An aircraft registration is a unique alphanumeric string that identifies a civil aircraft, in similar fashion to a licence plate on an automobile. In accordance with the Convention on International Civil Aviation all aircraft must be registered with a national aviation authority and they must carry proof of this registration in the form of a legal document called a Certificate of Registration at all times when in operation. Most countries also require the aircraft registration to be imprinted on a permanent fireproof plate mounted on the fuselage for the purposes of post-fire/post-crash aircraft accident investigation.
Because airplanes typically display their registration numbers on the aft fuselage just forward of the tail, in earlier times, more often on the tail itself, the registration is often referred to as the "tail number".
Although each aircraft registration is unique, some countries allow it to be re-used when the aircraft has been sold, destroyed or retired. For example, N3794N is assigned to a Mooney M20F. It had been previously assigned to a Beechcraft Bonanza (specifically, the aircraft in which Buddy Holly was killed). Also note that an individual aircraft may be assigned different registrations during its existence. This can be because the aircraft changes ownership, state of registration, or in some cases for vanity reasons.
Read more about Aircraft Registration: International Standards, Country-specific Usage, Decolonisation and Independence, List of Countries/regions and Their Registration Prefixes and Patterns, Pre-1928 Allocations
Other articles related to "aircraft registration, registration, aircraft":
... n represents a number, x represents a letter Country / Region Registration Prefix Suffix Pattern 1913 radio call letters Abyssinia A-B A-Bxxx Afghanistan Y-A Y-Axxx Albania B-A B-Axxx ...
... By the early-1950s, the bare metal finish on most BEA aircraft had evolved to incorporate a burgundy cheatline separated by two thin, white lines above the cabin ... In addition to the aircraft registration, there was also a coat of arms on each side of the rear fuselage and a small Union flag each side of the lower ... upper case on the upper left and lower right wing while the aircraft registration appeared in bold, upper case on the upper right and lower left wing ...