1928: The Havana Convention







Cuba – 1928

6th Pan-American Conference

Although US President Woodrow Wilson played a leading role in the establishment of the League of Nations, he was unable to guide his country into this general society of states; isolationist politicians prevented the USA from becoming a member of the League of Nations and the US Senate strongly opposed it. The fact that the ICAN (International Commission for Air Navigation) was considered formally linked with the League was one of the reasons why the USA did not join it. The need for a separate form of international cooperation on a regional American basis was the result of this situation.


The Delegates to the 5th International Conference of American States held in Santiago, Chile, from 25 March to 3 May 1923, adopted a resolution providing for the creation of an Inter-American Commercial Aviation Commission to meet at a place and date to be determined by the Governing Board of the Pan-American Union to consider problems related to aviation. The conclusions of the commission were to be drawn up in the form of a convention (or conventions) and submitted to the consideration of State members of the Pan-American Union.


From 2 to 19 May 1927 had met in Washington the Commercial Aviation Commission, which had drawn up the project of a Pan-American Convention of Aerial Navigation. The majority of the states represented were the same ones that had concluded six months before the CIANA (Convenio Ibero Americano de Navegación Aérea, called the Ibero-American Convention on Air Navigation, signed in Madrid in October 1926). This Pan-American Commission had not had the task as easy as the Ibero-American Conference. It also took the Paris Convention as starting point, but it carried out many modifications that were of importance.


Further to the above Commission, the Pan American Convention on Commercial Aviation had been finalized in Havana early 1928 under the auspices of the Sixth Pan-American Conference (held in Havana, Cuba, from 16 January to 20 February 1928). President Calvin Coolidge of the USA arrived in Havana on 15 January and addressed the Conference on the opening day. The United States and twenty other States located in the Western Hemisphere signed the Convention on 20 February 1928. This new Convention weakened the ICAN’s (International Commission for Air Navigation) international stature.


President Calvin Coolidge arrived in Havana on 15 January 1928.

Source and Credit : Daily Newspaper

The Havana Convention was modelled after the Paris Convention; it applied exclusively to private aircraft (government aircraft were not included) and laid down basic principles and rules for aerial traffic, recognizing that every State had complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory and adjacent territorial waters. Clauses largely enabled the USA owned airlines to freely operate services within North and South America.


Although the principles of the Havana Convention were the mutual freedom of air passage, it made, however, no attempt to develop uniform technical standards, nor was there any provision for periodic discussion on common problems through the agency of a permanent organization (i.e., a Secretariat). The Convention did not contain provisions for continuing administrative machinery and entrusted certain duties of coordination to the Pan-American Union, mainly to its conference that met every five years. The Havana Convention had no Annexes; all rules were contained in the treaty itself. Aircraft regulation was done according to the laws of each country; no uniformity was provided.


In summary, the Havana Convention contained no provisions for a permanent and dynamic means of facilitating civil aircraft’s progressive development and evolution. States were expected to take the initiative in guiding the development of civil aviation and in the writing of regulatory codes. This permitted a good deal of flexibility among States, but also led to a degree of uncertainty or confusion in practice.


The Havana Convention was approved by the US Senate on 20 February 1931. Pursuant to the terms of Article 34, the Convention came into force as to the United States in respect of other countries which had ratified it, 40 days from the deposit by the United States of its ratification with the Cuban Government. The Convention was registered with the League of Nations on 12 May 1932.


This Pan-American Agreement was a certain success, since, signed by 21 States, it was finally ratified by 16 of them by 1944, i.e., Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay, the USA, and Venezuela. The Secretary General of ICAN entered into direct relations with the Director General of the Pan-American Union and it was agreed between them that the secretariat of ICAN should regularly communicate to the Union all information it receives in exchange of documentation of the same order that the Union can gather.


Although the Paris and Havana Conventions served a useful purpose, they also caused some degree of confusion in actual practice, since they were two separate sets of rules. However, they were seen to be no longer adequate for the years after World War II, because of the immense wartime development of aerial transport. The Convention on International Civil Aviation signed at Chicago on 7 November 1944 superseded them; there was some readiness to concede that commercial air rights as well as technical and navigational regulations should be governed by international agreement.


Cuba issued a set of ten stamps to commemorate this Conference. The centring of most of the stamps of this issue is fair.


It is interesting to note that, during the Sixth Pan-American Conference, the Lindbergh Week was held from 8 to 15 February 1928 in Havana. Charles Lindbergh stopped at Havana on 8 February on a Good Will Tour. On the same day, Cuba issued a stamp to commemorate Lindbergh’s visit (carmine rose, Philadelphia Navy Yard PN-9 seaplane over Havana Harbour overprinted in black with LINDBERGH / FEBRERO 1928). See below the First Day Covers.


World known pilot, Charles A. Lindbergh arrived in Havana from Haiti piloting the Spirit of St. Louis on his Goodwill Tour of the Caribbean and stopped there from 8 to 13 February. 8 February was known as Lindbergh Day. On 12 February 1928, President Gerardo Machado y Morales flew over Havana, with Charles Lindbergh.


Following his Atlantic Crossing, Lindbergh visited many countries in his plane; he had the national flags of each country painted in the fuselage. The Cuban flag was the last one; following his trip to Cuba, Lindbergh retired "The Spirit of St. Louis" and donated it to the Smithsonian Institution, where it is exhibited today at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.


Cuba – 2 February 1928 – First Day Cover.

Special imprint for the Sixth Pan-American Conference.




Front and back of a cover sent registered on the first day of the Conference, i.e., 2 January 1928 (with 10-centavo stamp); stationery cover from the ship of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company docked in Havana, Cuba.



On 8 February 1928, Cuba issued this stamp overprinted in black with LINDBERGH / FEBRERO 1928; it shows a Philadelphia Navy Yard PN-9 seaplane over Havana Harbour. This Cuban stamp is a reproduction in carmine rose of the design of the first airmail stamp issued on 1 November 1927 (dark blue).




Cuba – 8 February 1928 – Visit of Charles Lindbergh at Havana.