The Air Navigation Conferences


Aviation safety regulatory system is based upon the international standards, recommended practices and procedures adopted by ICAO. The current standards and recommended practices are published by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as Annexes to the Chicago Convention. Article 37 of the Convention attempts to achieve uniformity in air navigation by requiring that every contracting State cooperate in achieving “the highest practicable degree of uniformity in regulations, standards, procedures, and organization in relation to aircraft personnel, airways and auxiliary services in all matters in which uniformity will facilitate and improve air navigation. To this end, ICAO shall adopt and amend from time to time international standards and recommend practices and procedures” addressing various aspects of air safety and navigation.


During the year 1952, it became increasingly apparent that the task of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) under Article 37 the Chicago Convention had reached a transitional stage and that the future demanded the adoption of new methods of work. The various Annexes to the Convention were in their initial stages considered as separate entities, each capable of modification within itself. The task of developing them had been successfully accomplished by the specialist Divisions created by ICAO’s Air Navigation Commission (ANC); this stage was passing and, as the Annexes develop and expand, they became more interdependent as elements of a complete assembly. More and more of the problems that arise penetrate into several fields; to keep pace with the rapid march of events, the process of integration demands that all the knowledge and skills required for their resolution be brought together at one time in one place.


To this end, during the 20th Meeting (31 March) of its 15th Session (held from 29 January to 2 April 1952), the Council of ICAO approved the convening of an Air Navigation Conference in early 1953, at which a number of subjects requiring cooperative efforts of different kinds shall be discussed; the work of the technical Divisions, special meetings, standing committees and panels of experts would remain unchanged for subject matters to be considered. This conference was held in Montreal from 24 February to 24 March 1953 and discussed the problems of air traffic control, meteorology, air navigation and blind (i.e. poor visibility) landing aids, and communications encountered by aircraft in flight and in landing; however, the problems associated with approach and landing occupied a prominent place on the agenda of the Conference. This was the first ICAO technical conference of this nature, as it covered en-bloc associated subjects in the field of air navigation and the first of a long series of major Air Navigation Conferences (all held in Montreal), as listed hereafter:











Contracting States



International Organizations


24 February to 24 March 1953






30 August to 27 September 1955






18 September to 23 October 1956






9 November to 3 December 1965






14 November to 15 December 1967






9 April to 2 May 1969






5 to 28 April 1972






17 April to 11 May 1974






21 April to 14 May 1976






5 to 20 September 1991






22 September to 3 October 2003



24 Observer Delegations


19 to 30 November 2012



30 Observer Delegations

23 Other Delegations


9 to 19 October 2018



32 international organizations, as well as advisers and others


The 2nd Conference dealt with allied problems in air traffic control, rules of the air, radio air navigation and landing aids, and meteorology encountered by aircraft in flight and during landings and take-offs.


The main task of the 3rd Conference was the revision of the airworthiness standards of Annex 8 (Airworthiness of Aircraft) and the supplementary specifications for operating limitations in Annex 6 (Operation of Aircraft). The second major task of this Conference was to try to eliminate the uncertainties in regard to operational control that have caused so much difficulty at regional meetings.


The agenda of the 4th Conference was largely composed of questions of operation of commercial aircraft, such as a review of Annex 6 (Operations of Aircraft) and the Procedures for Air Navigation Services – Aircraft Operations (PANS-OPS); carriage of emergency equipment; instruments and equipment; fuel and oil reserves; Instrument Landing System (ILS) glide paths, marker beacons and locators; long-distance navigational aids; and the extension of the scope of Annex 6 to cover general aviation.


The theme of the 5th Conference was “the further development of specifications aimed at improving the safety and efficiency of international air operations in the approach, landing and take-off phases including the missed approach”. Its main efforts were directed towards developing recommendations designed to increase the traffic-handling capacity of aerodromes, improve the safety of operations and at the same time make it possible for operations to be conducted in conditions of lower visibility; the conference also held an exchange of views on the problem of noise in the vicinity of airports. Recommendations developed by the Conference included amendments to more than half of the ICAO Annexes and PANS, and provided a large amount of new guidance material for inclusion in other ICAO publications such as manuals. The Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology (CAéM) of the World Meteorology Organization (WMO) held its Fourth Session at the same time and place, meeting with the Conference for consideration of two items common to their agenda.


The 6th Conference was devoted to improving the safety and efficiency of international air operations in the “en-route” phase of flight, in other words, between the end of initial climb and the beginning of final approach. Its work supplemented that of the Fifth Air Navigation Conference (Montreal, 1967), which had concentrated upon problems in the approach, landing and take-off phases of flight. The Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology (CAéM) of WMO held an extraordinary session at the same time and place, meeting with the Conference for consideration of four agenda items of mutual interest. The Conference made a total of 99 recommendations.


The 7th Conference had as its prime objective the further development of specifications and related guidance material in relationship to advanced civil aviation airborne and ground electronic systems, with due attention being given to the requirements and interests in the associated specialized fields. The Conference made a total of 74 recommendations in the fields of: automated communications between aircraft and the ground; the use of satellites for aeronautical purposes; non-visual approach and landing guidance systems; automatic radio location beacons for search and rescue; and systems for collision avoidance. Of the ten items on the Agenda of the Conference, six primarily concerned systems likely to be brought into full operational use within the following 10 to 15 years.


