with N- number ending in "November." What a mouthful on the radio. Keep them to two syllables.
    I flew a 206 that ended in FM. That sucked to say


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  9. #9
    wireweinie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aktango58 View Post
    It has been confiscated from Robert Hanson after his arrest.
    Baker or spy?

    Web
    Life's tough . . . wear a cup.

  10. #10
    aktango58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wireweinie View Post
    Baker or spy?

    Web
    Baker. The plane is back at LHD now, saw it last week.

    And Tom, I think the worst would be Tango Foxtrot... but would for sure be 'situation normal' around here!
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!

  11. #11
    39-J3's Avatar
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    Click image for larger version. 

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    It's always best to go with a short N number.
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  12. #12
    hotrod180's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cardiff Kook View Post
    .... Why would people want to change it back to oringal?
    Kinda like why some women change back to their maiden name after getting divorced.
    Personally I think it's silly & kinda disrespectful to change the tail number of a 50 or more year old airplane
    to incorporate your initials, esp when the chances are that you're not gonna own it more than a few years anyway.
    IMHO "vanity number" is an apt description for this situation.
    I used to know a guy who had a C195, tail number was N195V.
    When I asked him what the V stood for, he told me "that was the only letter that wasn't already being used".
    What a dumb reason to change a tail number!

    My 1953 C180 had the original tail number changed to a vanity number back in 1986.
    The guy who changed the number used his initials, he owned it for just a couple years after that before selling it.
    So what was the point?
    I bought it in 2014, it took a while but I managed to get the original number back in 2018.
    I know several other people who've owned 180's and changed from someone else's vanity number back to the original.
    So apparently I'm not the only one who doesn't like them.
    Cessna Skywagon-- accept no substitute!

  13. #13
    jnorris's Avatar
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    Yep, I admit it, I'm one of those who treasures the original N number on a plane. As has been mentioned above, it's part of the history of that aircraft and I feel it should be preserved. On a homebuilt, do what you want, but on a classic aircraft like most of us enjoy, leave it alone! Changing the N number on a plane is like changing a person's name. It just don't seem right.

    The 1957 Super Cub I used to own had gone up to Canada for a while, so of course its registration was changed. When it was brought back to the US, they just stuck a random number on it. It wasn't a bad number. Didn't have anyone's initials in it and actually was fairly easy to say on the radio and sounded like it belonged. But it wasn't the original number. I got lucky, the original number was available, so for the cost of a few bucks I grabbed it and put it back on the plane. The plane didn't fly any differently, but somehow I felt better about it.

    On the other hand, my Cessna 180's N number was changed to a "vanity" number some years before I bought it. Some real estate agent or firm owned it for a while and they changed the number so that their firm's initials were at the end. Drove me NUTS!! I found out that the original number had been reissued to a 1978 Cessna 152. I contacted the owner and offered to pay for a paint job on the plane and any other associated costs if I could have the number. He refused. That plane was sold, contacted the new owner, a flight school out west. Made the same offer. They refused. Never did get the original number back. I loved the airplane, but hated that N number for all the years I owned the thing.

    Yeah, I'm goofy. Deal with it!
    Joe

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  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eddie Foy View Post
    My 180 has had four. No El Problemo!
    Did all those X's get alimony?
    Remember, These are the Good old Days!

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    Someone had to pick the original number. Perhaps that number had some significance to the first owner. Did that make the original number a vanity number? If the next owner sees no significance in the number why shouldn't they change it to something they prefer?

    A long time ago a potential new member of my PA-28 partnership said the number would have to be changed for him to be interested in a share. I asked "Why the devil would you want to do that?" Aircraft is "triple six" and known to some as El Diablo. He was told to look for a different airplane.
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  16. #16
    stewartb's Avatar
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    My N numbers have been factory assigned. Apparently they got blocks of N numbers for different planes and production years. My old PA-12 was 3453M and I often see other -12s with similar numbers. Same with my Cessna. There’s another 180J in Anchorage that’s very close to mine and controllers have commented about it when we were both on frequency. I see lots of 206s with 736 numbers. A buddy had a 736 Hawk XP so maybe that was based on the production year?

  17. #17

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    There's an FBO near here that assigns all of their charter aircraft N numbers ending in AA which is the initials of the FBO. They have a Bonanza that ends in zero AA. I flew a Bonanza for several years that ended in zero zero A. We were regularly confused by and confused the ATC.

  18. #18

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    Worked at a shop years ago where we did major repairs. Had the same 206 in the shop three times for turning turtle from guys landing with the wheels down in the water. After the third time we changed the number. It had been N666HS.


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  19. #19
    55-PA18A's Avatar
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    There's no problem at all. As far as we're concerned, it's just the name of the plane.

