Celebrating 70 Years of the Chicago Convention

On 13/12/2014, in Anniversaries, by steve


In 1944, delegates from 54 nations gathered in the Grand Ballroom of the Stevens Hotel in Chicago at the invitation of the United States of America.

At this event, the participants concluded and signed the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known more popularly as the ‘Chicago Convention’, the defining international agreement which has since permitted the global civil aviation system to develop peacefully and in a manner benefitting all peoples and nations of the world.

Through 2014, ICAO and the global air transport community  commemorated this momentous occasion by convening a series of special events in Montreal and Chicago.

Featuring high-level participation from the host governments of Canada and the United States of America, and representatives from ICAO’s Council and Member States, these proceedings culminated in an Extraordinary Session of the ICAO Council on Monday, 8 December, in the exact same room where the Convention was signed in the Stevens Hotel (now the Chicago Hilton) 70 years ago.

On this occasion, ICAO Council Representatives adopted a Special Resolution paying tribute to the Chicago Convention’s significant contributions to global peace and prosperity through the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation.

The signing of the Convention

The signing of the Convention


Electronics creeping up on me…

On 29/12/2012, in Viewpoint, by steve

One way of dividing the world population might be to form two groups: readers of Time and readers of Newsweek. I have been an avid reader of Time magazine ever since my English reached a level good enough to peruse the publication in the mid-sixties. Arrival of the magazine has been the highlight of the week every week since then. I did pick up the odd copy of Newsweek also when they had something interesting to say but have never had a subscription.

Now Newsweek is stopping with its print edition and will only be available in electronic form. Of course with the proliferation of electronic readers and general purpose tablets, reaching a very wide audience in the developed world vie electronic means is not such a big deal any more. So, while Newsweek’s step may appear to be rather bold, it is not so outlandish… unless of course if we consider those countries where the print edition would still be the main, if not the only, way to read Newsweek. So, they are effectively vacating those markets…

One cannot ignore the fact that more and more newsmagazines and professional periodicals include a digital version with a subscription to their paper editions. The digital versions are being promoted quite extensively and I suspect some of them have already placed a mark in their calendars for some time the future when they will announce the termination of the print edition…

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Recat – What is this?

On 07/12/2012, in Buzzwords explained, by steve

What if you had a magic wand and by simply waving it, you could create a new runway at your congested airport? Well, Recat which stands for Recategorization of ICAO wake turbulence standards does just that. Not by actually pouring new concrete but by creating additional capacity that, at some airports, creates additional capacity that comes very near to what a new runway would represent.

Since 2 November 2012, ATC at Memphis International Airport in the USA has been streaming inbound and outbound traffic with separation of 3 miles (and on occasion 2.5 miles) instead of the customary 4 miles, representing a jump in capacity that benefits all traffic operating to Memphis. With FedEx being the most intensive user, their feeling of an extra runway having been put down at the airport is not surprising.

But what is Recat and how does it perform its magic?

Recat is one example of how things can be improved without new boxes on the aircraft just by not accepting things as they are. I almost said without investment, but this is not strictly true. There is no free lunch… Recat is the result of 10 years of study and experimentation performed as part of a project led by the FAA and EUROCONTROL. NASA, the DoT Volpe Center, Det Norske Veritas and several other international experts also took part in the effort. This has cost money of course even if not all the funds came from the airports and airlines that will ultimately benefit from the new procedure.

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On 22/11/2012, in ATC world, by steve

Last week during the 9th ALTA Airline Leaders Forum in Panama City, Panama, aviation associations

signed the Joint Declaration on Airport and Air Navigation Service Infrastructure. The Civil Air

Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), came together with the Airports Council International

(ACI), the Airports Council International – Latin America and Caribbean (ACI-LAC), the Latin

American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA), and the International Air Transport

Association (IATA) to urge Latin American and Caribbean Governments to develop air transport

infrastructure to adequately meet the needs of the industry, now and in the future.

