Registration Markings of Australian Aircraft
Under the Air Navigation Act of 1920, Australia accepted responsibility for the "registration, marking and airworthiness" of aircraft. However, aircraft operating in Australia continued to be registered against the British nationality mark until 1929.
Australian Certificate of Registration No.1 was issued on 28 June 1921 for an Avro 504K aircraft. The registration allocated was G-AUBA.
|Registrations at this time were mostly allocated in alphabetical order, the first 'out of series', personalised registration being CAB's own Bristol Tourer G-AUCA (CA = Civil Aviation). This aircraft was also registed on 28 June 1921, with Certificate of Registration No. 46.|
With the exception of G-AUAA (see below), 'double letter' marks (e.g. G-AUBB) were not allocated, although the reason for this has not been established. Some other marks were also not allocated. From 1949 certain marks were listed as 'prohibited' for various reasons: for example, they conflicted with code groups used in wireless telegraphy, or they spelled 'dirty words' (e.g. _VD).
The first mark in the Australian series, G-AUAA, was allocated to CAB's new De Havilland DH37 which was registed on 1 July 1924, Certificate of Registration No. 98. CAB also reserved the block G-AUAA to G-AUAZ for its own use.
The International Radiotelegraph Convention in Washington, USA, in 1927 produced a revised table of Nationality and Registration markings for aircraft and other radio call-signs. These recommendations were duly adopted by ICAN in June 1928.
The Commonwealth of Australia was allocated the prefixes VH, VI, VJ, VK, VL and VM. Since the Dominions and Colonies did not have a vote at ICAN until about 1929, the allocation of 'VH' was probably made arbitrarily.
These prefixes were allocated as follows:
Within the group VH-A to VH-Z , certain blocks of letters were reserved for the RAAF, RAN and, later, for gliders.
From January 1929, Australian aircraft began displaying the nationality and registration mark 'VH'. Aircraft previously registered G-A__ dropped the 'G-A' prefix but retained the last three letters of their registration. Thus G-AUBA became VH-UBA. Because of the cost of re-painting aircraft, owners were given a period of twelve months in which to effect the change at the next major overhaul. An exception was aircraft flying overseas which had to change their markings before departing. Some owners stretched the twelve months grace period to the limit, with the last recorded changeover being made on 22 February 1933.
Click here to see the letter sent to Kingsford Smith and Ulm re the change of registration markings for the Southern Cross (G-AUSU/VH-USU)
|The first machine to be registered under the new system was a Gipsy Moth, owned by Mr T.P. Manifold (a director of Matthews Aviation Pty. Ltd) which bore the marking VH-UKF. The VH-U block continued to be allocated, with 'filling in' of previously unallocated registrations (including in CAB's own 'UAA to 'UAZ block) from mid-1934 until it ran out of combinations in 1937, at which point the VH-A block was started.|
In 1967 DCA announced a new policy of 'lifetime registration' in order to prevent the confusion created by the practice of re-allocation of registrations and re-registration of aircraft. Although the policy had industry backing at the time, later pressure from industry caused the Department to abandon it and to resume re-registering aircraft and reallocating registrations. This has caused many problems for modern day researchers.
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