EBACE Convention News

Isle of Man registry M-eets demand

 - May 18, 2008, 12:20 AM

In the year since it was created on May 1, 2007, the Isle of Man aircraft registry has established itself as a popular offshore registry for business jet owners. Just over 50 aircraft have taken the Isle of Man’s M-tail numbers, more than four times the number targeted by the British Crown Dependency’s government.

The registry is now seeking to attract owners of U.S. N-registered aircraft that are based largely in Europe. Since these operators are coming under pressure from European civil aviation authorities–such as those of France and the UK–to register in Europe, the Isle of Man believes it offers a solution that will keep both authorities and owners happy.

“The government’s prediction was for one aircraft a month, but we have done one a week,” said Brian Johnson, who joined the Isle of Man Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as its first director of civil aviation in early 2007. The registry already has a wide range of business jets, although as yet it has no Boeing Business Jets or Airbus Corporate Jets.

Around 10 of the aircraft belong to island residents, who are able to register light aircraft; nonresidents are able to register only corporate jets with a max takeoff weight of 5,700 pounds or more. All aircraft types joining the registry must have type certificates issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency.

The first aircraft added to the registry were Cessna Citations, but Bombardier models–numbering six, including a new Global 5000 and a couple of Challenger 605s–are now the most common types. From Hawker Beechcraft, the registry already has a new Hawker 800XP and a pair of Premier 1As. Four Hawker 900XPs are coming this year, and at least two of the new 4000 model are in the pipeline. One company that placed a new Dassault Falcon on the registry has declared itself so satisfied with the service and benefits that it will add its five other aircraft, including a Falcon 7X.

The Isle of Man aims to combine the tax advantages associated with the island’s fiscal regime with a convenient registration process based on a high level of personal service. At the same time, it is seeking to position itself as the respectable face of offshore registration by strictly adhering to the same technical standards of the EASA states.

The main tax benefits of registration in the Isle of Man are its zero-ratings for both corporation and inheritance tax. The island also doesn’t charge insurance premium tax (currently 5 percent in the neighboring UK). Depending on an aircraft owner’s tax domicile, the Isle of Man registration can reduce or eliminate any exposure to value-added tax on aircraft purchases.

The Isle of Man government’s main goal in establishing the new registry is to boost the island’s financial services business.

The aircraft registry complements the large ship registry that already exists (and includes many super-yachts) and is generating a lot of work for local lawyers and bankers. To register an aircraft, owners need to establish an Isle of Man company and local financial services firms can help them.

M-registration in Demand

One of the greatest coups pulled off by Johnson and his DTI team was to secure the
M-registration, once assigned to Spain but subsequently transferred to the UK Civil Aviation Authority–Johnson’s former employer.

Some of the M-tail numbers available are pretty distinctive. “M-USIC has been reserved,” said Johnson, “while three people were after M-ONEY, which will be going on an aircraft shortly. Someone just took M-YWAY, which will go on a new helicopter–as it matches the company slogan–but he’s also a Sinatra fan.” The first on the registry was M-AGIC.

Another attractive feature of the registry is the portability of registrations. For example, a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter registered M-ONTY has been re-registered as M-ERRY so M-ONTY can be transferred to the owner’s new helicopter. This allows owners to keep the same registration as they trade up.

Johnson believes that the registry will be “pretty big in a few years” and predicted that “for the foreseeable future, the registry should grow at 50 aircraft a year.”
The building of a new corporate aviation terminal this year at the island’s Ronaldsway Airport should help cement the Isle of Man’s place in the business aviation world.

Here at EBACE, Johnson can be contacted via Isle of Man financial services providers ICM Aviation and Martyn Fiddler Associates (both at Booth No. 1337), as well as Benelux Corporate Solutions Ltd. (Booth No. 2035).