International Civil Aviation Organization
The ICAO flag
|Org type||UN agency|
|Established||4 April 1947|
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), pronounced /aɪˈkeɪoʊ/, (French: Organisation de l'aviation civile internationale, OACI), is a 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. 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, flight inspection, prevention of unlawful interference, and facilitation of border-crossing procedures for international civil aviation. In addition, the ICAO defines the protocols for air accident investigation followed by transport safety authorities in countries signatory to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, commonly known as the Chicago Convention.
The Air Navigation Commission (ANC) is the technical body within ICAO. The Commission is composed of 19 Commissioners, appointed by the Council. 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.
The ICAO should not be confused with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade organization for airlines also headquartered in Montreal, or with the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), an organization for 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.
The forerunner to the ICAO was the International Commission for Air Navigation (ICAN). 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.
Fifty-two countries signed the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention, in Chicago, Illinois, on 7 December 1944. Under its terms, a Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization (PICAO) was to be established, to be replaced in turn by a permanent organization when 26 countries ratified the convention. Accordingly, PICAO began operating on 6 June 1945, replacing ICAN. The 26th country ratified the Convention on 5 March 1947 and, consequently PICAO was disestablished on 4 April 1947 and replaced by the ICAO, which began operations the same day. In October 1947, the ICAO became an agency of the United Nations linked to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
In April of 2013, the state of Qatar offered to serve as the new permanent seat of the Organization starting in 2016. The offer must be considered by all of ICAO’s 191 Member States at the next convening of the triennial ICAO Assembly, which will take place from 24 September through 4 October 2013. A minimum of three-fifths (60%) of ICAO’s Member States must agree to the Qatar proposal for it to be approved. According to ICAO spokesman Anthony Philbin, there has never been an official request to move the ICAO since its creation. Qatar, which has promised to construct a massive new headquarters for the ICAO and cover all moving expenses, has stated that Montreal "was too far from Europe and Asia", "had cold winters," was hard to attend due to the refusal of the Canadian government to provide visas in a timely manner, and that the taxes imposed on the ICAO by Canada are too high.
According to the Globe and Mail, the move to relocate the ICAO is at least partly motivated by the Pro-Israel foreign policy of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Citing unnamed sources, the Globe and Mail reported that Arab ambassadors to the United Nations met in April 2013 in New York, where, among other things, they "devoted a section of their agenda to countering Canada, including mustering allies from other countries to vote against Ottawa in international organizations." It was also reported that "Some Arab countries are eyeing moves to back [Qatar] by campaigning to win the votes of other states." The Globe commented that "Arab nations already looking to deal a blow to Ottawa for its stand on Palestinian issues could wield influence if they united behind the ICAO campaign" and that "Losing ICAO’s Montreal headquarters would be more than the diplomatic embarrassment the Harper Conservatives."
Canada announced that it would strongly oppose any attempt to move ICAO headquarters, while the United States also stated that it opposes moving the organization.  On May 24, 2013 the Canadian government announced Qatar was dropping their bid to have ICAO moved and as such will remain in Montreal.
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 18 Annexes that are listed by title in the article Convention on International Civil Aviation.
Each country should have an accessible Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP), based on standards defined by the 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 aerodromes. The ICAO's standards also dictate that temporary hazards to aircraft are regularly published using NOTAMs.
The 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.
ICAO standardizes machine-readable passports worldwide. 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. 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.
Another area in which the ICAO is active is infrastructure management, including Communication, Navigation, Surveillance / Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) systems, which employ digital technologies (e.g., satellite systems with various levels of automation) in order to maintain a seamless global air traffic management system.
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, the 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 the ICAO codes are usually the IATA code with this prefix—for example, the ICAO code for LAX 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 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 may not need an IATA code.
ICAO also assigns 3-letter airline codes (vs. 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".
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.
ICAO has a headquarters and seven regional offices:
|This section's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (February 2009)|
Emissions from international aviation are specifically excluded from the targets agreed under the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, the Protocol invites developed countries to pursue the limitation or reduction of emissions through the International Civil Aviation Organization. ICAO's environmental committee continues to consider the potential for using market-based measures such as trading and charging, but this work is unlikely to lead to global action. It is currently developing guidance for states who wish to include aviation in an emissions trading scheme (ETS) to meet their Kyoto commitments, and for airlines who wish to participate voluntarily in a trading scheme.
Emissions from domestic aviation are included within the Kyoto targets agreed by countries. This has led to some national policies such as fuel and emission taxes for domestic air travel in 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.
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, two of which concerned passenger airliners shot down while in international flight over hostile territory.
The first incident occurred on 21 February 1973, during a period of tension that led to the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War in October that year, when Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 was shot down by Israeli F-4 jets over the Sinai Peninsula.
The second incident occurred on 1 September 1983, during a period of heightened Cold War tension, when a Soviet Su-15 interceptor shot down a straying Korean Air Lines Flight 007 near Moneron Island, just west of Sakhalin Island. KAL 007 was carrying 269 people, including 22 children under the age of 12, and a sitting U.S. Congressman Larry McDonald.
The third incident was the crash on 19 September 1989 of UTA Flight 772, a French McDonnell Douglas DC-10 flying from Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo, via N'Djamena in Chad, to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. An explosion midflight over the Sahara Desert in Niger caused the aircraft to break up, killing all 156 passengers and 15 crew members, including the U.S. Ambassador to Chad Robert Pugh. Investigators found that a bomb placed in the cargo hold by Chadian rebels backed by Libya was responsible for the explosion; in 1999 a French court convicted six Libyans, including the former Libyan intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, in absentia, of planning and implementing the attack.
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