Convention on International Civil Aviation

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The ICAO was founded with the Chicago Agreement

The Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) was signed by 52 states in Chicago on December 7, 1944. This created the basis for international aviation law based on international law and founded the ICAO . The agreement is expressly limited to private air transport (commercial and non-commercial); the agreement does not apply to state aircraft.

For the sake of convenience, standards and technical details have been moved to 19 annexes, which are an integral part of the agreement. These annexes contain both binding standards and recommendations. The signatory states are obliged to implement binding standards in their field as far as possible. However, this obligation is not absolute: every state has the right to regulate individual points differently, but must notify the ICAO of such deviations.

The agreement is available in four languages ​​(English, French, Spanish and Russian), all of which are equally binding. The text of the contract has been changed several times since it came into force, including the inclusion of other languages ​​in the originally English text. To date (2017) 192 states have ratified the agreement .

Predecessor agreement

First steps

It was recognized early on that the developing aviation would bring completely new possibilities of travel and transport with it, and that a system of purely national regulations was not appropriate for this development. That is why France hosted an international aviation conference in Paris in 1910. Eighteen countries took part in this conference and agreed on some fundamental, internationally valid principles of aviation. This was a start, but the First World War prevented the further development of this work.

The 1919 Paris Aviation Agreement

Alcock and Brown set out from St. John's on June 14, 1919 at 1:45 p.m. for their first non-stop Atlantic crossing.
The R34 on July 6, 1919 in Mineola, Long Island, New York

After the war, well-engineered and powerful aircraft were available. Civil aviation companies were founded in Europe and North America and offered the first scheduled flights ( Paris - London , Paris - Brussels ). On 14./15. On June 6th 1919 John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown crossed the Atlantic non-stop from St. John's (Newfoundland) to Clifden (Ireland) . From July 2 to July 13, 1919, the British airship R34 drove with 31 people on board from East Lothian (Scotland) to Mineola (New York) and back. The need for international regulation of aviation was obvious.

Therefore, on October 13, 1919, on the occasion of the peace conference in Paris, an international aviation agreement was passed, which was signed by 26 of the 32 allied states (but not by the USA ). In Article 34 of the agreement the establishment of the Commission Internationale de Navigation Aérienne (CINA) (English International Commission for Air Navigation , ICAN) was established as a permanent institution. Their first meeting took place in July 1922.

However, this agreement had only been worked out by the victorious powers of the Paris Peace Conference, and so many other countries saw it as having serious and unacceptable shortcomings. That is why many countries did not join the agreement, including Switzerland .

Excursus: The Washington radio telephony contract of 1927

Even if this treaty does not deal directly with aviation, it did have a major impact on the later aviation agreements.

In the 1920s it was recognized that radio communication and the emission of electromagnetic waves in general had to be regulated internationally. Not only was it necessary for operational considerations to standardize technology and procedures, but it was also discovered that electromagnetic waves in a certain frequency range (now called shortwave) are reflected by the ionosphere and thus spread around the entire earth, something without international regulation had to lead to the collapse of the whole system. Although the first international radio telegraphy agreement had already been signed in Berlin in 1906, it was no longer able to keep pace with developments.

Therefore, from October 4 to November 25, 1927, a conference took place in Washington, which worked out an international radio telephony contract. The treaty was signed on November 25th and came into effect on January 1st, 1929.

