The Isle of Man has become the first European aircraft registry to add the Embraer Phenom 100 very light jet to its burgeoning inventory.

The independent British dependency in the Irish Sea has seen its registry of "M" prefixed business aircraft swell to 134 since the service was launched in May 2007. The registry is based on a successful similar maritime scheme for "mega" yachts and follows the example of small UK overseas territories such as Bermuda and the Caymans.

"The response to the register has been overwhelming," says Brian Johnson director the island's first director of civil aviation. He adds: "We expected to register 12 aircraft in our first year, but by day two we had attracted a quarter of that total, adding 51 aircraft by the end of 2007. At the end of our second year we had 124 aircraft on the register. We are processing another 60 aircraft, most of which will be added to the register by the end of 2009."

Johnson argues that the economic crisis has been instrumental in attracting a number of private owners and corporations to the register, which has been set up as a cost-neutral entity by the Manx government making the price of registration and other related services significantly cheaper than most other national registers.

Placing an aircraft on the Manx register brings a number of benefits, Johnson says. "Not only is the process convenient and flexible and high safety standards [based on the UK Civil Aviation Authority regulations] enforced, but our registration costs are intentionally low," he says. The aim of the register "is not make money", he adds "but to bring in business and employment to the island's banks, legal and insurance firms" and to position the territory as a centre for aerospace and aviation services.

This strategy has paid off with £55 million ($90 million) worth of aircraft mortgages recorded in two years alone and around £1.6 million collected in tax from imported aircraft, Johnson says. Around 40% of the aircraft are registered to Isle of Man-based companies that benefit from the island's preferential tax rates.

The island is also seeing an increase in the number of aircraft transferring from registers where they were previously being operated commercially. "Due to the downturn in the charter market many customers are simply not earning enough revenue from their aircraft, so they have opted to operated privately on our register," Johnson says.

Last month the Manx registry formed a repossession service and temporary registry to provide seizure and continuing airworthiness management for commercial aircraft that are repossessed or returned early from a lease.

The service, says Johnson, is designed to allow aircraft a "secure temporary home" on the Isle of Man registry while in transition between owners. "We have two BAe 146s on temporary register at the moment," he says.

Source: Flight International