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International Civil Aviation Organization

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International Civil Aviation Organization

International Civil Aviation Organization
ICAO flag
Abbreviation ICAO
Formation 4 April 1947[1]
Type UN agency
Legal status Active
Headquarters Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Head Raymond Benjamin
Website .int.icaowww

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO, pronounced /aɪˈkeɪoʊ/; specialized agency of the United Nations. It codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.[2] Its headquarters are located in the Quartier International of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The ICAO Council adopts standards and recommended practices concerning air navigation, its infrastructure, transport safety authorities in countries signatory to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).

The Air Navigation Commission (ANC) is the technical body within ICAO. The Commission is composed of 19 Commissioners, nominated by the ICAO's contracting states, and appointed by the ICAO Council.[3] Commissioners serve as independent experts, who although nominated by their states, do not serve as state or political representatives. The development of Aviation Standards and Recommended Practices is done under the direction of the ANC through the formal process of ICAO Panels. Once approved by the Commission, standards are sent to the Council, the political body of ICAO, for consultation and coordination with the Member States before final adoption.

ICAO is distinct from the Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) with its headquarters at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands. These are trade associations representing specific aviation interests, whereas ICAO is a body of the United Nations.


  • History 1
    • 2013 proposal to relocate headquarters to Qatar 1.1
  • Statute 2
  • Membership 3
  • Governing Council 4
  • Standards 5
  • Registered codes 6
  • Regions and regional offices 7
  • Leadership 8
    • List of Secretaries General 8.1
    • List of Council Presidents 8.2
  • ICAO and climate change 9
  • Investigations of air disasters 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


The forerunner to ICAO was the International Commission for Air Navigation (ICAN).[4] It held its first convention in 1903 in Berlin, Germany but no agreements were reached among the eight countries that attended. At the second convention in 1906, also held in Berlin, 27 countries attended. The third convention, held in London in 1912 allocated the first radio callsigns for use by aircraft. ICAN continued to operate until 1945.[5][6]

Fifty-two countries signed the United Nations linked to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).[1][5]

2013 proposal to relocate headquarters to Qatar

In April 2013, [7]

According to the [8][9]

France, Britain and the United States announced that they opposed moving the organization.[10][11]

Approximately one month later, Qatar withdrew its bid to move ICAO headquarters, meaning that the organization would remain in Montreal. Reportedly, Qatar's withdrawal came after a separate proposal to the ICAO's governing council to move the ICAO triennial conference to Doha was defeated by a vote of 22–14. According to French delegate Michel Wachenheim, "This conference of the general assembly was to be held in Montreal, as it always is … and twenty-two of the 36 said no, they thought that moving it (to Doha) four months before a general assembly was far too complicated." Wachenheim also stated that, "at our meeting this (Friday) morning, we learned that Qatar had withdrawn its offer (to move the HQ)."[12][13][14]


The 9th edition of the Convention on International Civil Aviation includes modifications from 1948 up to year 2006. ICAO refers to its current edition of the Convention as the Statute, and designates it as ICAO Doc 7300/9. The Convention has 19 Annexes that are listed by title in the article Convention on International Civil Aviation.[15]


International Civil Aviation Organization member states

As of November 2011, there are 191 ICAO members, consisting of 190 of the 193 UN members (all but Dominica, Liechtenstein, and Tuvalu), plus the Cook Islands.[16][17]

Liechtenstein has delegated Switzerland to implement the treaty to make it applicable in the territory of Liechtenstein. [18]

Governing Council

The Governing Council is elected every 3 years and consists of 36 members divided into 3 categories. The present Council was elected on 1 October 2013 at the 38th Assembly of ICAO at Montreal.[19] The Structure of present Council is as follows:

PART I – (States of chief importance in air transport) – Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States. All of them have been re-elected.[19]

PART II – (States which make the largest contribution to the provision of facilities for international civil air navigation) – Argentina, Egypt, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain and Venezuela. Except Norway, Portugal and Venezuela, all others have been re-elected.[19]

PART III– (States ensuring geographic representation)- Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Libya, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Poland, Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates and United Republic of Tanzania. Bolivia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Libya, Nicaragua, Poland and United Republic of Tanzania have been elected for the first time.[19]


ICAO logo.
Top: ICAO acronym in English, French/Spanish, and Russian.
Bottom: ICAO full name in Chinese and acronym in Arabic

ICAO also standards organization.

