In a tiny Texas town 90 miles north of Houston, you’ll find one Sonic drive-in, and more RV parks and marinas than hotels. And there’s no airport. But in this quiet place, there’s one airplane for every three residents. Or so it seems.
Onalaska is located on the banks of Lake Livingston. Once a farming and logging community, the town is now a popular vacation and retirement destination. It has about 3,000 residents. A recent investigation found over 1,000 aircraft are registered to an address there.
Tanya Eiserer, investigative reporter at WFAA, the ABC affiliate in Dallas, reported this story. She says the reason so many planes are registered in Onalaska has to do with how foreign nationals are able to own aircraft in the U.S.
“Under U.S. law, I can register a plane as a U.S. citizen,” Eiserer says. “A permanent resident can register a plane directly with the FAA. But if you’re a foreigner, or also corporations, [you] can transfer a title into a trust, and then they can register the plane.”
Eiserer says that a person who founded a trust company that registered airplanes once lived in Onalaska. That accounts for the large number of aircraft tied to local addresses.
There’s a reason some foreign nationals register planes in this way, Eiserer says.
“This is a way to cloak identity. There are going to be some nefarious characters – drug dealers, terrorists – who are going to try to use this as a mechanism to register their planes,” Eiserer says.
Eiserer says a Massachusetts congressman is working to change federal law to add more transparency requirements to aircraft ownership.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.