Aircraft registration in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan

Every civil aircraft in the world is required to have a unique identifying code, allocated by the country of registration, under a system managed by ICAO – the International Civil Aviation Organization. But in the case of China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan things get rather rather complicated, given the relationship between the countries – so how do they avoid overlaps in their aircraft fleet?

Cathay Pacific and China Eastern jets on the tarmac at Hong Kong International Airport

People’s Republic of China

In the case of the People’s Republic of China, registration codes have a “B-” prefix followed by four digits: B-0000 to B-9999.

This system was further expanded in 2018 to include B-000A to B-999Z, B-00A0 to B-99Z9 and B-00AA to B-99ZZ codes.

Hong Kong

Under British rule, aircraft of Hong Kong were registered with the “VR-H” prefix, followed by two letters: VR-HAA to VR-HZZ.

This changed following the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997.

It was agreed at the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG) in June 1997 that from July 1, 1997, aircraft registered in Hong Kong would use ‘B’, the unified nationality mark of China, as their nationality mark but they could continue to use a group of three letters beginning with the letter ‘H’ as their registration mark.

To allow time for Hong Kong airlines to amend the nationality marks on their aircraft, it was also agreed that there would be a six-month transitional period from July 1 to December 31, 1997, during which either ‘B’ or ‘VR’ could be used as the nationality marks for aircraft registered in Hong Kong on or before June 30, 1997. The change of nationality mark to ‘B’ was completed in early December.

Hong Kong aircraft moving to the B-HAA to B-HZZ group.

Cathay Pacific A330 B-HLP

But new entrants to the industry saw a need for additional registration codes – B-KAA to B-KZZ (K following H for Hong Kong) and B-LAA to B-LZZ (L following K).

HK Express Airbus A320-232 B-LCC taxis to the gate

Macau

Macau had little use for locally registered aircraft given the lack of airports, until the launch of Air Macau and Macau International Airport in 1995. Under Portuguese rule aircraft were registered with the “CS-M” prefix as CS-MAA to CS-MZZ.

This changed following the transfer of sovereignty in 1999, when they were moved to the B-MAA to B-MZZ group.

Taiwan

Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, considers itself part of China so uses the “B-” prefix for aircraft registrations, but does not consider itself part of the People’s Republic of China, so operates a separate aircraft registry. So how do they avoid an overlap?

An aircraft after being registered shall display on a conspicuous spot the nationality emblem of the Republic of China and its registration number (hereinafter referred as markings).

The nationality emblem of Republic of China’s civil aircraft shall be represented by the English letter “B” followed by a 5-digit Arabic numbers aligned left to right in the order shown below:

1) nationality emblem followed by a dash.
2) registration number follows the dash.

Five digits instead of the four – resulting in the B-00000 to B-99999 group.

China Airlines Boeing 737-809 B-18605 passes EVA Airways Airbus A321-211(WL) B-16218 at Hong Kong International Airport

Taking over from usage of the B-000 to B-999 group.

And the B-0000 to B-9999 group.

Simple enough?

Sources

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