Annex 6 – Operation of Aircraft


Developed by ICAO, the International Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) contained in the nineteen Technical Annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (also called Chicago Convention) are applied universally and produce a high degree of technical uniformity which has enabled international civil aviation to develop in a safe, orderly and efficient manner.


The purpose of Annex 6 is to contribute to the safety of international air navigation by providing criteria for safe operating practices and to contribute to the efficiency and regularity of international air navigation by encouraging the Member States to facilitate the passage over their territories of commercial aircraft belonging to other countries and operating with these criteria. The current Annex 6 Operation of Aircraft is divided into three parts/volumes:

1.    Part I – International Commercial Air Transport – Aeroplanes;

2.    Part II – International General Aviation – Aeroplanes; and

3.    Part III – International Operations – Helicopters.


When PICAO came into existence in 1945, Technical Divisions composed of specialists from Members States and of observers from organizations interested in international civil aviation, assisted by the Organization’s Secretariat, were directed and coordinated by the two committees of the PICAO Council, i.e. the Air Navigation Committee and the Air Transport Committee.


It is to be noted that a draft technical Annex on Operations could not be prepared by the Chicago Conference in time to be included with the other Annexes found in Appendix V of the Final Act of the Conference. When PICAO came into being, the OPS Division became therefore responsible for the preparation of a text on this subject. For this purpose, the following documentation was used: drafts submitted by the Governments of United Kingdom and USA; comments on the USA draft prepared by a number of other Governments; a study of the USA draft prepared by IATA; and notes from the PICAO Secretariat.


The Operations (OPS) Division held its first Session (21 meetings) from 29 January to 11 April 1946. The OPS Division reconvened for its second Session from 25 February to 11 April 1947; the principal items upon its agenda were the review and revision of the Recommendations for Standards, Practices and Procedures for Air Service Operations (scheduled operations) developed during its first session, and the preparation of similar Recommendations to govern non-scheduled operations.


The Standards and Recommended Practices for Annex 6: Operation of Aircraft - Scheduled International Air Services were first adopted by the ICAO Council on 10 December 1948 to become effective on 15 July 1949. Further amendments to the Annex were based on recommendations of the 3rd and 4th Sessions of the OPS Division which were held from 8 February to 13 March 1949 and from 27 March to 27 April 1951 respectively. The 4th Session of the OPS Division recommended a number of amendments to Annex 6, dealing with fuel and oil requirements, emergency and survival equipment to be carried aboard aeroplanes, and aeroplane navigation lights. Further to that and with the adoption of Amendment 128 on 4 December 1951, Annex 6 was renamed Operation of Aircraft – International Commercial Air Transport.


Adopted by the Council on 14 December 1966, amendment 150, originating in recommendations of the 4th Air Navigation Conference held in Montréal from 9 November to 3 December 1965, took the form of a complete substitute for the Fifth Edition of the Annex, bringing the provisions of the latter more into line with the requirements of operations with modern, high-performance, turbo-jet aeroplanes. Among the more important modifications incorporated in it, there was a change in the applicability provision, making the Annex applicable only to aeroplanes engaged in scheduled and non-scheduled international air transport operations.


Recognizing the growing importance of international civil flying other than air transport for remuneration or hire, the 15th Session of the Assembly (Montréal, 22 June to 16 July 1965) directed by Resolution A15-15 that the appropriate ICAO standards, recommended practices and related material should be examined to determine their suitability for all international civil aviation. Pursuant to Recommendation 8/l of the 4th Air Navigation Conference (Montréal, 9 November to 3 December 1965), the Air Navigation Commission (ANC) prepared Standards and Recommended Practices for the operation of aircraft in international general aviation, which were adopted by the Council on 2 December 1968 as Annex 6 Part II – Operation of Aircraft – International General Aviation, resulting in designating the previous Annex 6 as Annex 6 Part I – Operation of Aircraft – International Commercial Air Transport, which was adopted on 23 January 1969.


Front page of Annex 6, Part I

In general, Part I and II of Annex 6 address aeroplane operations; neither part is specifically applicable to helicopter operations. Therefore, a new document was developed by the Air Navigation Commission (ANC) as a means of including provisions for helicopter operations and was first adopted by the ICAO Council on 14 March 1986 as Annex 6 Part III - Operation of Aircraft – International Operations - Helicopters. Consequent to the adoption of Annex 6, Part III, an amendment to the title was introduced to indicate that Annex 6, Part I and Part II were applicable only to aeroplanes, as follows Annex 6 Part I – Operation of Aircraft – International Commercial Air Transport – Aeroplanes and Annex 6 Part II – Operation of Aircraft – International General Aviation - Aeroplanes. Part III of Annex 6 introduced new Standards and Recommended Practices and detailed guidance material concerning flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders to be carried in different categories of helicopters engaged in international commercial air transport operations and international general aviation operations. 


Subsequently, as a result of a study carried out by the Air Navigation Commission, a panel of experts (Helicopter Operations Panel, HELIOPS) was established in 1982 to develop Standards and Recommended Practices covering the aspects of helicopter operations similar in scope to those for aeroplanes. The first meeting of this Panel was held in Montréal from 23 to 31 March 1983. The resulting comprehensive Standards and Recommended Practices for helicopter operations were adopted by the Council on 21 March 1990.