Each country should have an accessible Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP), based on standards defined by ICAO, containing information essential to air navigation. Countries are required to update their AIP manuals every 28 days and so provide definitive regulations, procedures and information for each country about airspace and airports. ICAO's standards also dictate that temporary hazards to aircraft are regularly published using NOTAMs.

ICAO defines an International Standard Atmosphere (also known as ICAO Standard Atmosphere), a model of the standard variation of pressure, temperature, density, and viscosity with altitude in the Earth's atmosphere. This is useful in calibrating instruments and designing aircraft.[20]

ICAO standardizes machine-readable passports worldwide.[21] Such passports have an area where some of the information otherwise written in textual form is written as strings of alphanumeric characters, printed in a manner suitable for optical character recognition. This enables border controllers and other law enforcement agents to process such passports quickly, without having to input the information manually into a computer. ICAO publishes Doc 9303 Machine Readable Travel Documents, the technical standard for machine-readable passports.[22] A more recent standard is for biometric passports. These contain biometrics to authenticate the identity of travellers. The passport's critical information is stored on a tiny RFID computer chip, much like information stored on smartcards. Like some smartcards, the passport book design calls for an embedded contactless chip that is able to hold digital signature data to ensure the integrity of the passport and the biometric data.

ICAO is active in infrastructure management, including Communication, Navigation, Surveillance / Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) systems, which employ digital technologies (like satellite systems with various levels of automation) in order to maintain a seamless global air traffic management system.[23]

Registered codes

Both ICAO and IATA have their own airport and airline code systems. ICAO uses 4-letter airport codes (vs. IATA's 3-letter codes). The ICAO code is based on the region and country of the airport—for example, Charles de Gaulle Airport has an ICAO code of LFPG, where L indicates Southern Europe, F, France, PG, Paris de Gaulle, while Orly Airport has the code LFPO (the 3rd letter sometimes refers to the particular flight information region (FIR) or the last two may be arbitrary). In most of the world, ICAO and IATA codes are unrelated; for example, Charles de Gaulle Airport has an IATA code of CDG and Orly, ORY. However, the location prefix for continental United States is K and ICAO codes are usually the IATA code with this prefix. For example, the ICAO code for Los Angeles International Airport is KLAX. Canada follows a similar pattern, where a prefix of C is usually added to an IATA code to create the ICAO code. For example, Edmonton International Airport is YEG or CYEG. (In contrast, airports in Hawaii are in the Pacific region and so have ICAO codes that start with PH; Kona International Airport's code is PHKO.) Note that not all airports are assigned codes in both systems; for example, airports that do not have airline service do not need an IATA code.

ICAO also assigns 3-letter airline codes (versus the more-familiar 2-letter IATA codes—for example, UAL vs. UA for United Airlines). ICAO also provides telephony designators to aircraft operators worldwide, a one- or two-word designator used on the radio, usually, but not always, similar to the aircraft operator name. For example, the identifier for Japan Airlines International is JAL and the designator is Japan Air, but Aer Lingus is EIN and Shamrock. Thus, a Japan Airlines flight numbered 111 would be written as "JAL111" and pronounced "Japan Air One One One" on the radio, while a similarly numbered Aer Lingus would be written as "EIN111" and pronounced "Shamrock One One One". In the US, FAA practices[24] require the digits of the flight number to be spoken in group format ("Japan Air One Eleven" in the above example) while individual digits are used for the aircraft tail number used for unscheduled civil flights.

ICAO maintains the standards for aircraft registration ("tail numbers"), including the alphanumeric codes that identify the country of registration. For example, airplanes registered in the United States have tail numbers starting with N.

ICAO is also responsible for issuing alphanumeric aircraft type codes containing two to four characters. These codes provide the identification that is typically used in flight plans. The Boeing 747 would use B741, B742, B743, etc., depending on the particular variant.

Regions and regional offices

ICAO World Headquarters, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

ICAO has a headquarters, seven regional offices, and one regional sub-office :[25]


List of Secretaries General

List of Council Presidents

ICAO and climate change

Emissions from international aviation are specifically excluded from the targets agreed under the Netherlands and Norway, respectively. Although some countries tax the fuel used by domestic aviation, there is no duty on kerosene used on international flights.[26]

ICAO is currently opposed to the inclusion of aviation in the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS). The EU, however, is pressing ahead with its plans to include aviation.

Investigations of air disasters

Most air accident investigations are carried out by an agency of a country that is associated in some way with the accident. For example, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch conducts accident investigations on behalf of the British Government. ICAO has conducted three investigations involving air disasters, of which two were passenger airliners shot down while in international flight over hostile territory.

