Importing a plane into the United States is not like importing other vehicles. There are strict rules and procedures to follow and typically, the process must happen in a certain order to avoid excess taxes and penalties.
What do you need to know if you want to purchase and import a foreign plane into the US?
Start with a purchase and sale agreement
Before you purchase a foreign plane and bring it to the US, it’s wise to have a purchase and sale agreement in place. This agreement states exactly how you will buy the plane, how it will move across US borders, and which party is responsible for each part of the transaction and import process. Without a purchase and sale agreement, you and the seller have no recourse if a dispute arises.
Required forms and information for airplane importation
Importing a plane into the US requires certain forms you must submit to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). You’ll need to gather some important information about your airplane to fill out these forms and create your purchase and sale agreement:
- Importer of record (either the buyer, seller, or a customs broker)
- Ultimate consignee (the party in the US who receives the merchandise)
- The value of the aircraft
- Unladen weight of the aircraft in kilograms
- Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) code
- Country of origin and manufacture
- Manufacturer’s ID number
CBP will also ask for specific import forms, including:
- Customs Bond Form 301
- CBP Form 3461
- CBP Form 7501
- Pro forma invoice
- Bill of sale (signed in ink by the seller)
- Airworthiness certificate
You’ll also have to pay any applicable merchandise processing fees, duties, and taxes to CBP.
Importing a boat into the US? Read our guide.
Getting an airworthiness certificate
Part of the airplane importation process is getting an airworthiness certificate. The aircraft must meet FAA standards before it can be registered and used in the US. Airworthiness should be determined by a designated airworthiness representative (DAR).
If you’re purchasing a foreign aircraft, it’s typical to set up a pre-buy inspection that takes place in the US. The DAR may not declare the aircraft airworthy and let you know what work needs to be done to make it airworthy in the US. Costs of repairs to the plane to make it acceptable for FAA standards fall to the buyer. For this reason, it’s important to have this inspection before the purchase of the aircraft is final. To make the pre-buy inspection possible, the seller will also have to follow CBP regulations to get the aircraft into the US.
Registering an imported aircraft with the FAA
Another component of importing a plane into the US is registering the aircraft. To be registered with the FAA, the plane must be deregistered in its country of origin. The FAA requires:
- A statement from the foreign country’s national aircraft registry indicating that registration has ended
- Evidence of ownership, such as a bill of sale signed in ink
- A completed Aircraft Registration Application AC Form 8050-1
- A check or money order payable to the Federal Aviation Administration for $5 (USD)
You can send your registration information to the FAA by mail and should write “Import” in red ink on the envelope.
Deregistering your aircraft from a foreign country could be more complex than you think. In the US, tracing the ownership of an airplane is relatively straightforward because the FAA is the only agency you need to check to verify an aircraft’s records. Any title company one-time can easily search FAA records for claims impacting the title.
Canada, on the other hand, does not have a federal agency for aviation. Tracking an aircraft’s chain of ownership requires checking with several regional and provincial agencies. If you’re buying a plane from Canada, deregistration may take a while. It’s important to understand the deregistration process of the country you’re purchasing your aircraft from, as it could impact the importation timeline.
Importing a plane into Canada? Read our guide.
Do you need title insurance?
Title insurance covers your financial loss and any related legal expenses should there be a dispute with the title of your airplane. It’s a one-time premium paid at the closing of the sale. Should there be a problem with tracking down the chain of ownership of your plane, or if it’s discovered there’s a lien against it, you could incur serious financial losses. Compared to the financial hit you’d take from a defective title, the cost of title insurance is worth it.
Working with a customs broker
As you can see, the process of importing a plane into the US relies on several things happening at the right time. You can’t complete the purchase until the plane is inspected. But it’s better to have it inspected in the US by a US mechanic. But then, the seller must contend with customs to get the plane to the US which can quickly lead to headaches.
By working with a certified customs broker, you can make the import process much more streamlined. BorderBuddy will ensure you’ve filled out all the correct paperwork, paid the required fees and duties, and sought the proper inspections. Contact us today so we can answer your questions about importing a plane into the US.