Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About US Airline Tail Numbers (Part 2)

I had a lot of great feedback on last week’s post about the aircraft registrations of the big four airlines in the US. Now, we’re going to look at most of the rest. Below you’ll find a discussion about the regionals and low cost cost carriers flying around the country. The regionals in particular tell an interesting story about how airplanes move around between carriers.

Air Wisconsin
Original Photo By redlegsfan21 from Vandalia, OH, United States (N436AWUploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Original Photo By redlegsfan21 from Vandalia, OH, United States (N436AWUploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Little Air Wisconsin is something of an anomaly in this industry. It was left for dead by United only to find new life with US Airways. But it’s independent and only flies 50 seat jets these days. Its registration scheme? Pretty simple.
  • CRJ-200
    • N4xxAW or ZW

ZW is the airline’s two letter code.

Alaska Airlines (including Horizon)

Alaska may be a fairly big airline, but it hasn’t had any trouble using a uniform template for its airplanes. Its wholly-owned subsidiary Horizon (airline code QX) uses the same style, so I’ve combined them here.
  • Q400 (Horizon)
    • N4xxQX
  • 737-400
    • N7xxAS
  • 737-700
    • N6xxAS
  • 737-800
    • N5xxAS
  • 737-900
    • N3xxAS
  • 737-900ER
    • N4xxAS
Allegiant

With no airplanes being bought new, I always figured Allegiant wouldn’t bother re-registering airplanes. I was wrong. The airline actually has a pretty good system with most new registrations ending in NV. I assume that stands for Nevada.
  • A319
    • N3xxNV
  • MD-80
    • N4xxNV
    • N8xxGA
  • A320
    • N2xxNV
  • 757-200
    • N9xxNV
CommutAir
Original Photo By Andre Wadman [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Original Photo By Andre Wadman [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons


If you’ve been delayed on a flight on a United Express Dash 8, then you’ve been flying CommutAir. All of its airplanes have come in second-hand but only those that came from outside the country were re-registered by Comair.
  • Dash 8-200
    • N3xxPH (former Horizon aircraft)
  • Dash 8-300
    • N8xxCA (former Tyrolean aircraft)
Frontier

There’s not a ton to say about Frontier. The airline is down to only two fleet types, so it’s pretty simple. The A318 used to be N8xxFR but those have been retired now.
  • A319
    • N9xxFR
  • A320
    • N2xxFR
Hawaiian (including ‘Ohana)
Original Photo by Me, Myself, and I

Original Photo by Me, Myself, and I


Hawaiian is also pretty straightforward. I’ve included the ‘Ohana by Hawaiian aircraft flown by Empire Airlines here. Those end in HC, which according to spokesperson Alison Croyle stands for Hawaiian Commuter.
  • ATR-42 (‘Ohana by Hawaiian)
    • N8xxHC
  • 717-200
    • N4xxHA
  • 767-300
    • N5xxHA
  • A330-200
    • N3xxHA
JetBlue

JetBlue looks pretty simple at first, but there’s an interesting little twist which I’ll talk about below.
  • Embraer 190
    • N1xxJB
    • N2xxJB
  • N3xxJB
  • A320
  • N5xxJB
  • N6xxJB
  • N7xxJB
  • N8xxJB
  • A321
  • N9xxJB

So what’s the twist? Well, if JetBlue leases out an airplane and then it comes back, they change the aircraft registration. According to Sebastian White, spokesperson for JetBlue, that’s why ships 507, 508, 526, 527, 531, and 537 end in either JT or JL. They ended in JB until they were leased out to Blue Wings in Europe. It changed when they came back.

Mesa
Original Photo By DearEdward from New York, NY, USA (United's first E175) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Original Photo By DearEdward from New York, NY, USA (United’s first E175) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Mesa seems to be all over the map with its registration schemes. These days, it takes airplanes and gives them an NxxxLR registration which I think is for the airline’s founder Larry Risley. I assume the MJ stands for Mesa Jet and the FJ stands for Freedom Jet since Freedom was a former subsidiary that’s now gone. But you’ll notice the Embraer 175s use United’s registration scheme (the ## stands for random numbers). That’s because those airplanes are owned by United but given to Mesa to operate on the airline’s behalf.
  • Embraer 175
    • N##3xx
  • CRJ-700
    • N5xxMJ (xx = 01 to 15)
    • N5xxLR (xx = 16 and higher)
  • CRJ-900
    • N2xxLR (former Alitalia and Pluna aircraft)
    • N3xxMS (former HeavyLift aircraft)
    • N9xxFJ (xx = 01 to 25)
    • N9xxLR (xx = 26 and higher)
Republic (including Chautauqua and Shuttle America)

Republic has a lot of airplanes at three different subsidiaries. You can really trace the history behind some of these airplanes based on their registrations and on industry changes. You can also see that after the airline adopted the former Midwest Airlines YX code, it started changing its registration strategy.
  • Q400
    • N1xxWQ (former Colgan aircraft)
    • N2xxWQ (former Colgan aircraft)
    • N3xxNG (former Colgan aircraft)
    • N5xxLX (former Lynx aircraft)
  • Embraer 170
    • N8xxMD (former MidAtlantic aircraft)
  • Embraer 175
    • N1xxHQ (xx = 01 to 38)
    • N4xxYX
  • Embraer 190
    • N1xxHQ (xx = 63 to 77)

Chautauqua is not long for this world. It’s going to be merged into Shuttle America now that its partner airlines don’t need to keep some airplanes on separate certificates. Though many of the registrations end in SK, this doesn’t appear to be due to SkyWest. The best I can figure, this is because Skyways Aviation leased airplanes to Chautauqua. And I really don’t know where the JQ comes from. There are two outliers here, N974MP and N976RP. Those appear to be Embraer 145MP versions, so they’re just the black sheep of the family (the rest are LRs).

