Software changes planned to simplify IRMA sign-up

 - May 17, 2008, 4:38 AM

The system developed under the Cape Town Treaty to clarify ownership of aircraft and equipment is being made easier to use. Two years’ customer experience has driven changes aimed at improving International Registry of Mobile Assets (IRMA) processes used in recording individual financial interests.

Since its introduction in February 2006, the registry has concentrated on making the system more user friendly, a process that will continue for another few years. Software being introduced this month will add further enhancements and make registration “an order of magnitude faster,” according to Aviareto, a Dublin-based joint venture between telecommunications provider SITA and the Irish government, which has been entrusted with managing the IRMA system.

So far, the international asset registration procedure has been ratified by more than 20 of the 30-plus countries that signed the Cape Town Convention (see box). The Treaty, comprising the Convention plus the related Protocol on Aircraft Assets, reduces financial risk by clarifying ownership and identifying priorities of interest held in fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and aircraft engines.

Aviareto has recently developed software called Searchpath to make system interrogation more open, especially for users seeking numerous records of assets with similar serial numbers. It also hopes to provide users with better accountability, so that title agents or lawyers, for example, can tender more detailed client invoices. Software is being modified to permit users to be named as both parties in sales transactions, a common financial industry practice.

In the future, registration under IRMA will permit simultaneous multiple transactions. At its simplest, this might involve an aircraft and two engines with three registrations each to identify the objects and parties involved–a scenario that would generate nine registrations.

Previously, with system users checking registered data for the aircraft and individual engines, other interested parties, including banks or lessors, were kept waiting online to provide, for example, consent to proceed. Now, second-generation software will permit customers to pre-arrange processes to expedite online processes.

The company also is introducing a registration page so that, for example, retained handling agents can be identified later. “We would not have thought of that without talking to the industry,” Aviareto managing director Rob Cowan told EBACE Convention News.

Aviareto has spent months visiting interested parties, especially in registration hotbeds like New York, Oklahoma City (home of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration registry), and Dallas, Texas, where “lawyers are not reluctant to share their opinions,” said Cowan.

Other topics raised by users include the need for clearer identification of generic types, since aircraft registered in IRMA under one specific type will be found in searches only for that specific type. Customers want the system to accommodate name variations and to show, for example, all entries applicable to a given registered asset.

Cowan said manufacturers’ data can be inconsistent and their names might change. For example, are Piper PA-28, Cherokee, Cherokee Warrior, and Cherokee Lance all the same aircraft type? And who manufactured the airplane: Piper or New Piper?
Aviareto hopes improvements will allow users to obtain all relevant information at the beginning of the registration process. To that end, registrants are being required to use manufacturers’ serial numbers (MSNs) for aircraft, helicopters and engines.
Cowan emphasized that although Aviareto is a monopoly, it does not arbitrate asset-ownership disputes. Rather, it will provide information that courts can use
to settle disputes. Beginning in October, additional changes will facilitate easier correction and amendment of IRMA entries.

A major enhancement has been registration of multiple ownership of assets, typically to accommodate fractional ownership programs. Since last June, 13 percent of new registered aircraft assets and three percent of engine-asset registrations have involved such acquisitions, although there has been just one registration of a helicopter fractional asset.

Not all fractional ownership operators have accepted IRMA registration. “Some fleet managers have embraced it and encourage registration by their customers, but others have yet to see why they should,” said Cowan. “They might not like the cost and hassle of registering small portions.” To register an aircraft and two engines costs $100; a search costs $3; and the price for a user license is $200.

Nevertheless, fractional ownership executives do seem to see some value in registration. “It is clear that some resistant managers are requiring customers to register their disposal of the asset back to the frax program to protect themselves by proving their return ownership,” explained Cowan.

So, after two years, how many parties have registered interests in how many assets? Cowan believes that quoting numbers in such terms would be a misleading measure of project success because of multiple registrations of multiple elements in a single transaction. “We can say that 5,000 search certificates have been issued and that there have been 4,000 registration sessions,” he stated. Aviareto is seeing applications from more than 500 potential new users each month.