    When I bought my Super Cub in the mid 90's, the N number was a single number with two letters. They were the initials of a previous owner. Never did like having someone else's name on my airplane. About the time I was getting ready to recover the fuselage, I checked and the original numbers were available. It was a simple matter to reserve the number until I was ready to go through the registration process to change it. That was pretty straightforward too.

    Also about that time a Venezuelan banker with the same initials decided he wanted the planes in his fleet to end with his initials. Fine with me. I didn't want it.

    A while after that I started getting bills for landing fees. I checked the FAA database and I wasn't listed as the owner anymore. They must have been using an old database. But what was interesting was that about each time I checked it seems it was a different biz jet. Not sure what was going on.

    The bills were coming from some interesting places. If the bill included a toll free number I would sometimes call and tell them my plane was a Super Cub on floats based in Alaska and I really didn't think I had landed at their airport. Got some interesting reactions.

    Jim
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  20. #20

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    We had "America West 31" leaving Phoenix at six pm. American had a "31" leaving at the same time!

    Now, at MYF we have three "zero one tango"s. There is a cure. America west became "Cactus" and our flight became 31 Alpha. MYF hasn't figured it out yet, but I am advocating "Champ 01 Tango" to at least set one of them apart.

    We have a flight school with around 20 Cherokees. All end in "Charlie Alpha."

    This kind of stuff can lead to problems.

  21. #21
    jnorris's Avatar
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    When I worked at Sonex we would have workshop weekends every so often. During the workshops we would give introductory lessons in the factory prototypes. On a good day we would have N12SX, N112SX, and N122SX in the air at the same time. Drove the controllers nuts!!
    Joe

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  22. #22
    hotrod180's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frequent_flyer View Post
    Someone had to pick the original number. .....
    Back in the day, the factories were assigned blocks of tail numbers.
    You can often guess the year of manufacture by said tail number.
    For example, all the 1948 Cessna tail numbers ended in Victor.
    I think all the 47's ended in November.
    The first year (1953) of the C180 had two series of tailnumbers:
    2800A (or maybe 2801A) on up, then 1600C and up.
    Generally, at least fairly early in the number run,
    the last two digits of the tail number matched the last two of the serial number.
    Cessna Skywagon-- accept no substitute!

  23. #23
    RVBottomly's Avatar
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    I don’t know what was going on back in 1946, but mine was issued NC777QB.

    Feels like a mouthful. One of local controllers seems to love it, always using the full set of numbers and emphasizing “Brav—ooh.”

    So I acknowledge with the full set too. We usually are not very busy.


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  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by 39-J3 View Post

    It's always best to go with a short N number.
    I would remind you there are aircraft out there that NEED a short N number. I'm thinking Pitts', Baby Lakes, BD5's stuff like that. Heck even Skymasters need them. If they're all on 170's or King Airs ( as seen on You Tube videos of Oshkosh) how are those folks supposed to get in the air? 3 inch numbers don't work for everybody in every circumstance. I say stick with regular length numbers so that short numbers are there for those who need them.

    I've also heard several exchanges with ATC where that short number requires clarification. ATC will usually ask to be certain if you only give them two characters. Extra trouble - and more to the point - a poor use of controllers time and frequency bandwidth.

    Not trying to get on anyone's case or ruffle any feathers. I just wanted to point out some issues folks may not have thought of. If it's legal and you want to, go for it. I don't like the idea, but it is still legal.
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  25. #25
    mvivion's Avatar
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    In Fairbanks there was an air taxi Navajo whose tail number ended in the same three digit tail number of one of the planes I flew regularly. Controllers never had a problem dealing with it, but occasionally, one of us would hear from a controller: "Be advised there's a Navajo (or 206) on frequency with similar tail number".

    For 29 years, I flew airplanes many of which a 700 series tail number: N720, N765, etc. I always used the November preceding the number, and I almost never had a controller ask for "full tail number".

    No big deal, controllers deal with this stuff all the time.

    On the other hand, my current airplane's tail number for reasons I don't fully understand, REALLY gets controllers confused. It has two 7s and a 9, and controllers, even locals who talk to me regularly, get the 9s and 7 mixed up. Which means I have to correct them....which requires bandwidth. This is a standard Cessna issued tail number, nothing exotic. But, as a result, I've actually considered changing the tail number.

    But, mostly, I'm lazy.

    Bottom line: Who cares?

    MTV

  26. #26
    courierguy's Avatar
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    My first S7 was 98VZ, my current one is 89VZ, or maybe it's the other way around. Point being, I get them confused but that's why the little panel placard is there. I do know that Victor Zulu, especially when preceded by niner, is a pretty cool call sign. If I ever build a third, I think I'll try and get niner, niner Victor Zulu.
    Last edited by courierguy; 10-14-2021 at 09:04 PM.