  • ERJ-140/145
    • N2xxJQ
    • NxxxSK
    • N5xxRP

Lastly we have Shuttle America. This airline has had nine lives, but now as a subsidiary of Republic that’s about to absorb Chautauqua, its long term prospects are solid.

  • Embraer 170
    • N6xxRW
    • N8xxRW
    • N8xxMD (former MidAtlantic aircraft)
  • Embraer 175
    • N2xxJQ
Silver
Original Photo By Is3cm (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Original Photo By Is3cm (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Silver is a newly-all Saab operator and it has two registrations. It picked up all its airplanes from Mesaba, which is now defunct.
  • Saab SF-340
    • N3xxAG (former Mesaba aircraft)
    • N4xxXJ (former Mesaba aircraft)
SkyWest (including ExpressJet)

SkyWest is probably the hardest regional to decipher. It has taken so many airplanes from so many other operators without re-registering that it ends up being quite the motley assortment. Let’s see if I can make some sense of this.
  • Embraer 120
    • N2xxSW
    • N2xxYV (former Mesa aircraft)
    • N5xxSW
  • CRJ-100/200
    • N4xxSW
    • N4xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N5xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N5xxML (former Midway aircraft)
    • N6xxBR(former Atlantic Coast aircraft)
    • N7xxBR (former Atlantic Coast aircraft)
    • N7xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N8xxAS (former Atlantic Southeast aircraft)
    • N8xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N9xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N9xxEV (former Atlantic Southeast aircraft
    • N9xxSW
  • CRJ-700
    • N6xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N6xxQX (former Horizon aircraft)
    • N6xxSK
    • N7xxSK
  • CRJ-900
    • N1xxPQ (former Pinnacle aircraft)
    • N2xxAG (former Horizon aircraft)
    • N5xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N6xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N8xxSK
  • Embraer 175
    • N1xxSY

As if that’s not enough, there’s SkyWest’s under-performing subsidiary ExpressJet. (This is a combo of ExpressJet and the old Atlantic Southeast.) They’ve also picked up their share of airplanes from a variety of different places. The Embraers were all owned by Continental previously, so they follow the current United scheme with the ## being random numbers.

  • Embraer 135
    • N##5xx (xx = 01 to 30)
  • Embraer 145LR
    • N##5xx (xx = 31 and higher)
    • N##9xx
  • Embraer 145XR
    • N##1xx
    • N##2xx
  • CRJ-200
    • N4xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N6xxBR (former Atlantic Coast aircraft)
    • N8xxAS (former Atlantic Southeast aircraft)
    • N9xxEV (former Atlantic Southeast aircraft)
  • CRJ-700
    • N3xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N6xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N6xxQX (former Horizon aircraft)
    • N7xxEV (former Atlantic Southeast aircraft)
  • CRJ-900
    • N1xxEV (former Atlantic Southeast aircraft)
    • N1xxPQ (former Pinnacle aircraft)
    • N2xxPQ (former Pinnacle aircraft)
    • N5xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N6xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N6xxLR (former Mesa aircraft)
Spirit

Unlike Allegiant, Spirit takes new aircraft, so I figured it would have everything in a neat order. It does. I assume the A319s and A321s share the same ranges because the A319s will be phased out over time.
  • A319
    • N5xxNK (xx = 01 to 34)
  • A320
    • N6xxNK
  • A321
    • N5xxNK (xx = 35 and higher)
Sun Country
Original Photo By DearEdward from New York, NY, USA [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Original Photo By DearEdward from New York, NY, USA [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


You forgot about Sun Country, didn’t you?
  • 737-700
    • N7xxSY
  • 737-800
    • N8xxSY
Trans States (including Compass and GoJet)
Original Photo By Konstantin Von Wedelstaedt [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Original Photo By Konstantin Von Wedelstaedt [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons


Trans States is one strange airline. I always figured it would get acquired by someone, but so far it has only grown. The namesake airline only operates 50 seaters, and they all end in HK. Why? The founder’s name is Hulas Kanodia. Talk about an ego trip.
  • N8xxHK

Trans States started GoJet once it needed a new operator for larger aircraft. These have more traditional registrations.

  • CRJ-700
    • N1xxGJ
    • N3xxCA (former Comair aircraft)
    • N6xxCA (former Comair aircraft)

When Delta acquired Compass as a subsidiary of Northwest, it wanted to get rid of it. Trans States stepped in and offered to buy the airline. I’m not sure how Compass ended up with CZ, but it was probably as close as the airline could get and still find a good range of numbers that it needed.

  • Embraer 170
    • N7xxCZ
  • Embraer 175
    • N5xxCZ
Virgin America
Original Photo By Alan Wilson from Weston, Spalding, Lincs, UK (Airbus A320-214 'N623VA' Virgin America) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Original Photo By Alan Wilson from Weston, Spalding, Lincs, UK (Airbus A320-214 ‘N623VA’ Virgin America) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


I always thought Virgin America would be easy with only A319s and A320s, but according to spokesperson Abby Lunardini, there’s more to it than that.
  • A319
    • N5xxVA
  • A320
    • N3xxVA (146 seats and sharklets)
    • N6xxVA (149 seats and standard wingtip fences)
    • N8xxVA (146 seats and standard wingtip fences)

There you have it. This isn’t an entirely comprehensive guide to all airlines in the US, but combined with last week’s post on the 4 biggest airlines in the US, this guide covers most US airlines you’re likely to fly.

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