The theme of the 8th Conference was “The Aerodrome and its Vicinity” and the agenda embraced a wide range of subjects, mainly related to Annex 14 (Aerodromes).


The 9th Conference considered, within the broad theme of “Air Traffic Management”, some of the key subjects relating to air traffic control and air navigation, as well as matters concerning the provision of information to aircraft in flight. It made recommendations for changes to six of the 17 Annexes (at that time), to all three PANS documents and to the related publications.


The 10th Conference was convened to obtain the endorsement of the ICAO CNS/ATM concept by States and international Organizations. The future air navigation system, which is composed mainly of satellite-based communication, navigation, and surveillance (CNS), also includes close integration of ground and airborne automation systems, resulting in an enhanced air traffic management (ATM) system. This was a significant departure from conventional air navigation system and global implementation was required if the full benefits of the new technology were to be achieved.


The next phase in the development and implementation of an interoperable, seamless and global air traffic management (ATM) system for the 21th century was the main focus of the 11th Conference. In follow-up to the considerable progress in standardization and implementation of CNS elements over the previous 12 years, this Conference considered a proposal for a newly-developed complementary global air traffic management operational concept which relies on the existing and emerging CNS elements. Implementation over the next 25 years and beyond will ensure optimum efficiency of the global ATM system. This will prove essential as demand for airspace capacity increases in the future years. Airspace and airport congestion already exist in many parts of the world, a situation expected to worsen as recovery and growth in air transport industry continues. ICAO’s latest forecast calls for world airline passenger traffic to grow at an average annual rate of around four percent.


The 12th Air Navigation Conference (AN-Conf/12) was held in Montréal from 19 to 30 November 2012. The AN-Conf/12 addressed the latest version of the Global Air Navigation Plan. This plan draws heavily on the aviation system block upgrades that were introduced to the international community at the Global Air Navigation Industry Symposium (GANIS, held in Montréal from 20 to 23 September 2011). The block upgrades comprise various operational improvements aimed at harmonising and improving the efficiency of the Global Air Navigation System. To aid in the harmonisation, the block upgrades are supported by roadmaps for communications, navigation and surveillance as well information management and avionics. The purpose of the Conference was to gain consensus, obtain commitments and formulate recommendations to achieve a harmonized global air navigation system for international civil aviation and optimizing the opportunities in technology and maturing work programmes toward common global objectives. ICAO’s President, Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez stressed that the primary goal of the AN-Conf/12 was to ensure coherent and harmonized ATM modernization and implementation to keep air transport safe, reliable and efficient.


The 13th Air Navigation Conference (AN-Conf/13) was held in Montréal from 9 to 19 October 2018. The theme of the conference was From Development to Implementation which encompasses implementation of operational improvements, such as technology, operational concepts, and roadmaps, from the conceptual phase until deployment. It emphasized the importance of concepts for global use, development of implementation plans regionally, and implementation of performance improvements locally, based on specific operational requirements in a cost-effective manner. Participants discussed a wide range of topics, including revised policies and targets for the ICAO Global Aviation Safety Plan (GASP), new business case tools relating to infrastructure modernization projects and other revisions to the ICAO Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP), State endorsement of an International Trust Framework to bolster the security of future digital air transport requirements, and a new global approach to cost-effective safety collaboration. Technological innovations in unmanned aircraft systems, supersonic aircraft, operations above FL 600, and commercial space flights, to name but a few emerging sectors, will create wonderful new opportunities for the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals – and the travelling public they will serve – but will also bring with it significant challenges, as ways to safely integrate this new traffic into ever more congested airspace have to be looked for.



1st Air Navigation Conference held from 24 February to 24 March 1953.

Letter with the results of the Conference,

sent by ICAO’s European/African Office to the Delegates having attended the Conference.



Commemorative covers issued for the 10th Air Navigation Conference held in 1991.

Sketch of satellite-based communications between aircraft and ground.



Commemorative cover issued for the 12th Air Navigation Conference held in 2012 (AN-Conf/12).

A few highlights regarding this envelope:

  1. The stamp features the ICAO emblem in white on a blue background. The Picture Postage or personalized stamp specially created for this Conference is valued at the domestic rate to mail a standard-size envelope weighing up to 30 grams anywhere in Canada.
  2. The postmark, showing an airport and an aircraft taking off, was prepared in cooperation with Canada Post Corporation.
  3. The general layout on the left-side (i.e. named “cachet”) simulates the tail of an aircraft. The background of this design depicts a cut of the Enroute Low Altitude Chart over the region of Montréal.


Excerpt from The Journal of UN Philatelists, Vol. 37 #3, June 2013.



Commemorative cover (front and back) issued for the 13th Air Navigation Conference held in 2018 (AN-Conf/13).

A few highlights regarding this envelope:

  1. The Picture Postage or personalized stamp (measuring 50mm by 28mm) specially created for this Conference is valued at the domestic rate to mail a standard-size envelope weighing up to 30 grams anywhere in Canada (in 2018: 85¢).
  2. The postmark was prepared in cooperation with Canada Post Corporation.