  27. #27

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    There are people who want to restore airplanes back to original condition, or as close as possible, including the n number. If you want to change it from the original, it's easy and cheap to reserve the original number and keep it for future use in case a subsequent owner would like it.
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  28. #28
    Utah-Jay's Avatar
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    I applied to reserve a N**** with my wife’s initials the last two. Fingers crossed I get it, should know within a few weeks as they are 6-8 weeks processing at the moment

    I tried to get N11B and it was available when I applied, but I did not get it

  29. #29
    Richgj3's Avatar
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    Many years ago a member of our Antique chapter restored “The St. Louis Robin” a Curtis Robin that set an endurance record in 1929. It won something at OSH and Blakesburg I think. When it set the record the number was NR59H. When the restoration was done that number was and still is on a Bell 47. The helicopter guy would not give up the number. So, the restorer painted NR59H on the Robin anyway. He then registered it as N591 which was available. When FAA came to issue the AW he turned the H into a 1 using colored tape. After that day it flew with 59H for years. Now it’s in a museum in South America.

    Rich
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  30. #30

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    45.22(a) allows operation without any markings under certain conditions, or markings that aren’t applicable to that aircraft. When I issued the certificate on the Old Rhinebeck NYP, that aircraft does not display the registration number assigned by FAA (N211XC), but does have NX-211. N211 is actually the registration of the EAA Spirit, but under 45.22(a), Old Rhinebeck can display NX-211 since that is more historically accurate. I did issue an Operating Limitation that says if the aircraft is operated for anything other than display at an Airshows, it needs to have temporary registration numbers applied displaying the registration number assigned.


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  31. #31
    hotrod180's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by courierguy View Post
    .... I do know that Victor Zulu, especially when preceded by niner, is a pretty cool call sign....
    A buddy of mine used to own a Starduster, the tail number ended in Alpha Alpha.
    It was easy to use on the radio, because he always just said "alfafa".
    Controllers never seemed to mind.

    The vanity number on my 180 was 180JB-
    "zero juliet bravo" was quite a mouthful.
    Changing back to the original number would have been worth it,
    just to get away from that.
    FWIW I told a guy I know whose initial are JB about having changed the number, and that it was now available--
    he immediately reserved it for one of his project 180's.
    Cessna Skywagon-- accept no substitute!

  32. #32
    TurboBeaver's Avatar
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    Back in the 80's and 90's lots of guides in Alaska reserved N numbers that were rifle Calibers followed by their initial's. I had 338EB on my plane in 90's, from 223/458 were common back then. Some fella from Juneau had blocked out a bunch of caliber numbers and was selling em to fellow guides. The guy I sold .338 to changed it right
    back to it's original registration a few months after he purchased it.......
    E

  33. #33
    Eddie Foy's Avatar
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    I actually reserved N84SH. Ask a fighter pilot what Sierra Hotel means.
    "Put out my hand and touched the face of God!"
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  34. #34
    JWE's Avatar
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    S... Hot!

  35. #35
    Cub junkie's Avatar
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    Vanity numbers are for people that aim the go pro at their selves instead of out the front when they are flying.
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  36. #36
    RVBottomly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cub junkie View Post
    Vanity numbers are for people that aim the go pro at their selves instead of out the front when they are flying.
    LOL. What if it's behind you so nobody sees your face?

  37. #37
    stewartb's Avatar
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    When you build a plane that didn’t exist before the decision of the N number is almost as difficult as deciding on a paint scheme. Sorting through the available numbers was fun.

  38. #38
    jnorris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedOwlAirfield View Post
    I would remind you there are aircraft out there that NEED a short N number. I'm thinking Pitts', Baby Lakes, BD5's stuff like that. Heck even Skymasters need them. If they're all on 170's or King Airs ( as seen on You Tube videos of Oshkosh) how are those folks supposed to get in the air? 3 inch numbers don't work for everybody in every circumstance. I say stick with regular length numbers so that short numbers are there for those who need them.

    I've also heard several exchanges with ATC where that short number requires clarification. ATC will usually ask to be certain if you only give them two characters. Extra trouble - and more to the point - a poor use of controllers time and frequency bandwidth.

    Not trying to get on anyone's case or ruffle any feathers. I just wanted to point out some issues folks may not have thought of. If it's legal and you want to, go for it. I don't like the idea, but it is still legal.
    No airplane NEEDS a short N number. There are provisions in the rules for just about any situation regarding making the N number fit on the airframe. As for "saving" the short N numbers for those who "need" them, someone has already beat you to it. There is at least one enterprising individual (maybe more than one) who have systematically reserved all the short N numbers and will now "sell" you that reservation for a hefty fee. The shorter or more unique the N number, the higher the price to transfer the registration. So if you want it bad enough..... (A friend of mine used to say "if you want it bad, you'll get it bad!")
    Joe

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