Civil Aircraft Registrations

Civil aircraft worldwide are given registrations which start with a country identifier, such as:

Then there’s almost always a dash (except in the US), after which there are the identifying letters within that country – and we use 4 letters in the UK.

So the Manchester Concorde is:   G-BOAC
G for the UK; four letters to make it unique in the UK.

So UK registrations start off with G-AAAA, G-AAAB and so on.  That’s actually not quite true because in the beginning, for some reason, they started with G-EAAA and only re-started at G-AAAA some years later.

Until some time in the seventies or eighties, they were allocated very strictly in sequence; personalised or special registrations were not possible.

Occasionally, if you had connections, you could grab a registration as it appeared in sequence and Prince William of Gloucester did indeed do that to get G-AWOG for his own light aircraft.  He did it again to get the rather less remarkable G-AYPW (PW = Prince William), an aircraft he used in air races and was killed in when he crashed it during an event in 1972, aged only 30.

But the Authorities could bend the rules and they did so to allocate a special registration to the Hawker Harrier Vertical Take Off demonstrator aeroplane.  This was G-VTOL, now on display at Brooklands Museum.

Then there was the Concorde first prototype G-BSST (probably because the French had called their first prototype F-WTSS - Transport Supersonique). They didn’t do it again in a hurry, though – the next British prototype – the pre-production version - was simply G-AXDN and the first production aircraft (which was never intended to enter service) was G-BBDG – just in-sequence registrations as they came up.

But BOAC, for years before Concorde flew, had displayed pictures and models of Concorde in its publicity with the fanciful registration G-BOAC so the authorities relented and allocated that registration in advance for the very first production Concorde for BOAC.  Unfortunately, by the time the aircraft flew, BOAC had disappeared; absorbed with BEA into the new British Airways.

And so, with that registration, it became the flagship of the BA fleet and was chosen as the aircraft to launch the Washington service in May 1976.