1944: The Chicago Conference


Before the Second World War, two international conventions regulated the aerial navigation: the Paris Convention of 1919 whose permanent body was the International Commission for Air Navigation (ICAN), and the Havana Convention of 1928 without permanent office. At that time, there were approximately fifty sovereign states in the world. The ICAN gathered 33 of these States, whereas the Havana Convention had been ratified by 11 States.


The rapid growth of international air transport between the two World Wars clearly demonstrated the possibilities of civilian air transport. The advent of World War II, while interrupting civilian flying, did not stop international civil aviation. It is needless to say that the aviation made during World War II not only resulted in horror and human tragedies but that its utilization also significantly advanced the technical and operational possibilities of air transport in a world which had finally found peace again. In fact, for the first time, large numbers of people and goods had been transported over long distances and ground facilities had been developed to permit this in an orderly and expeditious manner.


Chicago Conference – Registration desk.

In Canada, the control of civil aviation was given to the new Department of Transport under C.D. Howe in 1936. Howe saw how Canada could play a significant role in any international aeronautical organization. In addition to its strategic location for flights between North America and Europe, Canada provided an immense aviation industry with an internationally recognized expertise in aviation. This led Canada later to act as a mediator at the Chicago Conference in 1944.


By the spring of 1942, more than two years before the end of war, it was apparent that civil air transport would play a large and important role in international relations; serious discussions of political and diplomatic arrangements for international civil aviation had begun mainly in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. At the Anglo-American Conference held in Québec City from 10 to 24 August 1943 (the First Quebec Conference, which took place at the Citadelle and the Château Frontenac; codenamed "QUADRANT"), Roosevelt and Churchill discussed post-war aviation policy and were planning for a United Nations type of organization to handle some aspects of international civil aviation. The Prime Minister of Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie King, hosted this wartime conference. Meanwhile, as the year 1944 progressed and as the war took a turn for the better, it became even more apparent that the time was rapidly approaching when some nations would want to initiate new international air services on a regular commercial basis.


Just for information, the Second Quebec Conference (codenamed "OCTAGON") was a high-level military conference held during World War II by the British and American governments. The conference was held in Quebec City from 12 to 16 September 1944. The chief representatives were Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Canada's Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was the host but did not attend the key meetings. Mainly war and post-war issues were discussed during this conference.


One of the Quebec City’s best known and historic landmarks is the Château Frontenac. Architect Bruce Price designed the grand hotel for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. It opened in 1893 as a luxury hotel, named for Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac and Governor of New France in the latter part of the 17th century. The Château Frontenac, one of Quebec City’s most popular tourist attractions, overlooks the St. Lawrence River with a spectacular view that extends for several kilometres. Seen from across the river, the hotel is Quebec City’s most prominent feature in the skyline. Indeed, the building has become a symbol of the city.


Chicago – Postcard showing the Stevens Hotel

On 11 September 1944, the United States extended an invitation to fifty-three governments and two Ministers in Washington in their personal capacities (Danish and Thai) for an international civil aviation conference to be convened in the United States on 1 November 1944 to "make arrangements for the immediate establishment of provisional world air routes and services" and "to set up an interim council to collect, record and study data concerning international aviation and to make recommendations for its improvement." The Conference was also invited to "discuss the principles and methods to be followed in the adoption of a new aviation convention."


President Roosevelt’s invitation to the nations of the world added: "I do not believe that the world of today can afford to wait several years for its air communications. There is no reason why it should. As we begin to write a new chapter in the fundamental law of the air, let us all remember that we are engaged in a great attempt to build enduring institutions of peace. These peace settlements cannot be endangered by petty considerations or weakened by groundless fears. Rather, with full recognition of the sovereignty and juridical equality of all nations, let us work together so that the air may be used by humanity, to serve humanity."


As the Dumbarton Oaks conversations (from 21 August to 7 October 1944), the first concrete steps towards an international organization for the maintenance of peace and security, were a Washington conference, President Roosevelt requested Adolf A. Berle, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State, Head of the US delegation to the conference, to find another site for the aviation conference. On 7 October 1944, the Department of State announced the selection of the Stevens Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, as the site for the International Civil Aviation Conference. The city of Chicago was suggested to bring an international conference to the isolated Midwest.


Commonwealth civil aviation discussions were held in Montreal at the Windsor Hotel from 22 to 27 October 1944 in preparation of the Chicago Conference. Immediately following this Conference and before the Commonwealth representatives would return home, the same hotel would become the host of a two-day Commonwealth meeting on 9 and 10 December 1944.


