Owner Trusts

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Updated April 2, 2018

Owner trusts are a commonly used method to register aircraft in the U.S. on the FAA registry. Under a trust relationship, the trustee holds legal title to an aircraft for the benefit of a third party, often known as a trustor or beneficiary. Through a lease or similar arrangement, the trustee provides the aircraft to the trustor or beneficiary to operate.

Through law and regulations, non-U.S. citizens are generally not allowed to register aircraft with the FAA. When an individual or company does not meet the narrow citizenship definition, owner trusts are often used to allow for registration, and are referred to as non-citizen trusts.

Download "A Guide to Owner Trusts" (224KB, PDF)

FAA Policy Clarification on Non-Citizen Trusts

The FAA published a policy clarification related to the registration of aircraft to U.S. citizen trustees in situations involving non-U.S. citizen trustors and beneficiaries.

Review the Non-Citizen Trust Policy Clarification(291KB, PDF)

NBAA has long been involved in this policy matter, directly with the FAA and with the Aviation Working Group coalition. In May 2010, the FAA announced a moratorium on non-citizen trust registrations, citing safety oversight and operational control concerns, which would have ended a decades-long policy that was widely used in compliance with the law. NBAA represented the business aviation industry at public hearings and contributed to the coalition comments filed with the FAA on this subject.

Review the Coalition Comments (250KB, PDF)


What Are Non-Citizen Trusts? A Routine, Well-Regulated Way to Register Aircraft
March 5, 2018
Although portrayed in some articles as exotic arrangements, non-citizen trusts have been used for decades by many well-known companies, including major airlines and leasing companies, to register aircraft with the FAA. “The FAA Aircraft Registry is an owner registry, as opposed to an operator registry,” said Frank Polk, an aviation attorney at law firm McAfee & Taft. “And one of the requirements to register an aircraft with the FAA is that the individual or company be a U.S. citizen.” Learn more about non-citizen trusts.