For civilian aircraft, ‘Viceroy’s Territory’ will stay

Shishir Sinha New Delhi | Updated on July 30, 2021

Successive governments have hesitated to change the ‘VT’ registration as it is a complicated and expensive process

After 75 years of independence, there is one colonial legacy that continues to fly high over the Indian skies: civilian aircrafts registered in India continue to carry the prefix ‘VT’, standing for Viceroy’s Territory. The Central government is hesitant to change the registration as it is a complicated and expensive process for airlines.

One can find the codes ‘VT AAA’ or ‘VT ZZZ’ painted on the aircraft just like the registration number of a vehicle. There have been demands for a very long time to change the code as it is a vestige of colonial regime, but successive governments do not find it easy to do so.

“If we change the VT call sign then all documents have to be reissued, the aircraft will have to be repainted and cannot fly till all markings are changed. Aircraft will remain grounded during the whole process. It will also have a big financial implication on the airlines,” VK Singh, Minister of State for Civil Aviation, said in a written reply in Lok Sabha on Thursday.

He further informed that International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has allotted three series of call signs to India — ATA-AWZ, VTA-VWZ and 8TA-8YZ. As per the provisions of Annex 7 of the Chicago Convention India had the options to choose its call sign from above three series for Indian registered aircraft. The call sign ‘VT’ was assigned to India during International Radiotelegraph Convention of Washington signed at Washington on November 27, 1927. Like India, every country has one-or-two-character alphanumeric code for identity of aircraft. Like US has ‘N’, UK has ‘G’, UAE has ‘A6’, Singapore has ‘9V’ and so on. According to the World Factbook placed in the website of, these codes indicate the nationality of civilian aircraft. Article 20 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention), signed in 1944, requires that all aircraft engaged in international air navigation bear appropriate nationality marks. The aircraft registration number consists of two parts: a prefix consisting of a one- or two-character alphanumeric code indicating nationality and a registration suffix of one to five characters for the specific aircraft. The prefix codes are based upon radio call-signs allocated by ITU to each country. Since 1947, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has been managing code standards and their allocation.

Earlier, colonies under the British rule had aircraft code starting with V as then British government has set that. However, later many countries such as Sri Lanka (4R) or even Nepal (9N).

Published on July 29, 2021

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