These delegates met during a still-violent period of WWII and travelled to Chicago at great personal risk. Many of the countries they represented were still occupied. Out of the 53 invited states, only two did not accept: Saudi Arabia, and the USSR which refused to participate due to objections against the presence at the Conference of some other states: Spain, Switzerland and Portugal, countries which for a number of years have carried on a hostile policy towards the Soviet Union (according to the official reason given by the USSR); in fact, the Soviet delegation was recalled while it was en route to Chicago. The absence of the USSR was felt as a major disappointment; the USSR was expected to play an important role in the post-war arrangements, as this country represented the largest land territory of the world.


Opened on 1 November 1944, the Chicago Conference, as it came to be known, was eventually attended by fifty-two nations (including USA) together with two observer nations, without the privilege of voting, Denmark and Thailand; the occupied Denmark and Thailand were represented only by their Ministers with the rank of Ambassadors attending in their personal capacity. The Conference was attended by a total of 185 delegates, 156 advisers, experts and consultants, 45 secretaries, 105 clerks and stenographers, 306 members of the Conference secretariat and 158 press representatives, for a total of 955 persons participating directly or indirectly. This was estimated to be the largest international conference held in the United States in those years. The large percentage of military officers (i.e., 90) in the delegations was at that time the demonstrative evidence of the close relationship between military and civil aviation.


In addition to the normal working committees (Executive, Nominations, Steering, Credentials, and Rules and Regulations, etc.), the Conference set up four technical committees with appropriate subcommittees, as follows:

  1. Committee I: Multilateral Aviation Convention and International Aeronautical Body;
  2. Committee II: Technical Standards and Procedures;
  3. Committee III: Provisional Air Routes; and
  4. Committee IV: Interim Council.


The Stevens Hotel, facing Lake Michigan near the centre of the City of Chicago, was built in the mid-1920 (at a cost over US$30 million) as the world's largest and most sumptuous hotel and designed in a modification of the style of Louis XVI; it opened on 2 May 1927. The Stevens Hotel (now the Chicago Hilton) developed by the Stevens family (James W. Stevens and his son Ernest) of the Illinois Life Insurance Company and owners of the LaSalle.


Chicago – Poster Stamp

celebrating the Antique Exposition and Hobby Fair, held at the Stevens Hotel from 13 to 18 November 1944

The Stevens occupied an entire city block on Michigan Avenue between Seventh and Eighth Streets. With 28 floors, this massive brick-and-stone edifice contained 3,000 outside guest rooms, each with a private bath, a convention hall with 4,000 seats, a rooftop 18-hole golf course, 3-story laundry, an in-house hospital and 5 sub-basements. Unfortunately, the Depression of the 1930s brought hard times for the Stevens and the hotel company was ruled insolvent in June 1934. In 1942, the Stevens Hotel went to war and was occupied by the United States Army during World War II. The hotel reopened to the public in 1943. During the Conference, rooms were rated at $6 to $9 per day for double-occupancy bedrooms and at $4 to $7 per day for single-occupancy bedrooms.


At the time of the Conference, the Stevens Hotel was one of Chicago's grand but already aging hotels; it was not as commodious in its accommodations as had been expected by most of the participants, who described it as a mammoth second-rate hotel whose lobby was like the lobby of the Grand Central Station in New York. It would take up to one hour a day waiting for elevators and perhaps half an hour a day waiting to complete telephone calls. One reason it was chosen was that Berle anticipated at most a three-week meeting. As it turned out that the Conference lasted 37 days (instead of 25 as envisioned) and accommodations could not compensate for the intensities, fatigue and frustrations, many of the participants registered their displeasure with the hotel. However, most delegates and reporters found amusement in the hotel's bar, noting that sleep was the most-welcome recreation when sessions sometimes lasted all night. During the Conference, a large Antique Exhibition was held at the Stevens Hotel from Monday 13 to Saturday 18 November 1944. This must have entertained the participants too!


Cartoon: The Four Winds Of Argument

(see more details below)


Chicago – 7 December 1944

Final plenary Session in the Grand Ballroom of the Stevens Hotel

For seven weeks, the delegates of fifty-two nations considered the problems of international civil aviation. And there were about fifty-two different ideas and opinions at the Chicago Conference. As work began on a sunny late-autumn day, there were also four full proposals (as noted with humour by the cartoon at the right) for an international aviation convention and organization tabled at the start of the conference, one each from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and a joint plan submitted by the Australians and New Zealanders. Individually these proposals varied in opinion from support for largely unregulated competition to complete internationalization of international air services, with the international authority ranging in shape from an information collection agency to a powerful intergovernmental regulatory body. As a group, these plans formed the basis of discussion for the whole conference.


