The Crotchet’s Corner

My perspective about all things inconsequential

What’s in a name?

Every vehicle has a registration plate that identifies which country or state it has been registered and a unique number.

Every aircraft has a unique registration identifier, too, that is painted on the fuselage and on the wings.

Civilian aircraft have markings that identify the country in which the aircraft is registered, and the markings have been determined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The system of markings has been in place for decades, and the nomenclature convention was adopted in 1928. The makings have a one or two letter prefix that identifies the country and a set of alphabets and/or numbers as a suffix that is unique to the aircraft. The unique marking is, usually, not transferred to another aircraft.

Based on this system, aircraft registered in the U.S.A. carry a prefix “N”, those in the United Kingdom have “G”, Canada uses “C”, Germany uses “D”, and the Netherlands uses “PH”


 Civilian aircraft registered in India carry the prefix “VT”


 The VT prefix was allocated to India in 1928 when it still a British colony. The prefixes “VA” to “VZ” were allocated to the countries under British rule, and Australia got “VH” while India got “VT”.

Some countries such as Sri Lanka later changed their prefixes, but India has not done so even after independence.

There are people who have objected to India staying with the “VT” prefix saying that it denotes “Viceroy Territory” and is reminiscent of its colonial past.

The fact is that the “VT” is merely an abbreviation, a code, and does not signify any colonial connection. The “T” in “VT” is a random alphabet that was assigned in 1928, and it could well have been any other.

I understand that India approached the ICAO more than a decade ago to seek a change that would more clearly identify India – suggestions included “IN” (India), “BH” (Bharat) or “HI” (Hindustan), but these were not feasible since the first letters in each of these options have already been allocated – “I” to Italy, “B” to China, and “HI” to the Dominican Republic.

It would have been nice to have a prefix that was associated with India, but, at the end of the day, does it really matter? It is an identifier – no more, no less.

You really need to ask, “what’s in a name?”



November 20, 2016 Posted by | About this and that, Aviation | , , , , | Leave a comment


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