International Civil Aviation Organization

International Civil Aviation Organization

International Civil Aviation Organization
Flag of ICAO.svg
The ICAO flag
Org type UN agency
Acronyms ICAO
Head Raymond Benjamin
Status active
Established April 1947
Headquarters Montreal, Canada

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), pronounced /aɪˈkeɪoʊ/, (in 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 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 (ANSP's) with its headquarters at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands.



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 amongst the eight countries that attended. At the second convention in 1906, also held in Berlin, 27 countries attended. The third convention, held in London, United Kingdom in 1912 allocated the first radio callsigns for use by aircraft.[1][2] The ICAN existed until 1945, when the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization (PICAO) was established. The PICAO became the ICAO in 1947.[1]


The 9th edition of the Convention on International Civil Aviation includes modifications from 1948 up to year 2006. The 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. These Annexes are listed by title in the article Convention on International Civil Aviation.


International Civil Aviation Organization member states

ICAO members are 191 of the United Nations members and the Cook Islands.

The non-member states are Dominica, Liechtenstein, Niue, Tuvalu, Vatican City and the states with limited recognition.[3][4]


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

The ICAO also standardizes certain functions for use in the airline industry, such as the Aeronautical Message Handling System AMHS; this probably makes it a standards organization.

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.[5]

The ICAO standardizes machine-readable passports worldwide.[6] 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.[7] 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.

Communication, Navigation, Surveillance / Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) systems are communications, navigation, and surveillance systems, employing digital technologies, including satellite systems together with various levels of automation, applied in support of a seamless global air traffic management system.[8]

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 the 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 Hawai'i are in the Pacific region and so have ICAO codes that start with PH—for example, PHKO for Kona.) 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 that contain 2–4 characters. These codes provide the identification that is typically used in flight plans. An example of this is the Boeing 747 that would use (depending on the variant) B741, B742, B743, etc.

Regions and regional offices

ICAO World Headquarters, Montreal, Canada

The ICAO has seven regional offices serving nine regions:

1. Asia and Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand
2. Middle East, Cairo, Egypt
3. Western and Central Africa, Dakar, Senegal
4. South America, Lima, Peru
5. North America, Central America and Caribbean, Mexico City, Mexico
6. Eastern and Southern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya
7. Europe and North Atlantic, Paris, France


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 Kyoto Protocol. Instead, the Protocol invites developed countries to pursue the limitation or reduction of emissions through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). 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.[9]

ICAO is currently against the inclusion of aviation in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). However, the EU is pressing ahead with its plans to include aviation from 2011.

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 carried out accident investigations on behalf of the British Government. ICAO has however conducted three investigations involving air disasters, two of which involved passenger airliners shot down while in international flight over hostile territory. The first incident occurred on 21 February 1973, during a period of tension which would lead to the Israeli-Arab "October war", 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.[10] The third incident was the crash of UTA Flight 772 a French McDonnell Douglas DC-10 flying from Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo, via N'Djamena in Chad, to Paris CDG airport in France. An explosion midflight over the Sahara Desert in Niger caused the aircraft to breakup, killing all 156 passengers and 15 crew, including the U.S. Ambassador to Chad, Robert Pugh. The 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.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Registrations". Golden Years of Aviation. Retrieved 11 February 2011. 
  2. ^ "1912 Radio Callsign prefixes". Golden Years of Aviation. Retrieved 11 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "List of ICAO contracting states". ICAO website. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  4. ^,40710
  5. ^ ICAO, Manual of the ICAO Standard Atmosphere (extended to 80 kilometres (262 500 feet)), Doc 7488-CD, Third Edition, 1993, ISBN 92-9194-004-6
  6. ^ International Civil Aviation Organization. "Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTD)". ICAO MRTD website. Retrieved 2007-09-10.  This website aggregates a number of ICAO documents and conference announcements related to MRTDs.
  7. ^ International Civil Aviation Organization (2006). Doc 9303, Machine Readable Travel Documents (Sixth ed.). Retrieved 2007-09-10 
  8. ^ "CNS/ATM Systems". ICAO. Retrieved 6 January 2011. 
  9. ^ "Climate Change: Aviation Emissions, an ignored but fast growing problem". 2005. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  10. ^ David Pearson (1987). KAL 007: Cover-up. N.Y.: Summit Books. p. 266. ISBN 9780671557164. 
  11. ^ UTA Flight 772: Aviation Safety Network report

External links

Coordinates: 45°30′1″N 73°33′51″W / 45.50028°N 73.56417°W / 45.50028; -73.56417

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