Clearly, as the conference began the hard work of writing a new convention and creating a new international organization, the gap between the American and British positions on commercial questions remained very wide. On 20 November, an impasse in discussions had been reached; it was the moment of highest tension in the Conference. It was agreed that the Americans and British would make one last effort to attain what Berle had called an ambitious dream, i.e., a multilateral solution to the commercial problems of international civil aviation. But agreement was equally elusive during the second round of discussions between Swington from the UK and Berle. So that this time the issue had to be played out at the highest level, directly between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill. From the following day on 21 November, they exchanged a lot of telegrams to bring an end to the impasse in getting an agreement.


Instead of concluding on 21 November, the Conference was at a "U.S.-U.K. deadlock". Swinton appeared to have given up on an agreement and the Canadians estimated that the chances were only one in ten that the deadlock would be broken unless Swinton got new instructions from London.


Exhaustive discussions revealed that no one formula could be found to satisfy all points of view and all situations on the issue of freedoms of the air and frequency of operations. The USA proposed then that separate agreements embodying the extent to which nations would grant to each other reciprocal air rights referred to as the "Freedoms of the Air" be prepared by the Conference and made available for signatures.


The Steering Committee of the Conference engaged Albert Roper, Secretary General of ICAN, as a consultant to benefit from his universally recognized experience of international aviation.


The most important result of the conference was the drawing up of a Convention on International Civil Aviation (i.e., the Chicago Convention, the original text of which was in English, French and Spanish), the charter of a new body established to guide and develop international civil aviation.


After long deliberations and discussions on the seat of the future organization on 20 November 1944, the Executive Committee of the Conference recommended that Canada be the seat of the Interim Organization, pending that the final decision on the permanent headquarters be left over to be decided by the Interim Council of the new organization.


Canada was not only an important player during the discussions at Chicago Conference, but the choice of this country as the host of the new organization was justified for the following reasons:

1.    The wish to begin the work of the new organization rapidly, considering the war circumstances in Europe and the difficulties the war situation would create for a European location of the new organization. Spared from the destruction of the Second World War, Canada and the United States came out of the world conflict materially intact, with much lower human losses than the other belligerents, and in addition remained equipped with aviation production factories which took an unprecedented boom during the war.

2.    Canada is an important neighbour of the United States which, in turn, would soon host the United Nations (in 1945).

3.    Canada was a bilingual country and an important aviation nation with strong ties to Europe through the Commonwealth.

4.    Canada was at that time in a strategic position on the map of important air routes.


Royal Air Force (RAF) Ferry Command Memorial Plaque (gilt metal) inside the Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, dedicated to the pilots of the RAF Ferry Command.

The Honourable C.D. Howe, Minister of Reconstruction under William Lyon McKenzie King, proposed Montreal as the host city for locating PICAO’s headquarters; among the cities of Canada, Montreal seemed a very appropriate city of compromise and ideal for the following reasons:

1.    At that time, Montreal was the most populous and most cosmopolitan city in Canada; it was Canada's metropolis and its economic, financial and cultural capital.

2.    Montreal's geographic proximity to New York also contributed to its selection.

3.    Montreal was also the main hub for international civil air transport; as airplanes then had a limited range, transatlantic flights had to stop in Montreal for refuelling.

4.    The first two federal airports in Canada were located in the Greater Montreal.

5.    During the WWII, Montreal was a military training centre for the armies and the starting point of the air routes to Europe for the transport of troops and the delivery of aircraft and their spare parts (RAF Ferry Command). Between 1938 and 1945, Canada produced over 10,000 military aircraft, the majority of which were made in Montreal. RAF Ferry Command was the secretive Royal Air Force command formed on 20 July 1941 to ferry urgently needed aircraft from their place of manufacture in the United States and Canada, to the front line operational units in Britain, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East during the Second World War; it was later subsumed into the new Transport Command on 25 March 1943 by being reduced to Group status.


The British were in somewhat difficult position; in any event, they preferred Paris or even Brussels over Montreal, but could not do so in open opposition to Canada. The selection of Montreal by the Conference, at least as interim headquarters, was made on 5 December 1944 and was later confirmed by the first Interim Assembly of PICAO, the Provisional Organization. As announced on 28 November 1944, the new aviation organization had been given the name of the International Civil Aviation Organization.


