The 40th anniversary


Since its fortieth anniversary, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) had decided to use the ending date of the Chicago Conference, i.e., 7 December 1944, to calculate its anniversaries. In the following correspondence sent to all ICAO Contracting States (State Letter O 1/6.4 – 82/108, dated 4 August 1982), the ICAO Secretary General, Yves Lambert, suggested to the Civil Aviation Authorities to consider the issuance of postage stamps to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the signing in Chicago of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (i.e., 7 December 1984). The attachment to the State Letter proposed three postage stamp designs.



Color Key Chart related to the proposed stamp designs.


Within the framework of the above project for stamps to commemorate the 40th anniversary of ICAO, two designs refer to artwork exhibited in the ICAO premises, i.e., the Man in Flight mural by Hans Erni and the Solar Princess tapestry by Saliou Diouf. As it is the case for other buildings of the United Nations, the ICAO building houses a remarkable collection of art and artefacts, donated or loaned by its Contracting States, international organizations, companies or individuals, which include ceramics, furnishings, mosaics, murals, paintings, sculptures, tapestries, etc. While the gifts of art works at the United Nations are in harmony with the environment of peacekeeping, most of the gifts to ICAO exemplify its goals for civil aviation. The decor of the ICAO building, currently located at 999 Boulevard Robert-Bourassa in Montréal, was an early concern to promote the best placement of the art works available when the Organization moved from its prior headquarters located at 1000 Sherbrooke West.


It is to be noted that the picture of Icarus as shown in the mural was slightly modified by Hans Erni for its use on the stamps for the 40th anniversary. See here-below the exchange of correspondence.




Forty-seven countries issued stamps and first day covers to commemorate the 40th anniversary, with dates ranging from 1984 to 1987. Among these, only two countries used all three designs for their stamps, i.e. Anguilla and Cameroon. In addition to that, some countries prepared commemorative covers or postal stationery. The following pictures show the commemorative covers issued for the 40th anniversary and a limited portion of the philatelic items (stamps and first day covers) released by the Post Offices for this anniversary; the complete list of these can be obtained by clicking on the following link: Stamp Issues from 1984 to 1985 - 40th Anniversary of ICAO. It is to be noted that Hans Erni Icarus's design was occasionally modified and adapted to Member States’ ideas.


40th anniversary of ICAO - Meter stamp slogan used at ICAO Headquarters during the year 1984.


40th Anniversary poster prepared by ICAO, adapted from the Man in Flight mural by Hans Erni.

ICAO ordered 200 copies of this poster.


Stamp collage with pencil drawing (unique) showing various stamps designed by Hans Erni. Approx. 51.5 x 40.5 cm; dated 29.6.89, signed Erni.

The ICAO stamps related to the 40th anniversary are shown on the right side. Participating countries were (from top to bottom): Tanzania, Gabon, Cameroon, Anguilla and Turkey. Note that the stamp from Uruguay and the miniature sheet from Togo are not depicted.





Guyana - 6 September 1984

Original stamps were overprinted and/or surcharged three times.



Germany - 40th Anniversary of ICAO.

Miniature sheet.

Aero-philatelic day, Berlin: 27 October 1984 (AIRPHILA ‘84).

Concorde. Logo of FISA (Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Aérophilatéliques) and of IAPC (Internationaler Aero-Philatelisten Club, Germany).

Design highlighting Icarus, human flying like a bird, and balloon.


Germany - 40th Anniversary of ICAO.

Postcard. Aero-philatelic day, Berlin: 27 October 1984 (AIRPHILA 84).



Same as above, with Vienna cancel upon arrival on 31 October 1984 at the United Nations Center.


Germany - 40th Anniversary of ICAO.

Postcard. Aero-philatelic day, Berlin: 27 October 1984 (AIRPHILA 84).

Berlin - First visit of the Zeppelin LZ6 airship in Tegel. Welcoming committee for Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin.

In 1909, Count Zeppelin achieved a long-held ambition of flying from Lake Constance to Berlin. On board as passengers on the voyage, which started on 27 August, were the Crown Prince of Germany and the King of Würtemberg. After a trip of two days broken by overnight stops, the LZ-6 airship (confusingly also named Zeppelin III or LZ III) arrived on 29 August 1909 in Berlin-Tegel to be greeted by the German Empress and many crowd (see cachet of the above postcard, marking the 75th anniversary of this landing). In 1909, the LZ-6 became the first Zeppelin to be used for the transport of passengers.




