No two private jets are the same. Pilots will tell you that even two aircraft of the same type and age will fly slightly differently and many have customised interiors and paint schemes.
However on the outside one of the obvious identifying features is the aircraft registration, or tail number.
Private Jet Registrations by Country
Each country has its own prefix, so you can tell where each aircraft is from depending on the letters that the registration starts with.
Some common examples are:
G = UK
N = USA
F = France
D = Germany
EI = Ireland
EC = Spain
HB = Switzerland
OE = Austria
Famous Private Jet Tail Numbers
Much like car number plates, registrations can be customised. This is a particular occurrence in private jets, where there is no real boundary to registering your aircraft in any country you choose.
This has led to some fairly obvious customised tail numbers:
N1KE = Nike Corporation
N707JT = John Travolta's Boeing 707
G-SUGA = Lord Alan Sugar
N999BE is one of Bernie Ecclestone's aircraft
Aircraft Registration & Tax
Countries can choose how they wish to tax aircraft that are registered there. Some nations have seen this ability as an opportunity to create highly "desirable" aircraft registrations. These tend to be small low-tax states and Caribbean Islands, which provide very cost-efficient aircraft registrations. Some examples of this are:
M = Isle of Man
VP-C = Cayman Islands
VQ-B = Bermuda
P4 = Aruba
As these registrations have become more popular over time, however, some civil aviation authorities have deemed that these aircraft should not be allowed to perform commercial charter flights.
In Europe particularly, all of the above aircraft registrations are prohibited from carrying fare-paying passengers. If you are ever offered a charter on an aircraft with one of these registrations, PrivateFly strongly recommends you double check with your supplier that the aircraft has appropriate Air Operator Certificate and Insurance documents.
Given the success of these "boutique" registrations, other small states are looking to increase the popularity of their registrations.
One to watch out for is San Marino, with its T7 registration. Growing in popularity with private owners, the microstate is looking to open up the registration to charter operators within 2 years.
Given that this will be a very cheap method for operators to register their aircraft, PrivateFly predicts that in 5 years time a large number of European charter aircraft will bear the T7 registration, despite the fact that the country does not have an airport!
Celebrity Private Jet Tail Numbers
In the meantime, some further celebrity aircraft registrations are:
M-ANSL = Nigel Mansell
Lewis Hamilton = G-LCDH
Niki Lauda = OE-III
P4-MES = Roman Abramovich
N808T = Tom Cruise