Some examples of regulations that were set out in this contract and that are still valid today:

  • Radio stations may only be operated by people who have the appropriate license. In addition to the full radio license, it was also possible to issue a less demanding limited radio license, which was intended for people who would only operate fully installed devices. (This corresponds to today's limited valid radiotelephony certificate, which every pilot must acquire.)
  • The emergency call signs were standardized: For Morse traffic, the international emergency call sign defined in 1906 was confirmed as • • • - - - • • • (SOS), and the keywords Mayday and Pan were specified for radio communication .
  • The radio station identifiers have been standardized in Appendix A of the contract. For aircraft radio stations it was specified that their identification should always consist of five letters. The option was also provided to abbreviate the identifier after the first call.
  • Each country was assigned a range of letters from which the identification of its radio stations had to be taken. The then great powers USA, Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Japan each received a "whole" letter (the USA even three), all other countries only part of a letter.
Examples of letter ranges for the radio station IDs
Letter area country
K, N, W USA (the USA was the only state to receive multiple letter blocks)
F. France and colonies
I. Italy and colonies
CA… CE Chile
CF ... CK Canada
HA Hungary
HB Switzerland
HC Ecuador

While in some countries the choice of area is obvious (namely in the case of the then European great powers France (F), Italy (I), Great Britain (G) and Germany (D)), in others no connection is recognizable, so it is probably pure randomly assigned from the remaining areas (OO for Belgium, PH for the Netherlands, but also K, N and W for the USA). A conscious choice can be assumed for some country symbols (Cx for Chile and Canada, Hx for Hungary (Hungaria) and Switzerland (Helvetia)). The assignment is not justified in the agreement itself.

Originally only letters and no numbers were allowed in the identifier. This rule was later changed when many new states emerged in the course of decolonization and letter blocks were no longer available.

The revised 1932 Paris Aviation Agreement

Since international regulation of air traffic became more and more urgent, but the Paris Aviation Agreement of 1919 was not acceptable to many countries, a conference was convened to revise the agreement and remedy the shortcomings. This conference met in Paris from June 10th to 15th, 1932. In addition to the 1919 signatory states, 17 other states, including Switzerland, took part. The revised version was unanimously approved and then ratified by all participating states, except for Persia, which terminated the treaty. The revised agreement came into force on May 17, 1933. The Commission internationale de navigation aérienne (CINA) , based in Paris, has been confirmed as a permanent international body.

Not the most important, but the most obvious provision of the contract was in Appendix A. It stipulated that the radio call sign of an aircraft is identical to its registration number . The first or the first two letters should designate the country in which the aircraft was registered. But since the states had already been assigned letter ranges for the identification of their radio stations in the Washington Radio Telephony Treaty of 1927, this meant that each country had to choose its nationality from the range assigned to it. For Switzerland this meant that her nationality mark could only be HB .

The radio telephony contract also stipulated that the identification of on-board radio stations of aircraft should always consist of 5 letters, so that the aircraft identification now also consisted of 5 letters. The first or the first two letters designated the country, while the others formed the national registration mark. Country symbols and registration symbols were to be separated from each other by a hyphen. In fact, this is still true today in many countries. (This requirement was relaxed in the Chicago Convention.)

The Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1944

The agreement was signed on December 7, 1944

The Commission internationale de navigation aérienne (CINA) belonged to 31 states and it was broadly based; in addition to the European countries, it also included Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Argentina, Peru, Iraq and other countries. Nevertheless, important states were missing, namely the USA. With the beginning of the Second World War , the work of the commission was abruptly interrupted.

Major technical advances were made in the field of aviation during the war. It was foreseeable that it was only a matter of time before commercial aviation would be intercontinental. It was therefore necessary to standardize the principles of air transport worldwide.

On the initiative of the USA, an international civil aviation conference was held in Chicago from December 1 to 7, 1944. The date is remarkable: the conference took place only six months after D-Day (June 6, 1944) and before Germany's surrender (May 8, 1945), that is, during the war.

54 states took part in the conference, all members of the Allies , their allies or neutrals. On December 7, 1944, 52 of these states signed the agreement. It came into force on April 4, 1947, 30 days after the 26th instrument of ratification had been deposited . The US is the depositary of the agreement. To date (2016) 191 states have ratified the Chicago Convention.

