While the California DMV has the daunting task of keeping track of 25 million motor vehicles, consider the relatively simple job of tracking 357,000 private and commercial aircraft in the U.S. If you believe that it’s under control, you probably are wrong.
The Federal Aviation Administration disclosed on Friday that the agency’s records are in such poor shape, that the ownership identity of 119,000 aircraft is uncertain due to missing forms, invalid addresses, unreported sales and other paperwork problems. In many instance, the FAA doesn’t know if the airplane is in a junkyard, or still flying.
The problem concerns authorities because of the risk of terrorists and drug smugglers, groups that routinely use aircraft for illegal purposes. In a number of instances, police and federal agents have already raided the wrong airplane because of problems with incorrect registration numbers.
The FAA is just starting to work on the problem, and will begin cancelling all registration numbers beginning next year, requiring owners to re-register aircraft with current information.