A question to be addressed by the Conference was the language to be used by the new organization. Due to the dominance of the United States and Great Britain at the Conference and the fact that the discussions at the Conference were held in English, English would be used by the Organization. But the French delegation at the Conference made strong appeals for French to be used as an official language too; after all, French was spoken not only in France, but was important to other nations as well. The Spanish American countries proposed that, if more than one language is to be used, Spanish would be one of these. Other countries made proposals for Arabic and one Slavonic language such as Russian. On 1 December 1944, the Executive Committee decided that there would be only three official languages; English, French and Spanish.


As regards the language of the skies, English was chosen at the Chicago Convention. For pilots and air traffic controllers to communicate clearly and efficiently around the world, a universal aviation language had to be established. Both parties work closely together to exchange crucial information about the aircraft, flight, crew members, and passengers as well as other external factors and situational awareness that help ensure safe and efficient operations.


The Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization (PICAO) was established by the Chicago Conference, as an interim body pending the ratification of a permanent world civil aviation convention. The Canadian Government chose Montreal for locating PICAO’s headquarters, as it was at that time the leading metropolis of the country, the most cosmopolitan and international city; it was also the main hub for international civil air transport.


On 6 December 1944, the Conference was convened in plenary (executive) session to elect the States to become members of the Interim Council. As stated in Article 3, Section I of the Interim Agreement on International Civil Aviation and by a unanimous vote in the Executive Committee, three categories of representation were determined:

1) Category A (Air Transport): 8 members, of which 7 would be elected immediately. This category consisted of the major air operators, which, under the ruling of the Executive Committee, were to be eight in number, leaving one vacancy to be filled by the Soviet Union should she later adhere to the arrangement;

2) Category B (Navigational Facilities): 5 members, i.e., countries which contributed facilities in air operation;

3) Category C (Geographic Representation): 8 members, i.e., countries which were to be so distributed as to assure geographical representation of the various regions of the world.


In Category A, the following seven highest States were: United Kingdom, the United States, Netherlands, Brazil, France, Mexico, and Belgium. In Category B, the following five highest States were: Canada, Cuba, Norway, Iraq, and Peru. In Category C, the following eight highest States were: China, Australia, Egypt, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, El Salvador, Chile, and Columbia.


When the voting was over, five European states were elected, India was completely overlooked, and seven of the twenty-one seats went to Latin American States, causing a good deal of consternation among other members. The Latin American bloc claimed that they represented one third of the delegations at the Conference and therefore deserved one third of the seats on the Council. On 7 December 1944, during the final Plenary Session, the delegate of Norway regretted the unintentional incident that India did not obtain a seat on the Interim Council and placed at the disposal of the Conference the seat to which Norway had been elected the previous day. While the President of the Conference was about to accept the chivalrous gesture of Norway, the Delegate of Cuba requested the floor asking the Delegate of Norway to withdraw the resignation of Norway and asking the Conference to rather accept the resignation of Cuba from the Interim Council in favour of India. The Conference eventually accepted the offer of Cuba and India became a member of the Interim Council by acclamation. That made everyone happy.


In fact, twenty-one members should have been elected according to the Interim Agreement; however, the Conference intentionally refrained from filling one post in Category A in recognition of the fact that an important ally of the United Nations was not represented at the Conference. This chivalrous gesture of the Conference must be considered farsighted and represented a good promise for eventual universality of the Organization. The vacant seat was left for the USSR, should it decide to adhere to the Convention. The latter country did not adhere to the Convention until 1970.


A meeting of international air transport operators present at the Chicago Conference was held at the Stevens Hotel in Chicago on 7 December 1944 at 9:30 (in Room No. 2) to appoint a drafting committee of operators which would prepare possible statutes for a proposed International Air Transport Association (IATA).


On 7 December 1944, three years to the day after Pearl Harbor, the Conference concluded with the signature of a final act that was a formal and official record summarizing the work.


Forty delegations signed on that date their adherence to the new Convention, named Chicago Convention which set out as its prime objective the development of international civil aviation “in a safe and orderly manner,” such that international air transport services would be established on the basis of equality of opportunity and operated soundly and economically. The Conference responded to a large degree to its two basic purposes:

  1. To facilitate the inauguration of international air transport operations as soon as the global military situation permitted; and
  2. To promote the orderly and healthy development of international civil aviation during the post-war era.