In order to keep pace with the evolution of aviation industry, the provisions of Annex 6 are constantly reviewed. The very international nature of commercial aviation, and of general aviation to a lesser degree, requires operators and pilots to conform to a wide variety of rules and regulations. In summary, Annex 6 specifies international Standards and Recommended Practices for aeroplanes used in international commercial air transport operation carrying passengers or freight. The Annex addresses flight operations; performance operating limitations; aeroplane instruments, equipment and flight documents; aeroplane communication and navigation equipment; aeroplane maintenance; flight crew; flight operations officers/flight dispatchers; manuals, logs and records; cabin crew; security; lights to be displayed in the air and on the ground during operations; contents of an operations manual; and flight time and flight duty period limitations.


After Malaysia Airlines MH370 aircraft went missing in May 2014, a multidisciplinary Ad-Hoc Working Group was formed at ICAO; its findings and recommendations resulted in new amendments to Annex 6 to the Chicago Convention which will take effect between now and 2021. They relate primarily to the requirement for aircraft to carry autonomous distress tracking devices which can autonomously transmit location information at least once every minute in distress circumstances, the requirement for aircraft to be equipped with a means to have flight recorder data recovered and made available in a timely manner, and extending the duration of cockpit voice recordings to 25 hours so that they cover all phases of flight for all types of operations. These new provisions adopted by ICAO Council in March 2016 were aimed at preventing the loss of commercial aircraft experiencing distress in remote locations.


Under the Convention on International Civil Aviation, it is ICAO’s Member States which are responsible for the proper coordination and publication of activities hazardous to civilian aviation arising in their territories. Additionally, this publication by national authorities should be sufficiently far in advance of any hazard to allow all international civil aircraft to plan their routes clear of such areas. Airlines are required to conduct regular risk assessments along their route networks using all available information. Wide-ranging ICAO standards and guidance material, for both governments and airline operators, have been updated or newly originated after the lessons learned from the MH17 accident in 2014, such as:

1.    Annex 6 – Operation of Aircraft, Part I – International Commercial Air Transport – Aeroplanes; 

2.    Annex 13 – Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation;

3.    Annex 15 – Aeronautical Information Services;

4.    Annex 17 – Security; and

5.    Many Manuals and Guidance Materials.


With the Amendments to Annex 6 adopted in March 2022, safety features have been proposed including the use of ground proximity warning systems by smaller aeroplanes, and the introduction of a runway overrun awareness and alerting system intended to reduce runway excursion incidents and accidents. There is also clarification on the need for an aircraft pilot to consider the level of rescue and fire-fighting services available at the airports being used. Another Annex 6 Amendment established comprehensive provisions aligned with the ICAO Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (Doc 9284), ensuring helicopter operations with dangerous goods receive the same oversight as other aircraft. The same Amendment also established new guidance on alternate safe landing considerations for off-shore helicopter operations.


Charles E. Taylor was born on 24 May 1868 and was the Wright Brothers’ mechanic who built the engine used to power their Flyer I airplane on 17 December 1903. In 2008, a congressional resolution dedicated the date of 24 May in honor of Charles Taylor as the father of aviation maintenance, establishing the National Aviation Maintenance Technician Day; it celebrates the commitment, integrity and skill of every aircraft mechanic and all those who support them. On 30 April 2008, the resolution passed by a voice vote. Charles Taylor continued in the field of aviation maintenance for more than 60 years; like Taylor, aviation maintenance technicians around the world work in the background, keeping civilian and military aircraft safe. Charles Taylor had successfully built the first aircraft engine, but also was the first airport manager in 1904 after the Wrights built a hangar near Dayton to house another flying machine, and was the first person to investigate a powered fatal accident flight after the crash of a Wright Flyer at Fort Myer, Virginia on 17 September 1908 during flight trials to win a contract from the U.S. Army Signal Corps; pilot Orville Wright was injured and Lt. Thomas Selfridge became the first passenger to die in that airplane accident.


Not surprisingly, aircraft are the most commonly used features in the ICAO topical collection. From the first fragile biplanes to the wide-body jets, from balloons and gliders to the space shuttle, stamps have continued to reflect the amazing interest that people have in vehicles travelling through the sky. The following stamps from the ICAO philatelic collection display a few pictures of aircraft in flight.


Navigation lights to be displayed by aircraft in the air,

as per Annex 6, Part I, Appendix 1.



Cameroon – 30 November 1984 - 40th Anniversary of ICAO

Boeing 737 of Camair in climbing position. Black (Yaoundé) and red (Douala) cancels.


Kuwait – 7 December 1994

50th Anniversary of ICAO

Airplane in flight

Vietnam – 7 December 1994

50th Anniversary of ICAO

Boeing 737 in flight from Vietnam Airlines


Maldives – 31 December 1994

50th Anniversary of ICAO

Boeing 747 in flight from Virgin Airline

Bolivia – 10 December 2007 - International Civil Aviation Day

Generic aircraft taking off into the sunset. Only 200 pieces were produced.