Registration Markings of Australian Sport Aircraft

Amateur built - or homebuilt - aircraft have existed since the beginnings of aviation when, indeed, all aircraft were 'homebuilt'. In the years before the Second World War, these aircraft were largely treated as part of the mainstream of aviation and were allocated registration marks in the same way as for any other aircraft.

In the years after the Second World War, three main streams of sport aviation emerged (not including parachuting): firstly, activities which involved mainstream 'general aviation' aircraft; secondly, a new wave of amateur building; and thirdly the growth of the gliding movement. The first two categories we need not be concerned with here as the aircraft involved were registered, and carried markings, in the normal way.


From a very early stage, the gliding movement and DCA came to an understanding on the principle of 'self administration'. Under this principle, in 1953 the Gliding Federation of Australia (GFA) was given the responsibility for setting and maintaining standards for gliding operations and airworthiness, activities that in other branches of aviation were perrformed directly by DCA. As part of this accommodation, the GFA was given delegated powers to register gliders, and later motor-gliders. To facilitate this process, the GFA was allocated a block of registrations in the VH-G (i.e. G for 'glider') block. Gliders could also be registered outside of this block by the aircraft owner approaching the Department to transfer a particular registration to the GFA's allocation.

click here for some photo examples The display of registration markings by gliders was also varied as a consequence of this arrangement. Gliders that are operated solely within Australia (which is most of them) are not required to display the nationality marks ('VH'), nor are they required to display the first letter of the aircraft's individual registration if it is a 'G'. Gliders which are operated outside of Australia (as some do in competition) must display the full registration, and gliders registered outside the VH-G block must in any case display all three letters of the aircraft's individual marks.


When modern ultralight aircraft first appeared in the late 1970s, it is fair to say that the Department was unsure how to deal with them. Some form of regulation was required and this took the form of CAO 95.10, first issued in November 1976. Incidentally, this was the first regulation in the world designed specifically to cover powered ultralight flying machines. Initially, ultralight aircraft were banished into the airspace below 500 ft AGL (mostly unused by 'serious' aircraft) and were also not permitted to fly within a certain distance of people, or to cross public roads. Nor were they required to be registered.

It was not until after the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport Safety issued a report on Sports Aviation Safety in 1987 (known as the 'HORSCOTS Report') that the regulations covering ultralights, by then also embracing commercially-built two-seaters under CAO 95.25, were amended to require the registration of ultralight aircraft with the Australian Ultralight Federation (AUF) by the end of 1988.

click here for some photo examples
The form of registration adopted was a two digit prefix relating to the CAO under which the aircraft was registered (i.e. '10' or '25') followed by a dash and a four digit individual number: e.g. 10-1234. In terms of marking the aircraft, CAO 95.10 aircraft could dispense with the '10' prefix and all aircraft could dispense with any leading zeroes in the individual number: e.g. 25-0001 could be marked as 25-1. As for mainstream aircraft, registration marks were required to be carried on the fuselage or fin, and under the port wing.

In 1990, an additional set of standards for ultralight aircraft appeared. CAO 95.32 covered powered hang-gliders (formally, weight-shift controlled microlights, but universally known as 'trikes'), which could either be registered with the AUF or the Hang Gliding Federation of Australia (HGFA), and powered parachutes which could only be registered with the AUF. Note that unpowered hang gliders were, and are, not required to be registered. CAO 95.55 covered conventional three-axis control aircraft registered with the AUF.

The AUF (from April 2004 Recreational Aviation Australia - RAAus) simply extended its existing registration system for these new categories of aircraft, starting again with individual numbers and using the relevant prefix.

click here for an example photo The HGFA, which also gained the power to register CAO 95.10 trikes, created a similar registration system with a four-digit individual number but a prefix of 'T1' for CAO 95.10 aircraft and 'T2' for CAO 95.32 aircraft.

Since that time, additional categories of 'ultralight' aircraft have been created, with registrations in the new categories following the established pattern. The first of these new categories was for aircraft meeting the airworthiness standards of CAO 101.28, the mainstream 'amateur built' aircraft airworthiness standard, and registered under CAO 95.55. These aircraft types were formerly all registered on the Australian Register, but under the new rules aircraft in this category that met the ultralight parameters could be registered as ultralights (28-series).

The 24-series is for factory-built aircraft registered under CAO 95.55 and has replaced the 25- and 55-series, which are closed to new designs. In this category are also a few lightweight 'general aviation' aircraft that have transferred from the Australian Register to the RAAus register. These aircraft can be used commercially for flying training. The 19-series is for heavier, higher-performance homebuilt or kitbuilt aircraft, also registered under CAO 95.55, and these aircraft can be used for private operations only.

As of 2004, aircraft on the RAAus Register were formally accorded the status of Australian Aircraft.


In the 1930s a number of Cierva gyroplanes were imported into Australia. These aircraft were registered on the Australian Register, but all had been withdrawn from service by the end of the Second World War. The advent of lightweight gyroplanes in the 1980s saw a different approach taken. These aircraft are the purview of the Australian Sports Rotorcraft Association (ASRA). Gyroplanes are registered under CAOs 95.12 or 95.12.1, and gyro gliders are registered under CAO 95.14.


click here for an example photo The ASRA Operations Manual states that gyros are allocated registration marks consisting the prefix 'G-' followed by a three or four digit individual number: e.g. G-1234. However, it is clear from examination of the ASRA Register that in fact all individual numbers consist of four digits. However the leading zero, if applicable, is not always displayed on the aircraft: e.g. G-0101 is marked as G-101.


click here for an example photo


Manned free balloons are the responsibility of the Australian Ballooning Federation, are registered on the Australian Register and carry normal registration marks.


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