Germany - 40th Anniversary of ICAO.

Postcard (recto and verso).

Aero-philatelic day, Berlin: 27 October 1984 (AIRPHILA 84).

Supersonic Concorde.

This airliner was designed jointly by Sud-Aviation (later Aérospatiale, then Airbus) and the British Aircraft Corporation (later British Aerospace). It was operated between 1976 and 2003 by Air France and British Airways. Commercial flights began on 21 January 1976 and ended twenty-seven years later, between May and October 2003. Concorde's high fuel consumption had made it loss-making. Its decline was precipitated by the accident of Air France flight 4590 on 25 July 2000, the only major accident involving a Concorde, which resulted in the deaths of 113 people.

It was a major driver of European technological and strategic development, and also had a strong cultural impact. Along with the Russian Tupolev Tu-144 (which carried passengers for only a few months), it was the only supersonic passenger aircraft to operate for any significant length of time.


Tanzania – 15 November 1984.

First Day Cover with the four stamps of the issue.







China – 7 December 1984.

Postal stationery (JF.3.). 

Designer: Wan Weisheng.

Stamp of 10fen, showing a group of five airplanes with seven‑colour rainbow as background and ICAO emblem; it indicates the prosperity of civil aviation and signifies the friendship among aviation administrations of various countries of the world. The cachet on the envelope depicts the Temple of Heaven from a bird's eye view.

The Temple of Heaven, literally the Altar of Heaven (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: 天壇) is a complex of religious buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing.




Circulated cover, with postmark dated 7 December 1984.

The text in the postmark is translated as follows:

Upper-side: The 40th anniversary of the International Civil Aviation Organization


Lower-left: China 中國  

Lower-right: Beijing 北京.



Circulated cover, with postmark dated 7 December 1984.





The above postal stationery was overprinted and cancelled for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II from

12 to 18 October 1986 to the People's Republic of China.

Text in red at top-right reads: WELCOME QUEEN OF THE UK VISITING SHANGHAI; the Shanghai cancel shows the Royal Coat of Arms (see on the left-side).

The characters of this text are in Chinese seal script, which is an ancient style of Chinese calligraphy; the role of seal script had been reduced nowadays to ceremonial inscriptions and art.

In October 1986, Queen Elizabeth spent three days sightseeing in and around the capital, including the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and the tombs of Ming emperors.

Then the Queen visited Shanghai (on 15 October), which was shelled by British ships in 1842 in a campaign to force the Chinese to buy opium sold by British merchants. She went to Xian and on to Kunming in southwestern China and Canton. Then on 19 October, the Queen sailed from Canton for Hong Kong aboard the royal yacht Britannia.





China - Philatelic notice

Two errors in the English text:

1)    the Chicago Conventions must be written: the Chicago Convention (singular form);

2)    ICAO is not a specialized organization of the UN, but rather a Specialized Agency.




Portugal - 40th Anniversary of ICAO.

Flight Cover - 7 December 1984.

Carried by TAP (Transport Air Portugal), between Lisbon, Portugal and Montréal, Canada. Philatelic cancel at entry airport: Mirabel, QC, Canada, on 8 December 1984.

Stamp: 16e issued on 3 September 1984, Megabombus Ruderatus bee.




Portugal - 40th Anniversary of ICAO.

Flight Cover - 7 December 1984.

Carried by TAP (Transport Air Portugal), between Montreal, Canada and Lisbon, Portugal.

Philatelic cancel at departure airport: Mirabel, QC, Canada.

Stamp: 64-cent issued on 25 October 1984, Canadian Pacific D10a steam locomotive.


Souvenir card honouring ICAO’s 40th anniversary issued at the

ORCOEXPO ’85 Stamp Show, held in Anaheim, CA, USA from 11 to 13 January 1985.

This was the 10th edition of the largest annual philatelic exhibition of this kind in Southern California. Shows a reproduction of the dark carmine 8-cent stamp issued by the United Nations on 2 February 1955 for the 10th Anniversary of ICAO.

Aircraft at the lower-right: Pfalz Dr.1 built by Germany in 1917.




Yemen – 20 September 1985

This souvenir sheet shows a poor design of the ICAO emblem.



