Guest Editorial

Shelley Chambers
Shelley Chambers

The International Civil Aviation Organization and its Impacts on Canadian Aviation

As aviation professionals, you have no doubt heard of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). One of my roles as Director, International Operations, is to be Transport Canada Civil Aviation’s (TCCA) official liaison with ICAO on matters pertaining to aviation safety. In writing this article, my objective is to expand awareness of the influence and impact that ICAO has on our aviation safety activities within the aviation community.

Let me begin with some background on this multilateral organization, its headquarters located in Montreal.

ICAO is a Specialized Agency of the United Nations. It resulted from a meeting in Chicago, the Chicago Conference of 1944, when planning for peace was already underway in the middle of the Second World War. In 1944, 52 states signed the Convention and today, 190 states have become parties. As a signatory to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, otherwise known as the Chicago Convention, Canada has agreed to certain principles so that international civil aviation may be developed in a safe and orderly manner. These principles are translated into Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), which regulate international civil aviation.

TCCA has always been a major contributor to the development of the ICAO SARPs. We do this by providing technical experts to participate on the various panels, study groups, regional planning groups, task forces, etc., that propose, discuss and make recommendations on new standards. I am very proud of the contributions these individuals make to the establishment of international standards. As I meet with my ICAO and international counterparts, I get to see first-hand how they contribute to the international recognition of Canada in matters of aviation safety.

Once all of the technical analysis is complete, ICAO asks contracting states for comments on the new SARPS through official state letters. This is one of Canada’s best opportunities to provide final input in the establishment of ICAO SARPs.

You may be wondering how your interests are represented at ICAO. Many of you will be associated with your own national organization. Many of these national organizations have international representation at ICAO. For example, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Airports Council International (ACI), the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO), the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA), the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA), the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations (ICCAIA), the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) and the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Association (IAOPA) are observers on the Air Navigation Commission (ANC) and are able to contribute to the development of the SARPs.

As you may be operating internationally, it is important to understand that under the Chicago Convention, every state has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory. This means that to fly to or over another state’s territory, you need the state’s permission and, just as importantly, you need to follow their aviation rules. This means that operating internationally requires you do your homework in case the state you are flying into has filed a difference to an ICAO SARP. Article 38 of the Convention requires contracting states to notify ICAO of any differences between its own national regulations and practices and the international standards contained in the eighteen (18) Annexes to the Chicago Convention. Differences filed by all contracting states are located in the supplements to the Annexes, which can be purchased directly from ICAO. Canada’s differences are also published in the Aeronautical Information Publication [AIP Canada (ICAO)], which can be found on the NAV CANADA Web site.

Canada is very proud to be host country to ICAO. Canada maintains a Permanent Mission located within ICAO. Leading the Mission is Canada’s representative on the Council. Canada is one of 36 contracting states elected to this executive body. Also within the Mission is Canada’s nominee to the ICAO ANC. The ANC comprises of 18 nominees from contracting states and directs and oversees the development of ICAO SARPs. The ANC reviews all new SARPS and recommends them to the Council for approval. Presently, Canada’s nominee to the ANC is Mr. Jim Dow.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Headquarters in Montreal, Quebec.
ICAO Headquarters in Montreal, Quebec.

Another important role of ICAO is to audit its contracting states’ compliance to the SARPs. Not all contracting states have the same resources to direct to the development of a safe and efficient national aviation system. However, operators of all nations fly citizens of all nations all around the world. Through its audit program, ICAO establishes a baseline for safety in each state and where there is both a need and desire, assists them through technical cooperation activities to raise their level of compliance to ICAO’s SARPs. Canada has been audited twice and ICAO considers this country as having one of the safest national aviation systems in the world.

As a contracting state of ICAO, Canada also recognizes the need to provide subject matter experts (SME) to participate in ICAO technical cooperation activities. TCCA regularly releases SMEs to work with contracting states to raise their level of safety. Through ICAO, TCCA also provides SMEs to deliver training on technical subjects and hosts foreign inspectors for an on-the-job training activity.

It is my hope that from this article you will gain a better appreciation of the fact that decisions made at the ICAO level can have a significant impact on Canadian civil aviation. TCCA remains actively involved at ICAO to make sure Canada’s interests and positions are represented on the international stage.

TCCA is proud to work with ICAO and is eager to continue its leading role in promoting aviation safety worldwide. For more information on ICAO, please visit:

Shelley Chambers
Director, International Operations
Transport Canada, Civil Aviation

International Winter Operations Conference: Safety is no Secret on October 5 and 6, 2011, at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel, in Montreal, Que.

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