Billionaire businessman and Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has been flying around on his campaign trail in an unregistered aircraft that makes its insurance invalid.
The Donald failed to pay the $5 registration fee back in January and has been using his sleek Cessna jet for several months on his campaign stops in places like Sioux City, Iowa, and Jackson, Mississippi without bothering with legal requirements to register the plane.
Records kept with the Federal Aviation Administration show the aircraft’s registration lapsed on Jan. 31. Laura J. Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, confirmed that the plane’s registration was not in good standing and said the owner had not renewed it.
With few exceptions, aircraft must be registered in order to fly. Mr. Trump’s plane could be grounded for several days, or even months, while the issue is sorted out. In the event of an accident, the company that insures the plane could use the expired registration as a reason to decline any claims.
The F.A.A. could also fine or assess other penalties against the owner and/or operator; Mr. Trump owns the plane through a limited liability company. Though it is unlikely that the F.A.A. would seek the maximum penalty, flying with no registration could result in a civil penalty of up to $27,500, a criminal fine of up to $250,000 and imprisonment for up to three years, the agency said.
Ms. Brown declined to comment on any action the F.A.A. might take. Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, did not respond to requests for comment.
Although Mr. Trump has a sizable delegate lead in the Republican primary race, his campaign has often had organizational issues, at times losing ground against better organized opponents, chiefly Senator Ted Cruz, as Mr. Trump has struggled to master the complicated rules governing the selection of delegates.
Mr. Trump, obviously, can still fly; most candidates typically charter a private plane. He also has four other registered aircraft: a Boeing 757 and three Sikorsky helicopters, a fleet that has become a critical part of the billionaire’s image he has sought to project on the campaign trail. The Boeing, which has Mr. Trump’s last name emblazoned in big letters on the outside and gold-plated fixtures inside, has been used as a backdrop at a number of his rallies.
But the aircraft weighs more than 100,000 pounds, and with great weight comes limitations: It cannot land at many smaller airports.
As a result, Mr. Trump often presses the 1997 Cessna 750 Citation X, which was designed to seat eight people, into action. It has made hundreds of flights since Mr. Trump announced his plan to seek the Republican nomination in June 2015, according to F.A.A. records reviewed by The New York Times.
Dozens of those flights were made after Jan. 31, when the registration expired. The plane flew as recently as Monday, when it was used to transport Team Trump between La Guardia Airport and Buffalo for a campaign event on the eve of the primary in New York. On Friday, it flew to Plattsburgh, N.Y., and to Hartford for rallies in those cities, according to radio transmissions broadcast by the plane that were archived on a flight data website and reviewed by The Times.
The F.A.A. warned Mr. Trump that the Cessna’s registration was set to expire, records show.
On Dec. 1, DJT Operations CX LLC, the limited liability company owned by Mr. Trump that operates the Cessna, received a “final notice” from the F.A.A., according to records reviewed by The Times.
Then, on March 1, DJT Operations CX was notified that the registration had expired.
“The aircraft’s registration and airworthiness certificates no longer support the aircraft’s operation,” the F.A.A. wrote in its March letter.
These notices, records show, were sent to National Registered Agents; it is not a company Mr. Trump owns. Rather, it is the Delaware firm that was listed as the “registered agent” when DJT Operations CX was incorporated in 2012, the year Mr. Trump bought the plane.
In a F.A.A. filing in 2012, titled “Aircraft Registration Application,” National Registered Agents, its address and its phone number were listed as the contact information for DJT Operations CX. The filing is one page long, largely filled out by hand, and is signed by Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump’s title, initially listed as “president,” was crossed out and replaced with “sole member.”
The registration for Mr. Trump’s four other aircraft are current, records show.
The price of flying privately does not come cheap. The Trump campaign has paid a company that Mr. Trump owns more than $3 million for campaign-related travel since he announced his candidacy in June.
The price, however, to register an aircraft does come cheap: It costs only $5, and the registration is valid for three years.
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