  1. Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 which was shot down on 21 February 1973 by Israeli F-4 jets over the Sinai Peninsula during a period of tension that led to the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War killing 108 people.
  2. Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which was shot down on 1 September 1983 by a Soviet Su-15 interceptor near Moneron Island just west of Sakhalin Island during a period of heightened Cold War tension killing all 269 people on board including U.S. Congressman Larry McDonald.[27]
  3. UTA Flight 772, which was destroyed by a bomb on 19 September 1989 above the Sahara Desert in Niger, en route from N'Djamena, Chad, to Paris, France. The explosion caused the aircraft to break up, killing all 156 passengers and 15 crew members, including the wife of U.S. Ambassador Robert L. Pugh. Investigators determined that a bomb placed in the cargo hold by Chadian rebels backed by Libya was responsible for the explosion. A French court convicted in absentia six Libyans of planning and implementing the attack.[28]

See also


  1. ^ a b International Civil Aviation Organization History
  2. ^ Sebastian Höhne. "IT in general Aviation: Pen and Paper vs. Bits and Bytes". p. 38. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Air Navigation Commission". ICAO. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  4. ^ Sebastian Höhne. "IT in general Aviation: Pen and Paper vs. Bits and Bytes". p. 38. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Registrations". Golden Years of Aviation. Retrieved 11 February 2011. 
  6. ^ "1912 Radio Callsign prefixes". Golden Years of Aviation. Retrieved 11 February 2011. 
  7. ^ Baird fighting 'tooth and nail' to keep UN aviation office in Montreal, CBC News, 2 May 2013.
  8. ^ Disgruntled Arab states look to strip Canada of UN agency by Campbell Clark, Globe and Mail, 2 May 2013.
  9. ^ Canada now paying the price for Baird's misstep into East Jerusalem by Michael Bell, Special to The Globe and Mail, 6 May 2013.
  10. ^ U.S. won't support moving Qatar's bid to move UN agency by Campbell Clark, Globe and Mail, 4 May 2013.
  11. ^ Canada's Response to Qatar's Proposal to Relocate the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, 14 May 2013.
  12. ^ ICAO stays in Montreal after Qatar stumbles by François Shalom, The Montreal Gazette, 24 May 2013.
  13. ^ "Lobbying saved Montreal's UN aviation agency, Paradis says". CBC News. 24 May 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  14. ^ Qatar Withdraws Offer to Host ICAO Permanent Seat, ICAO Newsroom, 24 May 2013.
  15. ^ Annex 19 on Security Management
  16. ^ "Member States.English.pdf" (PDF). ICAO. Retrieved 2012-09-06. 
  17. ^ South Sudan becomes 191st member of ICAO – Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan. Sudan Tribune. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  18. ^ "Member States.English.pdf" (PDF). ICAO. Retrieved 2014-07-20.  The Minister of Switzerland made the following statement in the note transmitting the Swiss Instrument of Ratification: "My Government has instructed me to notify you that the authorities in Switzerland have agreed with the authorities in the Principality of Liechtenstein that this Convention will be applicable to the territory of the Principality as well as to that of the Swiss Confederation, as long as the Treaty of 29 March 1923 integrating the whole territory of Liechtenstein with the Swiss customs territory will remain in force".
  19. ^ a b c d "List of ICAO Governing Council Members". Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  20. ^ Manual of the ICAO Standard Atmosphere: extended to 80 kilometres (262,500 feet) (CD-ROM) (in en, fr, es, ru) (3rd ed.). Montreal: ICAO. 1993.  
  21. ^ "Welcome to the ICAO Machine Readable Travel Documents Programme". ICAO. Retrieved 2012-09-06. 
  22. ^ Machine Readable Travel Documents, Doc 9303 (Sixth ed.). ICAO. 2006. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  23. ^ "Infrastructure Management". ICAO. Retrieved 2012-09-06. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Contact Us". ICAO. Retrieved 2012-09-06. 
  26. ^ "Climate Change: Aviation Emissions, an ignored but fast growing problem". 2005. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  27. ^ David Pearson (1987). KAL 007: Cover-up. New York: Summit Books. p. 266.  
  28. ^ UTA Flight 772: Aviation Safety Network report

External links

  • Official website of the International Civil Aviation Organization
  • Convention on International Civil Aviation – Doc 7300
  • ECCAIRS 4.2.8 Data Definition Standard – Location Indicators by State, 17 Sep 2010
  • ICAO Aircraft and Manufacturer Codes – Doc 8643
  • The Postal History of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

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