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On 22/11/2012, in ATC world, by steve

In his first public address, the newly-appointed Director General of the Civil Air Navigation Services

Organisation (CANSO) Jeff Poole called on the international aviation community assembled at the

12th ICAO Air Navigation Conference to embrace change and collaboration in order to achieve the

long-held vision of a globally harmonised and interoperable air navigation system. Jeff Poole told

guests attending a CANSO-hosted lunch during this once-in-a-decade ICAO event, that he will drive

positive and urgent change to bring about more seamless and efficient management of the airspace.

More than 1,000 delegates are anticipated during the 10-day event that will run from the 19th to the

30th November to agree a new Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP) that will guide industry planning

and implementation activities over the next decade. For the first time, a new framework called the

aviation system block upgrades (ASBUs), and a series of technology roadmaps, will guide the

planning of ATM modernisation initiatives and synchronise development of air traffic management

infrastructure globally. CANSO played a key role in identifying these operational improvements and in

gaining commitment for them prior to the Conference.

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New ICAO Flight Plan goes live on 15 November

On 14/11/2012, in Just to let you know..., by steve

The worldwide implementation of ICAO Flight Plan changes take effect this week on 15 November 2012. The amendments to flight plan content go to the very core of flight plan processing.

15 November 2012 is the ultimate deadline: after that date, current or old format flight plan messages will no longer be accepted.

Aircraft Operators were requested to begin filing flight plans in the new format from 12 November onwards, so as to ensure that by 15 November, only new format data are in the systems.

The main changes affect:

– field 10 in the standard flight plan, the section describing the equipment carried by the aircraft (and its capabilities)
– the way in which this information is described in field 18
– the ability to file up to five days in advance of the estimated off-block time (EOBT) using the date of flight (DOF).

Although the changes require system modifications, it is also important to realise that much more information is now needed on the flight’s communication, navigation and surveillance capabilities.

This will have significant impact on anyone who creates or receives flight plan messages: air navigation service providers (ANSPs), aircraft operators, air traffic services reporting offices (AROs) and flight plan service providers.

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Listening Session on the Protection of Safety Information Scheduled for December in Washington, DC

On 10/11/2012, in Safety is no accident, by steve

The Flight Safety Foundation is an independent, non-profit, international organization engaged in research, education, advocacy and publishing to improve aviation safety. The Foundation’s mission is to be the leading voice of safety for the global aerospace community.

They have just announced that a working group of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Safety Information Protection Task Force (SIP TF) announced today that it will be holding a listening session on 5 December 2012 in Washington, DC at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel.

The ICAO SIP TF is charged with making findings and recommendations to improve ICAO standards, recommended practices, and guidance materials on the protection of safety information, and expects to conclude its work in the early part of 2013. The purpose of this listening session is to assist the SIP TF in its efforts to (1) understand the needs and perspectives of interested groups and individuals, and (2) identify a sound basis on which to consider approaches to balancing the protection of safety information with the administration of justice, safety-related regulatory action, and the public’s right to know.

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Fragmentation then and now…

On 23/07/2012, in FAB News, by cleo

In previous writings on the problems we see with the concept of Functional Airspace Blocks (FAB), the authors have often compared the European ATM fragmentation the nine FABs are bringing to the situation we had back in the early 70s. Like all comparisons, this one is not perfect by far, but there are enough similarities to make one worry. Are they going to address those issues?

Because let’s not forget that the idea of FABs came as a result of Europe’s dismal failure to agree on a region-wide improvement to the way air traffic management was being done. If there is no regional solution, let’s try to get things sorted out on the level of blocks of airspace that can be seen as functionally interrelated. Going for an airspace based concept when the modern approach was trajectory based was the first fatal flow… But much worse was the political interference which resulted in nine FABs instead of the 2 or 3 that would have been warranted on a purely air traffic management basis. Anyway, the FABs took a long time to get things going, sorting out organizational and political issue first and it is only now that they are slowly turning to getting the ATM aspects addressed. Based on the noises coming from every direction, coordinating things between 4 or 5 ANSPs is not that much easier than it was between 27 or so. Because the FABs are working on their own, applying their own understanding to the ATM concepts at hand, with solutions defined that are optimized for the given FAB environment, they are fast becoming castles unto themselves. However, even the largest FAB is pretty small from an aircraft’s point of view and a lot of the traffic a FAB will encounter does not stay exclusively in that FAB. An average European flight will encounter several FABs as it negotiates the suddenly not-so-single European sky. So, we know that ANSPs in a given FAB have some trouble agreeing things (nothing new there…). Who will get the FABs themselves to agree to things that affect a bunch of them? That is what used to be the European level… and the circle is round. I can already see the European FAB coordination meeting where reps of the various FABs will discover that a lot of their hard won agreements that appeared to be perfect inside their FAB do not really line up with the thinking of the FABs downstream. Then what?