At the conference, an agreement and two additional agreements were formulated (in addition to a provisional transition agreement):

  • The Agreement on International Civil Aviation (Swiss translation: Convention ... )
  • The Agreement on the Transit of International Air Lines
  • The agreement on international air transport

While the aim of the agreement is to standardize the infrastructure and the rules of air traffic internationally, the two additional agreements deal with the so-called freedoms of air traffic . These are intended to make it easier for commercial international airlines to operate and to open up commercial air traffic to international competition. Accession to the two supplementary agreements was optional.

The Convention on International Civil Aviation

In terms of content, the Chicago Agreement was closely based on the revised Paris Agreement of 1934. In Article 43 it was specified that an International Civil Aviation Organization (English: International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) ) should be established. The seat of this organization was not set out in the treaty. The conference established Canada as the first seat, and in fact Montréal is still the seat of the ICAO to this day; however, it could be relocated to another country at any time without changing the contract by a simple resolution of the General Assembly (Art. 45).

For the period between the signature and entry into force first which took place on 15 August 1945 Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization (Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization (Picão)) its activity on until after the entry into force of the Agreement, the ICAO could take over. Their first meeting took place on May 6, 1947 in Montréal. By an agreement of October 3, 1947, the ICAO received the status of a specialized agency of the United Nations .

All signatory states to the Chicago Agreement undertook to terminate any competing contracts. In particular, this meant that the CINA was dissolved.

The signatory states of the Chicago Convention are obliged to implement the standards and procedures established by the ICAO as far as possible. These standards are not, as is often read, mere recommendations, but a binding mandate to the signatory states to issue and implement compliant national regulations. However, each state has the option of regulating individual points differently, provided it reports these deviations to the ICAO. (In addition to the binding standards, the ICAO also makes recommendations.)

The agreement regulates, among other things, radiotelephone procedures, standards for navigation systems, standards for airfields, the licensing of flight personnel, the collection of fees, etc. For reasons of expediency, the technical details are not regulated in the agreement itself, but in annexes. These annexes are an integral part of the agreement. The agreement currently has 19 annexes.

The 19 annexes to the agreement
Annex 1: Licensing of aviation personnel
Annex 2: Aviation rules
Annex 3: Meteorological services
Annex 4: Aeronautical charts
Annex 5: Measuring units for use in the air and on the ground
Annex 6: Operation of aircraft
Annex 7: Aircraft nationality and registration numbers
Annex 8: Airworthiness of aircraft
Annex 9: Relief
Annex 10: Wireless
Annex 11: Air traffic services (ATC, air surveillance)
Annex 12: Search and Rescue (SAR)
Annex 13: Aircraft accident investigation
Annex 14: Airfields
Annex 15: Air traffic information services
Annex 16: environmental Protection
Annex 17: Security: protecting international civil aviation from illegal encroachment
Annex 18: Safe air transport of dangerous goods
Annex 19: Security management

The agreement also provides that the ICAO can support individual states directly in setting up their aviation infrastructure, not only in an advisory capacity, but also financially. This goes so far that the ICAO can even build and operate facilities on its own account, with the consent of the state concerned.

The Agreement on the Transit of International Air Lines

This agreement guarantees the 1st and 2nd freedom of air travel. These are:

1. Freedom: The right to fly over the territory of a foreign state without landing in that state.
2. Freedom: The right to a technical stopover in a foreign country. (For example, a stopover to refuel without unloading or picking up people or freight.)

The agreement on international air transport

This agreement guarantees the 3rd, 4th and 5th freedom of air travel.

3. Freedom: The right to transport people or cargo from the airline's home state to a foreign state.
4. Freedom: The right to transport people or cargo from a foreign country to the home country of the airline.
5. Freedom: The right to transport people or cargo between two locations in foreign countries without touching the home country of the airline ( cabotage ). (This 5th freedom was later differentiated even further.)

The 5th freedom is optional, i. that is, a state can join the agreement but exclude cabotage.

Contract language

The text of the contract stipulated that the agreement would be available for signature in a trilingual version (English, French and Spanish). In fact, only the English text was available for signature in Chicago.

