Last Update: at 11:23

HB-A instead of HB-I or HB-J

Switzerland has to adapt its aircraft registration system

Previously, only turboprops bore HB-A registrations. Now the Swiss authorities are also classifying large commercial aircraft like that. There is a shortage of available registrations.

Tis Meyer

Helvetic Airways Embraer E2 with its registration HB-AZA.

They’re like license plates for planes. Aircraft registrations can be used to uniquely identify any aircraft in the world. The alphanumeric code always begins with the country code (such as D for Germany, N for the USA or G for the United Kingdom). Separated by a hyphen, it is followed by the national registration, which can consist of letters and numbers.

In Switzerland, there is a strict system for aircraft registration numbers. The first letter after the country code HB- indicates in which category an aircraft belongs. HB-B stands for hot air balloons, HB-C for Cessnas, HB-X and HB-Z for helicopters, and so on. HB-A stands for twin-engine turboprops with a maximum take-off weight between 5.7 and 15 tons.

Not enough J’s left

Or rather: it did stand for that. The Swiss aviation authority has had to adapt the strict regulation. Recently, ATR 72 from Zimex Aviation with a maximum take-off weight of 22 tons were classified as HB-A by the Bundesamt für Zivilluftfahrt Bazl (Federal Office of Civil Aviation). The first Embraer E190-E2 from Helvetic Airways with 54 tons also recently received HB-A registration: HB-AZA. Big jets like that usually get HB-I and HB-J.

There is a good reason for the exceptions to the rule. «Since there weren’t many free license plates with J left, we unfortunately couldn’t give Helvetic Airways this option,» a spokesman for the Federal Office of Civil Aviation told aeroTELEGRAPH. The airline will add twelve of the new planes to its fleet.

More cases like that

Besides HB-I and HB-J, HB-A is «the only letter used for commercial aircraft», and therefore «we have decided to attach the E190- E2 there», says the BAZL-spokesman. This ist likely to happen even more often in the future, because the growth in aviation is leading to a shortage of license plates.

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