The FAA has yet to develop a plan for modernizing its Civil Aviation Registry—despite being required to complete upgrades by October 2021—according to a new audit report from the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the Registry processes and maintains ownership records on roughly 300,000 private and commercial aircraft and nearly 1.5 million airmen. However, because FAA’s systems do not allow online access of records in real-time, companies and individuals looking for such information to complete aircraft-related transactions must be physically present at the Registry’s office in Oklahoma—an impractical requirement for most stakeholders.

FAA reviews of aircraft registration documents are still mostly paper-based, which involves significant amounts of manual processing. Most aircraft registration functions require the submission of paper documents, which are then manually scanned and reviewed by Registry personnel. This “time-consuming and labor-intensive” process has contributed to a backlog of aircraft registration submissions that can take up to six weeks to process, according to the OIG.

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 requires FAA to establish an entirely new system—called the Civil Aviation Registry Electronic Services (CARES)—by October 2021. The OIG, however, found that FAA has still not taken action on key decisions regarding the system, such as whether to use risk-based oversight, which processes to automate and whether to use a cloud or server-based system to store data.

Because the agency has not defined the new system’s requirements, it has been unable to complete cost estimates or establish milestones for its development and rollout. FAA is also developing a rulemaking to allow for electronic registration of aircraft, which it expects to issue by 2020. The agency has not established any formal date for a notice of proposed rulemaking, despite listing the proposed rule on its regulatory agenda since fall 2016.

The OIG recommended FAA develop a timeline for making key decisions regarding CARES, define the system’s desired capabilities, develop a procedure to obtain feedback from stakeholders, and implement a plan for maintaining real-time access to aircraft registration data.

The FAA said in response to the OIG’s findings that it is “committed to modernizing the Civil Aviation Registry,” adding that planned enhancements will include web-based access, automating application processes and using new technology to streamline existing processes. The agency concurred with all four of the OIG’s recommendations and said it would meet them all within the next 12 months.

Ben Goldstein,