As a reminder, the surprise aerial attack on 7 December 1941 (killing more than 2,300 Americans) on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on Oahu Island, Hawaii, by the Japanese precipitated the entry of the United States into World War II. The following day, in an address to a joint session of Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt called 7 December 1941: a date which will live in infamy.


The Convention provided for the sovereignty of airspace above the territory of each state, together with five freedoms (later expanded to nine by the addition of four unofficial freedoms) which govern the freedom of states to operate air transport flights (including the carriage of passengers, cargo and mail) across, into and within the airspace of other states. Only the first two of these freedoms (see below) apply automatically to signatory states, the remainder being subject to national agreement.


The following main instruments were contained in this final act:


Preamble to the Chicago Convention,

signed on 7 December 1944

1.       The Interim Agreement on International Civil Aviation was opened for signature. Its purpose was that of a bridging mechanism to permit a beginning of the global effort while awaiting the ratification of the Convention (see below) by the 26th State. This interim agreement was accepted by the 26th State on 6 June 1945. Thus, the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization (PICAO) was born on that date. It functioned remarkably well until the permanent organization came into force on 4 April 1947.


2.       The Convention on International Civil Aviation was opened for signature and designed to provide a complete modernization of the basic public international law of the air. After ratification by twenty-six States, it came into effect on 4 April 1947 (30 days after the 26th State had ratified the Chicago Convention) with the constitution of the new permanent International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, thus bringing an end to PICAO. Not expected to be done in less than three years, the ratification by 26 States was accomplished in just over two years.

3.       The International Air Services Transit Agreement or "Two Freedom" agreement, under which the aircraft of member states may fly over each other's territory without landing (First Freedom) and land in another country for non-traffic purposes, e.g., refuelling or maintenance (Second Freedom). This document was a great step forward in the path of international air transport development over a large part of the world. The first and second freedoms are known non-commercial / non-traffic privileges or 'transit rights'.

4.       The International Air Transport Agreement or "Five Freedoms" agreement. In addition to the first two freedoms of the agreement mentioned above, three freedoms concerning commercial transport rights were enacted, as follows: the Third Freedom allows airlines to deliver paying passengers from its home country to a foreign country; the Fourth Freedom allows airlines to deliver paying passengers from a foreign country to its home country; and the Fifth Freedom allows airlines to carry passengers from its home country to a foreign country, then drop off passengers, pick up new ones, and carry them to a third, new country. These freedoms are better known as 'traffic rights'. The Third and Fourth Freedoms are the basis for direct commercial services, providing the rights to load and unload passengers, mail, and freight in another country; they are commonly reciprocal agreements implying that the two involved countries will open commercial services to their respective carriers simultaneously.

5.       The Drafts of Twelve Technical Annexes (numbered from A to L) cover the technical and operational aspects of international civil aviation, such as airworthiness of aircraft, air traffic control, telecommunications, etc. The conference achieved real advances in technical matters that would make international flying much safer, more reliable and more straightforward than it had been before the Second World War. From twelve Technical Annexes defined by the Conference, nineteen Annexes to the Convention are now maintained to achieve standardization through a uniform application of international standards and recommended practices.

6.       A Standard Form of Bilateral Agreement for the exchange of air routes was prepared and recommended by the Conference as part of its final act. This Form was subsequently widely used and was considered to have contributed significantly to a high degree of consistency in global bilateral agreements.


This last document in combination with the International Air Transport Agreement offered States an alternative to the absence of economic provisions covering routes, rates and frequencies in the Articles of the Convention. In effect, it was the means by which the Conference compensated for its deadlock on economic issues.


It is to be noted that the remaining four freedoms (from sixth to ninth) are made possible by some air services agreements, but are not 'officially' recognized because they are not mentioned by the Chicago Convention.

1.    Sixth Freedom: The right to fly from a foreign country to another while stopping in one’s own country for non-technical reasons. This 6th Freedom can be considered a combination of the 3rd and 4th Freedoms. 

2.    Seventh Freedom: The right to fly between two foreign countries while not offering flights to one’s own country.

3.    Eighth Freedom: The right to operate inside a foreign country, continuing to one’s own country (referred to as “consecutive cabotage“).

4.    Ninth Freedom: The right to fly within a foreign country without continuing to one’s own country (referred to as “stand-alone cabotage”). 