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Good news for General Aviation – Light at the end of the EASA tunnel

On 21/06/2012, in General Aviation, by steve

The French-led working group that aims to create a new world of light-touch regulation for European general aviation has produced a set of guiding principles for EASA which will be considered by the Agency’s Board of Management next week. Although the full details are confidential, the basic tenets are that there should be no regulation without a specific safety aim, and every new regulation should be tested with a full risk analysis and a cost-benefit study before it is imposed. The group wants EASA to move completely away from the ‘top-down’ concept of creating regulations for Commercial Air Transport then imposing them on GA, sometimes in a slightly watered-down form. It wants EASA to adopt the ICAO stance, which specifically states that authorities do not owe the same duty of care to GA participants as they do to paying customers of the airlines and uninvolved third parties.

The group is much more than a think-tank, and includes representatives of EASA and the European Commission, who have indicated that they go along with the consensus view. It was set up at the behest of EASA’s Board of Management following a presentation to the Board by IAOPA Senior Vice President Martin Robinson, who sits of the group together with AOPA Germany’s Managing Director Dr Michael Erb.

The general view is that Annex 6, part 1, of ICAO’s Chicago Convention covers general aviation regulation sufficiently well, and if EASA wishes to go beyond it, then it has to be addressing a demonstrated safety problem and its response should be proportionate to the risk and the cost. European states are signatories to the Convention whereas Europe as an entity is not, and the EC does not consider EASA to be bound by its provisions. The states, however, have relied on ICAO for guidance since the Second World War, and it has not been found wanting.

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ASBU – What is this?

On 21/05/2012, in Buzzwords explained, by steve

ICAO Aviation System Block Upgrades

Although air traffic demand is not growing evenely everywhere, almost no part of the world is without some kind of air traffic management modernization project. In terms of overall cutting edge concepts and technology plans, the US, Europe and Japan are the undisputed leaders. At the same time, other regions like Latin-America and Asia-Pacific have shown leadership in the early application of advanced solutions like PBN.

While in the past ATM improvements were based on an infrastructure that was standardized world-wide (like VOR/DME or ILS) some of the new concepts are predicated on infrastructure improvements and new aircraft equipment that sometimes exist in different flavors and not all are necessarily compatible.

Adoption of different flavor solutions in different parts of the world raise the specter of a loss of interoperability, a situation that is extremely costly for the airspace users to remedy or to accommodate.

Even perfectly interoperable solutions, if implemented with no or little coordination in different parts of the world, can lead to mandates that can only be met with difficulty and excessive cost that is otherwise avoidable if a more structured approach is used.

In the past, the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) reputation has suffered somewhat as a result of the extremely bureaucratic way it approached everything and the glacial paced decision making this entailed. At the same time, ICAO continued to be the only world-wide body which was empowered to say the last word on most of aviations air traffic management related provisions and hence there was no way of going around this mostly benign, but sometimes still belligerent giant. Regions keen on improving their ATM environment tried hard to progress even while ICAO lagged and this was leading to a situation where, in spite of its importance, in some aspects ICAO was becoming irrelevant.

But no more! Under new management at the top and mindful of the economic crisis affecting the air transport industry, ICAO has transformed itself into a cost-conscious, business oriented organization that does make a genuine effort to help ATM evolution along.

The first product was the ICAO Global Air Traffic Management Operational Concept (ICAO Doc 9854) which was significant because, for the first time, it actually formalized even concepts like the transfer of separation responsibility to the cockpit. By the way, most of what you find in Doc 9854 was first written up in the context of the European ATM modernization project ATM2000+.

Of course an operational concept as such is of little value until you define how the concept will be implemented and describe the changes in the ATM infrastructure that need to be realized for the concept to work.

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