Happy 70th Birthday to ICAO; congratulations for setting the Global Standard of Aviation Safety

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In 1944 few foresaw that aviation would have the impact that it has today. Some visionary leaders within the 26 countries which were present in Chicago on December 7 1944 did. As the Chicago Convention was being signed, international air transportation was a minor business almost regarded as a luxury. As noted below, the global birthday party was celebrated in Chicago on December 8th. What is ICAO today?

Governments zealously protect their privileges, nay their sovereign right, to establish rules which apply to their domestic industries. They rarely look to some international authority to set their standards.

One geo-political model holds that worldwide competition can/will result in lesser standards. It hypothesized that a country, without the resources or bureaucracy to regulate aggressively, will set a lower threshold and other countries may be forced to met that depressed criteria. In the shipping industry the flag of convenience regime is cited as an example of that phenomenon.

Someone back in 1944 foresaw that potential and convened aviation leaders to discuss the creation of an international institution, the International Civil Aviation Organization. That gathering of Eagles included Welch Pogue, a pioneer to aviation law.Their prescience resulted in the following goal, written in the form of a resolution:

“WHEREAS the future development of international civil aviation can greatly help to create and preserve friendship and understanding among the nations and peoples of the world, yet its abuse can become a threat to the general security; and

“WHEREAS it is desirable to avoid friction and to promote that cooperation between nations and peoples upon which the peace of the world depends;

“THEREFORE, the undersigned governments having agreed on certain principles and arrangements in order that international civil aviation may be developed in a safe and orderly manner and that international air transport services may be established on the basis of equality of opportunity and operated soundly and economically;

“Have accordingly concluded this Convention to that end.”

That’s a very lofty statement, but one to which ICAO and its Member States have aspired to for 70 years. Because the Montreal UN organization works on a consensus basis, its wheels grind slowly, but well. Today, ICAO pushes it Members to follow the standards set under the Chicago Convention.

The Administrator spoke at the celebration in Chicago on December 8, 2014 and  made the following cogent points:

And, consider all the vast improvements since ICAO began its work to ensure a safe and efficient global aviation system.  Safety rates have dramatically improved.  Air traffic operations are becoming more and more efficient, and system modernization is taking hold.  Aircraft are certified to incredibly safe levels.  We are integrating new entrants into the global airspace and addressing environmental concerns.

All of these major steps forward could not have happened without ICAO’s leadership.  Through this organization, and with the efforts and technical expertise of Member States and industry, we have worked together to set global aviation standards and guidelines.  These standards have created a sound foundation for a safe, harmonized, and environmentally responsible aviation system.”

Without ICAO international travel would be a very different experience. Travel consultants or some other third party expert would advise whether or not to fly XYZ airline. It’s not perfect today, but the general standard by most of the world’s airlines is most exacting.


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