Airberlin explains how it determines the registration marks of its aircraft, unveils its 2013 “Flying home for Christmas” logo jet

Airberlin 737-800 WL D-ABMS (13-Flying home for Christmas)(Grd)(Airberlin)(LRW)

Airberlin ( (Berlin) in an online article on their website, explains the art of aircraft registrations:

Dr. Justin Gordon Abdy spends the time waiting. Standing at the window façade where the gate is located, he allows his gaze to wander across the airport’s airfield. Dawn is breaking. In his head, he runs through his documents one more time in preparation for the talk he has scheduled for today. Out of the corner of his eye, he notices a red and white aircraft behind the glass panel. It taxies slowly to the runway. D-ABDY – five letters on the tail of the aircraft suddenly grab his attention. Abdy is his surname! It can be traced back to the English knights and barons of the 17th and 18th centuries. He wonders how the name ended up on the tail of the aircraft and takes out his smartphone. He does some investigation into the matter.

The aircraft with this registration code is an Airberlin Airbus A320. Every aircraft in the world is uniquely designated so that it can be precisely identified wherever it is. In Germany, the aircraft registration code is assigned via the higher federal authority for civil aviation, the LBA (German Federal Aviation Office) in Braunschweig. An international classification system is used for determining the registration code. The first letter represents the country of the operator – in this case “D” for “Deutschland” (Germany). The hyphen is followed by a letter that designates the maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of the aircraft. All those with the letter “A” after the country designation have a weight of over 20 tons. This Airbus is even authorised for a MTOW of 77 tons.

Later, Dr Abdy sends a snapshot of the A320 to Airberlin. Germany’s second largest airline tells him more about the aircraft registration code. The sequence of the other letters in the registration code is determined by the airline operating the aircraft itself. It then needs to be approved with official authorizations in accordance with specific regulations. Moreover, the letter combinations selected by the airline must not be present on any other aircraft anywhere in the world.

At Airberlin, everything regarding aircraft registration is handled by the CAMO (Continuing Airworthiness Management Organization) team, where Nicole Pietsch and her colleagues are based. This team is dedicated to maintaining the airworthiness of the Airberlin fleet and, among other things, deals with the complex authorizations required for the aircraft at the LBA. The process as a whole begins long before the aircraft is allowed to taxi for the first time on the airport apron. The Airberlin aircraft have an average age of just five years. The authorization process starts approximately half a year before an aircraft joins the Airberlin fleet. When this happens, Nicole first of all, files an application for the reservation of a registration code, which is used by the office responsible for handling the matter to open a file for this aircraft.

For the registration code, Nicole determines the letters towards the end in accordance with a scheme. Because Airberlin is also otherwise abbreviated as “AB” on flight tickets, the third letter is often “B”. The other letters are then chosen to enable the Airberlin technicians to recognise the equipment of an aircraft, or its type, immediately from the combination of letters. For instance, all Airbus A320 aircraft which have the same equipment have “D”, “F” or “N” as the fourth letter. If it were a case of proceeding in a purely chronological and alphabetical order, the letter “E” would also be used, but this letter is already occupied by aircraft of other airlines. The last letter then follows in accordance with the order of the alphabet again. Since Nicole has been following this procedure for a while now, the classification system continues to be used for all newly authorised airberlin aircraft.

In order to register an aircraft, however, yet more steps have to be taken – simply establishing a registration code is not enough. The initial application to the LBA is followed by many more at specific points in time – for initial registration, prior to delivery, following the technical checks and after certain approvals and inspections have taken place. Everything is put down in writing. For instance, even with four to six weeks to go before delivery takes place, the airberlin legal team makes an application for the purpose of registering the aircraft. When all the necessary steps have been taken, Nicole personally brings the documents to Braunschweig. The day on which the aircraft is to be authorised is an exciting one. Carrying a vast number of original documents under her arm, she goes to the LBA and only leaves the office once she has the newly issued authorisation documents such as the certificate of airworthiness, the registration certificate and the noise certificate. Then, at the end of the day, she also receives the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) via fax, which permits the aircraft to be flown as part of the airberlin fleet.

Though he has learned that the Airbus is not directly named after his surname but simply happens to share the same sequence of letters, Dr Abdy is still delighted that an aircraft bears his surname.

Copyright Photo: Airberlin. Boeing 737-86J D-ABMS (msn 37782) was unveiled yesterday in Dusseldorf. The airline issued this statement:

Airberlin is once again operating its aircraft decorated in Christmas livery under the motto “Flying home for Christmas”. The Boeing 737-800 will continue to be out and about on the airline’s European route network right into January. Anyone who flies home for the holiday season with Airberlin on a regular basis has a good chance of travelling in the festively-decorated aircraft. The inaugural flight for Airberlin’s Christmas aircraft will go from Dusseldorf to Copenhagen. “I am delighted to have the opportunity of operating the first flight this year in Airberlin’s Christmas colors. It’s always a special occasion, bringing flight guests home to their families and friends in airberlin’s Christmas aircraft,” First Officer Andreas Graute explained.

This year the design of the Christmas plane resembles a string of fairy lights. There is a candle-like light for each day of Advent. “The windows of the aircraft constitute the flames of the candles. For the first time we have a Christmas design that achieves a completely different effect at night to that created during the daytime. The aircraft has an especially atmospheric ambience on evening flights,” said André Rahn, Senior Vice President Marketing. The design was created by RAPP Germany. The interior of the plane is also decorated in festive mood with specially-designed headrest covers.

The Boeing with the registration D-ABMS, which is affectionately known as “Merry Santa”, arrived at Hangar 7 at Dusseldorf Airport on November 13. First of all, the fuselage of the aircraft was thoroughly cleaned. On November 14 the seven-man Airberlin technik team started work. The first step was to once again clean all the surfaces to be decorated with special detergent. Next the sheeting, which is certified for aviation and specially UV-resistant, was mounted on the fuselage of the aircraft. Finally, an edge sealer was applied to the leading edges in order to prevent the sheeting from peeling away and to guarantee optimal airflow. The sheeting with the fairy light design is just 80 micrometres thick, measures 15.32 m in length and is 1.87 m high.

In 2010, the Airberlin Christmas aircraft appeared for the first time in digital form on In response to requests from numerous guests, the first actual airberlin aircraft in Christmas livery took to the skies in November 2011. airberlin is the first German airline to have a Christmas aircraft.

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