Fifty-two States were represented at the Chicago Conference and 36 States signed on 7 December 1944 the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention). It is to be noted that out of the 33 States, parties to the Paris Convention, 25 participated in the Chicago Conference; nineteen of these put their signature on 7 December 1944 to the Act comprising the Final Convention; thus, the importance of ICAN’s work was seen distinctly.  On 7 December 1944 at the Final Plenary meeting, A. Berle closed the Conference with these words: “As a result of the work of these and many other men, when we leave this Conference we can say to our airmen throughout the world, not that they have a legal and diplomatic wrangle ahead, but that they can go out and fly their craft in peaceful service. In humbleness, we must offer thanks for the opportunity to work upon these great affairs. In giving those thanks, we must remember that these machines that fly are still guided by humans and, in that connection, we may properly be justified in recalling the words of David, King, Captain and Poet: If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” And he added: “We met in the seventeenth century in the air. We close in the twentieth century in the air.” The International Conference on Civil Aviation adjourned at 12:02 p.m.

Signatures of the US Delegates on the original Chicago Convention, with those of L. Welch Pogue and Edward Warner, respectively Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board


The International Civil Aviation Conference turned out to be one of the most successful, productive and influential conferences ever held, and the Stevens Hotel in Chicago had been its host. As a result, ICAO became the sole universal institution of international public aviation rights, superseding the Paris Convention of 1919 and the Havana Convention of 1928. For the first time in the history of international aviation, an authority would facilitate the order in the air, introduce maximum standardization in technical matters to unify the methods of exploitation and settle any differences that may occur.


The Convention, deposited with the Government of the United States, was signed only in its original English version, as drafted at the Chicago Conference. Only the English text was therefore authentic, despite the fact that the Convention provided that a text in English, French and Spanish of equal authenticity would be open for signature in Washington. After the Conference at Chicago ended, several efforts were made by the Government of the United States of America to achieve that objective by preparing and circulating draft French and Spanish texts of the Convention to the various governments concerned. These efforts proved fruitless, as an agreement was not obtained on any of those drafts. In a note dated 22 September 1947 to the other governments concerned, the United States Department of State pointed out that the Convention had not placed a specific responsibility on the Government of the United States, depositary of the Convention, to prepare the planned trilingual text.

The French and Spanish texts were drawn up by ICAO and made authentic by the Protocol concerning the authentic trilingual text of the Convention signed on 24 September 1968 at the close of the International Conference of Plenipotentiary Representatives held in Buenos Aires from 9 to 24 September 1968 and attended by sixty-one Member States. This conference was held in the framework of the 16th Session of the Assembly (3-26 September 1968). This Protocol was deposited for signature with the Government of the United States in Washington and entered into force on the 30th day after 12 states had signed or accepted it without reservation, i.e., on 24 October 1968.


Note that Protocol on the Authentic Quadrilingual Text of the Convention on International Civil Aviation was signed at Montreal on 30 September 1977 (at the end of the International Conference on the Authentic Russian Text of the Convention on International Civil Aviation held at Montreal from 19 to 30 September 1977, held in the framework of the 22nd Assembly in 1977) and entered into force on 16 September 2000. The Chicago Convention became equally authentic in the English, French, Russian and Spanish languages. The availability of the Russian authentic text of the Chicago Convention as well as the availability of its 18 Annexes at that time, in the Russian language, promotes safety by increasing accessibility of the text to a larger portion of the world’s population.


The International Conference on the Authentic Arabic Text of the Convention on International Civil Aviation was convened by ICAO during its 31st Session of the Assembly for the purpose of adopting the Authentic Arabic Text of the Convention. The Conference was held in Montreal from 25 to 29 September 1995. The Protocol on the Authentic Quinquelanguage Text of the Convention was signed at Montreal on 29 September 1995 by sixty-five States. The Governments of 115 Member States of the International Civil Aviation Organization were represented at the Conference. Seven international organizations were represented at the Conference by Observers. The text of the Convention and its amendments in the Arabic language together with the texts in the English, French, Russian and Spanish languages constitute a text equally authentic in the five languages.


The International Conference on the Authentic Chinese Text of the Convention on International Civil Aviation was held at Montreal from 28 September to 1 October 1998. At the end of this Conference, the Protocol on the Authentic Six-Language Text of the Convention on International Civil Aviation was signed at Montreal on 1 October 1998. This Protocol provides that the text of the Convention in the Chinese language is of equal authenticity.


