The Difference between Filed and Recorded FAA Documents

Filed vs Recorded FAA Documents

There is a difference between filing and recording of documents at the FAA.  This article explores the differences between the two and the effects both unrecorded and improperly recorded documents can have on an aircraft’s title.

How are documents filed at the FAA?

The FAA will accept and review any and all documents that are filed at the central registry. There is actually a window in the Public Documents Room (PD Room) at the FAA where anyone can walk up and hand in a document for recording. The window attendant will stamp the document with the date and time it was received. This document has now been filed at the FAA.


Wright Brothers is located in Oklahoma City and has a spot in the PD Room, so we can file documents in person. However, aircraft closings take place all over the world, and some people choose to close themselves, which often makes it necessary to mail documents to the FAA. All documents get the same filing stamp when the FAA central registry receives them.

How does the FAA record documents that have been filed?

Filed documents are put through a rigorous review process, which can take up to six weeks to complete. The FAA has an extensive list of rules and regulations that documents must meet in order to be eligible for recording. If you’re not familiar with the rules, specifically those that apply to your situations, there’s a good chance that your document will not be in the proper recording format.

Documents that meet all the requirements are stamped a second time with the new date and time reflecting that the document has been recorded by the FAA. They are then placed in the main aircraft file. Interestingly, in most cases, the priority of recorded documents relates back to the filing date, giving “first in time, first in right” status to recorded documents based on the time they were filed, not recorded. In other words, as a general rule, first to file wins (although this is ultimately decided by a court of competent jurisdiction).

If a document is rejected by the FAA because it doesn’t meet their regulations, it is not stamped as recorded, and it is placed in a separate file called “suspense”. The suspense file is publicly available, so anyone can view what was filed and by whom, but questions always arise about the validity of these rejected documents.

Are all documents that are recorded with the FAA valid?

Not necessarily. Just because a document is recorded, that doesn’t mean it’s 100% accurate or valid. Clouds may exist even for documents that have been recorded by the FAA.

In general, the FAA does not validate the documents that are filed or recorded there. The registry will record documents as long as they are submitted correctly and within the allotted time frame. The validity of all documents is ultimately determined by a court of law, but you can be pretty sure that there will be challenges to the validity and priority of documents that have not been recorded by the FAA.

What does this mean to an aircraft buyer or seller?

In our previous blog on Clearing Clouded Aircraft Titles, we talk about problems that can arise from “Clouds” on a title. Any unrecorded documents that remain in the suspense file of an aircraft by definition create a cloud that will have to be addressed before buying or selling the plane. These unrecordable documents have a profoundly negative effect on an entity’s title, and they can be costly and time consuming to fix.

Navigating the rules and regulations related to filing documents with the FAA can be tedious at best. You can understand that filing documents is not the difficult part of the process, but meeting all the necessary FAA requirements to get them properly recorded is an entirely different challenge. Wright Brothers has the knowledge and experience to help ensure that your documents are filed in a timely manner and in a format that meets FAA regulations so they will be duly recorded.


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