Aircraft may be stranded at airfields or left at repair shops by owners who can't pay their bills. State personal property laws govern the disposition of abandoned aircraft. Authorities can declare an aircraft abandoned if the owner cannot be found or does not respond to a notice of sale within a specified period. The state can then sell the aircraft at a public auction. You might find a great deal on an abandoned aircraft at a sheriff's auction or foreclosure sale.
Obtain a bill of sale. The Federal Aviation Administration requires proof of ownership for all aircraft registrations. If you purchased your aircraft at an auction or a judicial sale, ensure that the auctioneer or sheriff who conducted the sale signs the bill of sale. Include a statement verifying that the sale complied with local laws. If you cannot provide evidence of ownership, the FAA may accept a signed affidavit with supporting documentation in lieu of a bill of sale.
Conduct a title search on your aircraft. Search aircraft records through the FAA, or hire an attorney or aviation title search company to conduct the search for you. A title search discloses the chain of ownership and any liens or outstanding mortgages against the aircraft. Without a clear title, you will have difficulty selling the plane or proving ownership in a civil court proceeding. If you discover a problem with the title, file paperwork with the FAA to resolve any existing claims.
Register your aircraft with the FAA in the legal name of the aircraft's owner. Obtain an Aircraft Registration Application from a Flight Standards District Office or from the FAA's Aircraft Registration Branch. Mail the completed application, payment for the registration fee and the signed bill of sale to the Aircraft Registration Branch. You should receive your final registration documents within several weeks after mailing.
Register your aircraft with your state if required by state law. Contact your state's Department of Transportation to determine the registration requirements and procedures. Typically, you must register your aircraft within several weeks after purchase. In addition to completing an application form, you may have to pay sales tax, use tax or a registration fee.