Small N Numbers

We’ve seen them on nearly all of the warbirds around the country — those two-inch or three-inch N numbers under the horizontal stabilizer. Why does one get to apply those smaller registration numbers to an aircraft when most other aircraft are required to have twelve-inch numbers?    

Quite simply, it was the result of meetings between the FAA, EAA and the Confederate Air Force in 1987 and 1988 to reiterate the ability of warbird aircraft to continue to carry the smaller numbers. Here’s some background. Prior to 1981, warbird aircraft, and most other light aircraft with maximum cruise speeds of 180 knots TAS, were permitted to have 3 inch registration numbers. In 1981, Part 45 was amended by the FAA to require 12-inch registration numbers located either on the fuselage between the trailing edge of the wing and the leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer or on the vertical tail. This rule excluded “small (less than 12,500 pounds maximum certificated takeoff gross weight) antique (built over 30 years ago) aircraft, and aircraft with antique configurations for which an experimental certificate has been issued for operation as an exhibition or amateur-built aircraft.”

Because of some misinterpretations in the field, the EAA, EAA Warbirds of America and the Confederate Air Force met with the FAA to establish a definitive exemption for warbird aircraft, particularly those over the 12,500 pound maximum gross takeoff weight. One of the chief purposes was to preserve authentic military paint schemes without having 12-inch numbers appear like billboards on the fuselage. We petitioned for the ability to apply 2-inch N numbers to be located underneath the horizontal stabilizer, provided all other criteria was met. The group asked for the exemption, and got it. It is exemption number 5019.

If your warbird meets the following criteria, it is included in the exemption and you need not do anything to apply the two-inch N numbers:

  1. Aircraft must be at least 30 years old,
  2. Aircraft must be under 12,500 pounds certificated gross takeoff weight, and
  3. Aircraft must be painted in authentic era military paint scheme for the particular aircraft. 

If your warbird does not meet any of the above criteria (such as greater than 12,500 pound gross takeoff weight), you can still apply for an exemption. Please fill out this form to petition for exemption. In your petition for exemption, include the aircraft owner’s name, address, the aircraft type, registration number and three identical photos of the entire aircraft in its “authentic” military paint scheme, with the N number, in a contrasting color, visible. Mail this request to:  

Warbird 2-inch Number Exemption
EAA Warbirds of America
P.O. Box 3086
Oshkosh, WI 54903-3086  

Following approval of the exemption for your warbird, you will receive a letter to include with the aircraft documents verifying the right to use the smaller numbers. Every three years the exemption is renewed by the EAA and each recipient of an exemption from the organization will receive an updated copy to be included with the airplane’s papers.
If you have questions regarding this exemption, you may call the EAA Warbirds of America office at 920-426-4826.