An official translation into the other two languages ​​was only approved on September 24, 1968 at a conference in Buenos Aires (Protocol on the authentic trilingual wording of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago 1944)) . An official translation into Russian followed in 2000. All four text versions are equally authoritative.

German name

In Germany and Austria, the agreement is officially called the Agreement on International Civil Aviation .

In Switzerland, the agreement was also called that in the original German translation. In 1971 a new translation was published, since then the official German title in Switzerland has been the Convention on International Civil Aviation . The reason for the name change was to clarify the terminology: In Switzerland, bilateral international agreements are called agreements , multilateral international agreements are called conventions .



Signature of the Swiss delegation to the Chicago Convention of 1944

Revised Paris Aviation Agreement of 1932

Approved by parliament on June 18, 1934 (SR: June 13, NR: June 18)
Came into force on October 1, 1934

Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1944

Signed in Chicago on December 7, 1944
Ratified December 13, 1946
Document of ratification deposited on February 6, 1947
Came into force for Switzerland on April 4, 1947


When depositing the ratification document on February 6, 1947, the Swiss delegate made the following declaration: “My government has instructed me to inform you that the Swiss authorities have agreed with the authorities of the Principality of Liechtenstein that the agreement will also apply to the Principality of Liechtenstein takes place as long as the treaty of March 29, 1923 on the connection of the Principality of Liechtenstein to the Swiss customs territory is in force. "

Liechtenstein is not listed as a member state by the ICAO. Liechtenstein aircraft have a Swiss registration number (HB) and the Liechtenstein helicopter airfield Balzers has the Swiss registration number LSXB.


Announced in BGBl 1949 p. 459


Announced in BGBl 1956 II p. 411

See also


  • Paul Michael Krämer, Chicago Convention, 50th Anniversary Conference, Chicago, October 31 - November 1, 1994. Air and Space Law Journal 1995, p. 57.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c CONVENTION ON INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION DONE AT CHICAGO ON THE 7TH DAY OP DECEMBER 1944. (PDF, 2163 kB) ICAO , December 7, 1944, accessed on June 18, 2012 (English, scan of the original document with the signatures).
  2. a b MEMBER STATES. (PDF, 11 kB) ICAO , October 11, 2011, accessed on June 18, 2012 (English, list of contracting states).
  3. a b History: The beginning. ICAO , accessed June 18, 2012 .
  4. ^ ICAO - International Civil Aviation Organization. Mission - History - Structure. UNESCO , accessed June 18, 2012 .
  5. Text of the Paris Aviation Agreement of 1919 ( Memento of March 30, 2002 in the Internet Archive )
  6. a b c Message of the Swiss Federal Council No. 3107 of May 26, 1934, BBl 1934 II 45 (The introduction of the message contains a historical review.)
  7. ^ Message of the Swiss Federal Council No. 2360 of September 17, 1928, BBl 1928 II 537
  8. a b Message of the Swiss Federal Council of September 27, 1946, BBl 1946 III 608
  9. : Current German wording of the Chicago Agreement (Swiss translation) (PDF, 202 kB)
  10. Current German wording of the Chicago Agreement (translation valid in Germany) ( Memento of March 13, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF, 270 kB)
  11. Schlochauer et al. (Ed.): Dictionary of international law . 2nd edition Volume 2. de Gruyter, Berlin 1962, ISBN 978-3-11-001031-2 , p. 94.
  12. Security in the sense of the English "Safety" and not "Security".
  13. FREEDOMS OF THE AIR. ICAO , archived from the original on June 1, 2012 ; accessed on June 18, 2012 (English).
  14. Swiss collection of laws, AS 1971 1303
  15. Swiss collection of laws, BS 13 615 (last version of BS from 1947)
  16. a b Swiss collection of laws, AS 1971 1305
  17. Swiss Collection of Laws, AS 1934 p. 645
  18. Swiss collection of laws, BS 13 648