Fifty years of the Chicago Conference, from 30 October to 1 November 1994, an important gathering of aviation and aerospace leaders took place at Chicago in the Chicago Hilton and Towers Hotel (previously named the Stevens Hotel) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Convention and to share views on the future of the world’s aviation and aerospace business. This Conference and Exhibition attracted over 500 participants in the world civil aviation industry. L. Welch Pogue, one of the few surviving US delegates to the Chicago Conference, was among the list of speakers. The ICAO Council held, for the first time at its birthplace in Chicago, a special commemorative meeting on 1 November 1994, exactly 50 years after the opening of the Conference on International Civil Aviation and expressed gratitude to the members of the delegations from 52 states of the world community who worked together to draft and perfect the Chicago Convention.


In 2014, ICAO and the global air transport community commemorated this momentous occasion by convening a series of special events in Montréal 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 2014, 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. As air travel is scheduled to double worldwide in the next 15 years, new challenges such as the dawn of the commercial space era and the increasing use of remotely piloted aircraft point to a continued and dynamic role for ICAO and the Chicago Convention in the decades ahead, in ensuring the managed evolution of a safe and efficient airspace.


The 2019 celebrations were particularly special, since ICAO commemorated the 75th anniversary of the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation. Numerous ICAO Member States had committed resources toward various activities that raise public and sectoral awareness on this important milestone in the history of air transport. These have included developing airport and CAA ICAO75 historic exhibits; hoisting the ICAO 75th anniversary flag in uniquely prominent geographic locations; arranging aerial demonstrations; holding celebratory conferences; issuing postal stamps; and promoting the ICAO75 video at airports around the world. Moreover, the crew of the 61st mission to the International Space Station (ISS) had joined ICAO in celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Convention on International Civil Aviation by deploying the ICAO 75th anniversary flag in the ISS. Seventy-five years after ICAO’s foundation, the International Civil Aviation network carries over four billion passengers annually. The global air transport sector supports 65.5 million jobs and USD 2.7 trillion in global economic activity, with over 10 million women and men working within the industry to ensure 120,000 flights and 12 million passengers a day are carried safely to their destinations. The wider supply chain, flow-on impacts and jobs in tourism that are made possible by air transport show that at least 65.5 million jobs and 3.6 per cent of global economic activity are supported by the aviation industry according to research by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG).


More information on the Chicago Conference can be obtained by clicking on the following link: The Stevens Hotel : Genesis of ICAO.


Bronze plaque showing the emblem of the Stevens Hotel and located above the entrance to the Hotel.


Metal poster announcing the room price of the Stevens Hotel at the time of its opening.

Quebec City, Canada - Anglo American Conference from 10 to 24 August 1943.

L.W. Staehle design. Smart Craft cachet.

Chicago, IL.  Cancel dated 26 January 1945.

USA Stamp Scott #905, Win the War, American Eagle violet, issued on 4 July 1942


Commemorative bronze plaque installed on the outside wall of the Château Frontenac (Québec City, Canada) remembering that the Château Frontenac was the headquarters of the Armed Forces in August 1943 and September 1944.


Bronze plaque remembering that the Château Frontenac was the Headquarters of Staff of the Armed Forces present at the Quebec Conferences in August 1943 and September 1944.


Postcard showing Mackenzie King, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill

during the First Quebec Conference in August 1943.


Postcard from early 20th century showing the Citadel

and Château Frontenac at Québec, Canada


List of Historical Meetings held between August 1941 and March 1945.


List of the 55 Governments and Authorities to whom the invitation to attend the Chicago Conference was extended. Saudi Arabia and USSR eventually did to attend.

Thus, a total of 52 States (including USA) attended the Conference.


1 November 1944 – Opening Session of the Chicago Conference in the Grand Ballroom of the Stevens Hotel, Chicago.


1 November 1944 – Finale of the Opening Session of the Chicago Conference in the Grand Ballroom of the Stevens Hotel, Chicago. The representatives of the 52 participating nations stand to sing the Star-Spangled Banner (the national anthem of the United States)

led by the Chairman of the Conference, Adolf A. Berle, Jr.

The flags of 52 countries are shown just behind the main stage.


7 December 1944 – Agreements signed at the end of the Chicago Conference in the Grand Ballroom of the Stevens Hotel, Chicago.

From left to right: Kia-Ngau, China; Lord Swinton, United Kingdom; Adolf A. Berle Jr., Assistant Secretary of State, the U.S.; H.J. Symington, Canada, and Max Hymans, France.


Cartoon by Bernard Partridge. The wooden toy of Civil Aviation releases the doves of peace on its way to Chicago in 1944: DOVES OF ALL NATIONS "Now then, off you go - and mind, no quarrelling!”

