I'm looking at some of the on-time performance data made public by the US Bureau of Tranport Statistics, e.g. through here. These have the tail numbers of the aircraft used in commercial intra-US flights over the years.

I'm seeing that, occasionally, tail numbers are missing. But in some cases they're actually garbled (e.g. N105@@) - or just perhaps uncommon. Specifically, I'm seeing, among others, tail numbers such as:


Can some of these be "legit"? That is, could the above (and similar) strings be actual tail numbers of aircraft which were used in commercial domestic US flights?

Note that we're talking about entries from years between 2001 and 2008.

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    $\begingroup$ Nearly all countries’ tail numbers start with an ITU prefix, and EI- is for Ireland. The others all appear to be garbage data. $\endgroup$ – StephenS Oct 23 '20 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ This question seems closely related and might answer your question? At least about whether it’s possible for non-US aircraft to be used in domestic commercial operations. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Oct 23 '20 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Pondlife: It might explain one (or some?) of the tailnums, but not all of them I think. $\endgroup$ – einpoklum Oct 23 '20 at 23:07
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    $\begingroup$ A367NW looks garbled. There's an N367NW which is a former Northwest Airlines A320. $\endgroup$ – jwenting Oct 24 '20 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ To get better answers, you might like to clarify if you're asking a) if it's possible that non-US aircraft are being used for domestic commercial flights (already answered in the question I linked to); b) if the specific tail numbers you listed are, were or could be real; or c) something else? $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Oct 26 '20 at 15:52

Yes, these can be legit. For example, EI- means the aircraft is registered in Ireland. Others look corrupt, though. HZ-AAA is Saudi Arabia, but your HZ example looks too short. The examples starting with four numbers don't match any country's pattern.

The examples here that start with a string of digits all resolve to actual aircraft, if you prepend an N to them. (Commenter Ralph J suggested this.)

Corrupt data wouldn't be too surprising. For 2005, for example, 15000 of the 594000 entries had no tail number at all.

  • $\begingroup$ What would the digits+E numbers mean? $\endgroup$ – einpoklum Oct 23 '20 at 23:06
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    $\begingroup$ @einpoklum Could be military $\endgroup$ – expeditedescent Oct 24 '20 at 7:19
  • $\begingroup$ @einpoklum or coordinates rather than aircraft registration codes or flight numbers $\endgroup$ – jwenting Oct 24 '20 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ @jwenting: It's the "tail number" column of the on-time performance data; and there is no column with coordinates... $\endgroup$ – einpoklum Oct 24 '20 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ I'd presume that anything that's 5 characters without a leading N or other obvious explanation like the EI-xxx example is simply a case where the N was omitted. So when you have 1234X, I'd presume that this is meant to be N1234X, unless a better explanation is found. If you find the same aircraft showing up multiple times as both 1234X and N1234X then I'd say you have confirmation that it's just a missing N in the certain cases. Sounds like you have moderately low-quality data you're working with. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Oct 26 '20 at 17:24

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