Private Aircraft Database

Hey guys and gals,

First time poster, here. I’m a graduate student with an intent to conduct research on airplanes and property tax systems. But before I can come to any conclusions, I need to collect data on all private, non-military planes. Specifically, I would like to get information about all registered airplanes in the continental U.S. including their identification number and comprehensive flight history. Specifically, I need data dating back to about year 2000.

I’m just sort of starting my research, and I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon such an active, engaging discussion board where folks kind enough might be able to point me in the right direction.

If I understand correctly, FlighAware doesn’t allow access to such comprehensive data sets unless contacted through their commercial services. Is that correct? Also, I know that this site has only been compiling flight information since 2005, so I need to find a more retroactive database. If anybody has any tips or links on where to find such a database, it would be greatly appreciated.


Good luck.

I can’t think of any database with all of the information you require. A comprehensive flight history is going to be impossible for all private aircraft. That is not data that is required to be reported. For one thing most light aircraft fly under VFR (visual flight rules) so there may not be a record of most of their flights anywhere except in the aircraft or pilot logbooks. Most airports will keep track of aircraft that paid parking fees, but that usually applies only if the aircraft spent the night away from home and would not show where they came from.

There would be a record of IFR (instrument flight rules) flights, call your local FAA office and see if somebody can point you in the right direction. I think you are only going to get gross data though. In other words, total IFR flights and maybe hours but not by individual aircraft. Unless it comes to you already on a spreadsheet it would be too many to work with anyway.
I’ll let Mark answer you about Flight Aware specifically.

With the connection between aircraft and property taxes all of the states that collect property taxes on aircraft would have a record. However that probably does not contain any flight information beyond whatever they collect which, most likely, is nothing beyond total hours flown for the year. Some states may not even collect that.

The FAA has flight data but it is derived from activity at the busiest airports, some maintenance reports and is a “best guess” for the entire country. Again, call your local FAA office, they are here to help. :laughing: (sorry, inside pilot joke)

Another hitch is the fact that thousands of aircraft are sold every year. Owners can change registration numbers, they just request a new one from the FAA, it’s easy. I suggest collating data by the aircraft make, model and serial number, that does not change.

Sorry I can’t be more help, let us know if you find any good sites.



Great information. Clearly, I should limit research to IFR flights if I want to gather any sort of complete data set. I have already been crawling though the FAA’s website, and because of your suggestion have already emailed several people from my local FAA offices.

I was able to come across a downloadable file that supposedly lists every registered airplane in the U.S. by N-number and owner.

Now, if I could just track IFR flight activity by these N-number, I’d be golden.

Thanks for your help.

good deal. As you found, ownership data is easy, getting every Piper Cub’s flight record is not going to happen. Now all you need is the 50 tax offices to cooperate.
The website should have the total flight data somewhere on it, not sure how much they break it down though.



One more hitch I just thought of, some privately owned aircraft will be flown commercially by charter companies. Also some truly privately operated aircraft use an airline style call sign when they file flight plans so the data will not be under the N#.
For instance I just saw GLE9 “greenleaf 9” depart San Luis Obispo, Ca. That is actually one of Archer Daniels Midland’s airplanes.
A lot of larger corporate aircraft are leased, you’ll see a lot of Wells Fargo registrations. Finding the operator and matching it up with the tax records might be hard to do,

As John said, such data is not available except on an individual aircraft basis. You can download the most current Aircraft Registration Database from here.

What do you hope to accomplish with the data you seek?

Thanks for the reply. The database you linked is where I started my research.

Essentially, I am looking to explore whether aircraft owners avoid paying personal property taxes on their planes by flying to a low tax locale on an assessment date and then shortly thereafter return.

I’m trying to put the pieces together to find if this an even a valid hypothesis worth exploring (whether people do such a thing…?), and whether accumulating the proper data sets is feasible.

I’m very much in the dark about the whole personal property tax process on airplanes, except that it varies from state to state and county to county.

Where is that popcorn…

Not every state has a personal property tax, so you can start by removing those that don’t from your dataset.

Musical chairs with aircraft and documented vessels was commonplace only a few years ago. Nowadays the states with a personal property tax have come to the realization that it’s profitable to hire minions to monitor the comings and goings at their airports and marinas in order to determine who owns what and where they’re basing it.

There are no longer valid “Get out of Dodge” days in these states, they calculate domicile based on an annual average of overnight stays. Florida and Maine are two of the worst states for wanting what they consider their due after you might have only visited for an extended period.

As JHEM says it used to be done fairly regularly. Whether to do it or not was based on the cost of flying your plane or moving your yacht to a neighboring non-tax state for three days vs. the tax that would be due if you stayed home.
I, of course, never spent three days in Lake Havasu with 6 other pilots camping on the beach for three days on the FBO’s nickel myself. :wink: