If you are a frequent flyer, you may have noticed ‘VT’ written on every aircraft. But despite noticing, very few of us actually care to know about the little details we notice. So what does it mean let us dig deep into it?

The prefix ‘VT’ stands for Victorian or Viceroy Territory, generally seen just before the rear exit door and above the windows and is the nationality code that each aircraft registered in India is required to carry. Yes, it stands for Victorian territory which we were about seven decades ago. So why do we still carry this code?

The following article is divided into the following parts:

1. What is aircraft Nationality and Registration code

2. Which letters and words cannot be used for registration

3. Certification of Registration

4. Aircraft Markings

5. Countries that changed their codes

6. Important Links

1. What is aircraft Nationality and Registration code

Aircraft registration is a unique code given to a single aircraft, as described by international convention to be marked on the exterior part of every civil aircraft. Just like the number plate of an automobile the aircraft registration and nationality mark depicts the country in which an aircraft is registered.

This nationality and registration mark consists of a group of characters.

Let us understand this with an Example:


In this case G is the nationality mark and is always to precede the registration mark, in this case ABC. When the first character of the registration mark is the same type of character as the last character of the nationality mark, it is be preceded by a hyphen (-).

1.1 Nationality Code

International Telecommunications Union (agency of the United Nations) assigns nationality code from the set of nationality symbols available to the state of registry. State of Registry notifies the nationality mark to ICAO and may consist of single letters, multiple letters or a combination of letters and numbers. It may also include a symbol of the State (e.g. the Red Cross in the case of Switzerland).

1.2 Registration Mark

The registration mark may consist of letters, numbers or a combination of both and is assigned by the State of Registry, or the common mark registering authority, from a list of available (not previously issued) marks applicable to the State of Registry.

1.2.1 Common Mark:

Where the aircraft is owned (operated) by an operator registered in more than one country a common mark replaces a nationality mark. In this senario, ‘common mark’ allocated by the ITU, and ICAO specifies a state to exercise the responsibilities of the State of Registry (known as the common mark registering authority). The common mark registering authority also performs the function of the State of Registry with regard to the continuing airworthiness of the aircraft.

Presently, the common mark 4YB is issued by ICAO to Arab Air Cargo Incorporated (based in Jordan and Iraq) for registering aircraft operated by that organization. ICAO has specified that Jordan performs the other functions of the common mark registering authority.

2. Which letters and words cannot be used for registration

Now here comes the exception of  certain combinations of letters are not permitted to be used as registration letters or parts of a registration mark. These combinations of letters used for specific distress indicators which are also internationally accepted communication abbreviations.


•SOS (Distress – morse)

•PAN (Urgency)

•XXX (Urgency – morse)

•TTT (Safety /Securité – morse)

•‘Q’ codes (i.e. QNH; QRT; QUG etc….)

•5 letter combinations of the international Code of Signals

3. Certification of Registration

The official document certifying that the State of Registry has registered an aircraft is the Certificate of Registration, which is mandetory to be carried in the aircraft at all times.

The certificate contains:

•Nationality or Common mark,

•Registration mark,

•Manufacturer’s designation of the aircraft,

•Serial number of the aircraft,

•Name and address of the owner,

•A certificate that it has been entered on the register of the State,

•Dated signature of the registering officer.

4. Aircraft Markings

4.1 Location of Nationality and Registration Marks:

The nationality mark or common mark and registration mark are to be painted on the aircraft by any means ensuring permanence of the marking in all adverse conditions. The markings must be kept clean and visible at all times.

The required markings appear:-

  1. Under the wings
  2. Under the Fuselage
  3. At the trailing edge of the fuselage

4.2 Size of Markings:

The markings:

  1. On the wings are to be at least 50 cm high
  2. On the fuselage and vertical surfaces, 30 cm high.

So, based on these regulations India was assigned the letters VT while it was still under British rule before partition in 1929. In fact, the series VA to VZ were assigned to aircraft registered in all British territories.

This point was raised by BJP member Tarun Vijay in the Rajya Sabha during Zero Hour, who sought a change in the aircraft registration code.

He said, “Hindustan is no more a territory of the Viceroy.      Then why is India continuing with VT code? VT should be changed right away.”

The government had tried for several years to get the code changed over the last decade, wanting to replace it with IN for India, or BH for Bharat, or even HI for Hindustan. But none of these were available with the ICAO. The only options available are X or V.

After this no further decision was made.

5. Countries that changed their codes

But some countries did manage to change their codes after they gained independence, such as Fiji, Nepal and Pakistan.

After Independence, when India decided to retain VT, Pakistan adopted the initials ‘AP’ from the newly allocated call signs APA-ASZ. Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Fiji use 4R, 9N, A5 and DQ respectively.

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6. Important Links

Country codes by ICAO


The End

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