Guatemala – 2 April 1987

This country still calculated ICAO’s 40th anniversary on the basis of the constitution of the new permanent International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, on 4 April 1947.


Background on ICAO’s artwork:

1. The Man in Flight mural.

Born in Luzern, Hans Erni (1909-2015) has enjoyed an international reputation as one of the most brilliant and versatile artists of the 20th century. In his native Switzerland, Erni is the nation's most popular artist. His works have been exhibited throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, and are included in major museum collections and public buildings around the world. The most extensive collection of his works is housed in the Hans Erni Museum, part of Lucerne's vast Swiss Transport Museum, and the biggest in Europe. This collection spans more than a half century of Erni's works and includes more than 400 of his oil, tempera and acrylic paintings; sculptures; lithographs; drawings; engravings; etchings and ceramics. A versatile Erni has created original lithographs and etchings to illustrate more than 200 books, has designed scenery and costumes for four operas, created medals for the Swiss mint and designed more than 90 postage stamps for Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the United Nations.

The picture of Icarus, used on the stamp project was adapted from the spectacular mural entitled Man in Flight, commissioned by Switzerland from Hans Erni. The mural was originally designed for the entrance lobby to the ICAO Headquarters Building at 1000 Sherbrooke West and installed there in 1975 when ICAO moved to this location; the mural initially covered three sides of the main elevator core of the building. Currently on the main wall above the entrance in ICAO lobby in Montréal, Canada, the mural in anodized aluminum consists of four stories depicting man’s endeavours and excursions into space. The central figure of the mural is Daedalus flying towards the sun. His son Icarus is not shown; a circular web with splashes symbolizes the sun.

To the left of Daedalus, the profile of a woman represents Adriadne, the daughter of King Minos. To the right of Daedalus, is the winged horse, which stamped the rock of Mount Helicon with its hoofs. To the extreme right, the artist has shown the modern man in the classic pose of “Man the Thinker”, with his tools and instruments of modern technology.



Except from the ICAO Journal, Volume 52, No. 8, October 1997.


Artworks by Erni with similar designs can be found, as follows:


Hans Erni: Stamp on maximum card “Pro Aero” 1981.

It shows the representation of Icarus and flow lines, a design derived from Erni’s mural at ICAO.


Founded on 19 May 1938, Pro Aero’s aim is to arouse understanding and enthusiasm for aviation among public authorities and institutions, and especially among young people.

To mark the golden jubilee of the formation of Swissair Company on 9 March 1981, the PTT issued this special Pro Aero postage stamp (2+1F), designed by Hans Erni. The surtax of 1 franc was raised for the Pro Aero Foundation.


Front of the greeting card titled Pesanteur surmontée designed by Hans Erni for the Swiss PTT in December 1986.


2. The Solar Princess tapestry.

The Solar Princess or Sunshine Princess (La Princesse Solaire) tapestry (2.5m high, 3.2m long) was designed by the Senegalese artist Sadiou Diouf Démangui and is a masterpiece of Senegalese art. It is located in the spacious lounge of the conference block at ICAO Headquarters in Montréal, in front of the second largest conference room of the building. The Government of Senegal donated the tapestry; it was presented to ICAO on 23 June 1976 by Léopold Sédar Senghor, the President of the Republic of Senegal, on the occasion of his visit to the Headquarters of the Organization.

The tapestry is characterised by a black background upon which a sun in geometric shape looms. It consists of brightly colored circles, triangles and rectangles; it lights up a stylised landscape depicting a woman’s profile.

Senegalese art is immersed in a sort of mythology of which the mysterious depths have been defined as the collective unconscious. Here, nature is not copied, but is interpreted and placed in new contexts. It is the medium, by which expression and depth are attained, in a mute language of interlaced colours and curves. It is an expression of things that are born and transformed, and which do not die. There are not tumults, which do not ultimately subside; there are no cries, apart from a protest uttered in a dialogue. The weaver sings while his shuttle carries the thread back and forth; and his voice is woven into the material, as it were strengthening and perpetuating the ancestral tradition.

It is to be noted that another copy of this tapestry (with some differences in color) was offered by Abdou Diouf, President of Senegal, to FAO on 15 September 1997 and is shown in the Flag Hall of the headquarters in Roma.







La Presse Newspaper – Philatelic story by Denis Masse, renowned Philatelist – Saturday 8 December 1984.