Size 8 x 10½ inches. Credit: Punch Magazine (1 December 1944). See Footnote.

Sir John Bernard Partridge (1861-1945) was an English illustrator. In 1891, he joined the staff of Punch and, in 1910, became its chief cartoonist.


Cartoon by E.H. Shepard – Chicago Convention 1944: THE FOUR WINDS OF ARGUMENT.

Size 8 x 10½ inches. Credit: Punch Magazine (6 December 1944). See Footnote.

Ernest Howard Shepard (1879-1976) was an English artist and book illustrator; He was hired as a regular staff cartoonist by Punch in 1921 and became lead cartoonist in 1945.


Heading of the “Journal” of the Conference, dated 7 December 1944,

i.e., the 37th and last day of the Conference.



Font Page and Table of Contents of the Text Book

with the Final Act and Related Documents - 284 pages.



Proceedings of the International Civil Aviation Conference – Publication 2820 by the US Department of States - Volume 1 (with pages from 1 to 774) and Volume 2 (with pages from 775 to the end) of this significant event capture the tremendous effort and collaboration, foresight and bold leadership, that enabled flying to be a worldwide means of connection.


Front page of the commemorative issue with the original text of the Chicago Convention,

including the signatures by the Delegates.



As regards the signatures on the Chicago Convention, it is interesting to note that one of the Delegates from Portugal Duarte Pinto Basto De Gusmão Calheiros, Assistant Postmaster General, signed for his country, but also for Spain.


Commercial cover sent by Lloyd Welch Pogue to ICAO Public Information Office (PIO)

Postmark dated 11 February 1993

Pioneering aviation attorney, L. Welch Pogue (1899-2003) was Chairman Civil Aeronautics Board in the USA from 1942 to 1946 and member of the US delegation to the Chicago Conference.


7 December 1994 - 50th Anniversary of ICAO – Commemorative cover

The quotation on this cover from Adolf A. Berle, Jr., U.S. Assistant

Secretary of State, Chairman of the American Delegation and President

of the International Civil Aviation Conference, at the Final Plenary Session,

reads as follows: “As a result of the work of these and many other men,

when we leave this Conference, we can say to our airmen throughout the world

that they can go out and fly their craft in peaceful service.”


Service cover sent from the Chicago Hilton and Towers Hotel,

previously named the Stevens Hotel – Postmark dated 6 September 1996.


Front of the CHICAGO HILTON and Towers Hotel in the years 2000.



First Day Cover issued in 1955 by the United Nations (UN) for the 10th anniversary of ICAO.

Cachet by The Aristocrats designed by Day Lowry.

Enlarged text shown on the scroll and indicating ICAO’s mission; the new Organization superseded the Paris Convention of 1919 and the Havana Convention of 1928.

Note that there is an error in the word “NAVIGATION” (missing G).

Moreover, the design of UN’s emblem is not quite adequate.


Special souvenir cover prepared by ICAO’s Staff Association for the 70th anniversary of ICAO.

Celebrating 70 Years of the Chicago Convention was the theme of 2014 International Civil Aviation Day (ICAD).

The cachet/design shows ICAO’s 70th anniversary emblem and a reproduction of a picture taken on 1 November 1944 during the Finale of the Opening Session of the Chicago Conference in the Grand Ballroom of the Stevens Hotel at Chicago. Led by the Chairman of the Conference, Adolf A. Berle, Jr., the Delegates stand to sing the national anthem of the United States. The flags of 52 participating nations are shown just behind the main stage. It is to be highlighted that the reproduction of the picture taken in the Grand Ballroom on 1 November 1944 is actually a mirror image of the original picture in black-and-white shown here above.


Souvenir cover for the 75th anniversary of ICAO.


Souvenir cover commemorating the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Chicago Convention on 7 December 1944. The cachet shows the front page of the original Convention with the special emblem of the anniversary added.


First Day Cover commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Chicago Convention on 4 April 2022. The cachet at left shows a montage of the stamps issued for the 75th anniversary of the Organization commemorated in 2019. See details of these stamps at: Stamps 75th Anniversary.


Footnote: PUNCH, magazine of humour and satire renowned internationally for its wit and irreverence from 1841 to 2002. The magazine cast a satirical eye on life in Britain. It charted the interests, concerns and frustrations of the country and today it stands as an invaluable resource not just as cartoon art and satire, but as primary source material for historians. It published the works of great comics and poets and helped to coin the term cartoon in its modern sense as a humorous illustration.