|Quoting Lincoln (Thread starter):|
Conversely, in every other country I'm aware of, the registration numbers are entirely alpha and do have a dash between the "country identifier" and the rest of the registration number
The "logic" in the registration numbers following the country code are a matter of national law, so various states decide on various schemes of how to immatriculate their aircraft. Btw. A mix of numeric and alphanumeric characters is more common than you think.
For example, some West-European countries use numeric registrations for gliders (sailplanes), and letters for self-propelled aircraft, Switzerland being one example.
There are various ways as how to "manage" registrations. Starting with an easy case, Spain: There, registrations are assigned strictly in alphabetical order. It started with EC
-AAB... and now we are somewhere in the EC
Other countries use the first letter to identify the class of aircraft (weight class, type of aircraft). Again, my home turf Switzerland as an example:
-A.. are commercial, multi engine aircraft up to (IIRC) 15t MTOW, e.g. HB
-AEE, a Do328.
-I.. and HB
-J.. are commercial aircraft above 15t MTOW, e.g. HB
-IJA, an A320.
-X.. and HB
-Z.. are helicopters,
-B.. are hot air balloons,
-F.. are large single-mots such as PC
-6 and PC
Germany has a similar regime, with D-A... being the heavy civilian aircraft, D-B... and D-C... being the lighter commuter & multi-engine aircraft (I don't know the exact MTOWs that make the difference), D-E... being single mots, D-H... being helicopters etc.
Other countries seem to let you chose your registration at will, such as Great Britain, where some airlines seem to scramble for "funny" registrations (remember Go Fly with their G-Oxxx registrations, with xxx being all kind of airport codes for cities served by the airline?).
and the succeeding CIS states use numeric 5-digit registrations, such as CCCP-85001, UR
-85833 etc. Some countries are in the process of changing to purely alphabetical registrations when importing new aircraft (be it Western types or CIS aircraft from other CIS states), such as Ukraine: UR
Others CIS countries create really wild variants, such as Bjelorussia (see Belavia's B737 EW
-251PA which looks like a mixed Bjelorussian-American registration) or Azerbaijan, for example with Turan's ex-Malev Tu-154 cn 474 now wearing 4K-474 (i.e. registration = cn).
Another interesting case is Canada which once used registrations of the type CF-ABC. When it ran out of letters, it changed it to C-F and C-G, but I have seen many aircraft that retained the original CF- registration for decades - and I have seen at least one aircraft painted as CG- with my own proper eyes (Millardair's Super DC-3 (C-117D) CG-JGQ after being neutralised and stored in Picton).
So there's a lot of variety, and no global logic except for the unique country codes assigned. Or, hey wait... When the Sovjet Union broke up, Azerbaijan surprised the spotter world by painting an (unofficial) country code on its government Tu-134B-3 and flying it into ZRH
And then I recall a world-renown corporate-jet outfitter who overhauled the Sultan of Brunei's first B727-200. When it was rolled out of the hangar, it wore registration VS
-1HB, which was changed a few days later to the correct V8
-HB1. I assume the painter fell victim to a case of unclear hand-wrinting. Proof is in the database...
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