The Air Transport Committee


On 7 December 1944, the Chicago Conference concluded with the signature of a Final Act that was a formal and official record summarizing the work. One of its instruments was the Interim Agreement on International Civil Aviation which was opened for signature. Its purpose was that of a bridging mechanism to permit an early beginning of the global effort while awaiting the ratification of the Convention by the 26th State. This interim agreement was accepted by the 26th State on 6 June 1945; in fact 30 acceptances had already been received by the US State Department as of that date. Thus the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization (PICAO) was born on that date. PICAO, which had only advisory powers, was to remain in existence until the permanent organization was created, but its life in any case was restricted to three years. The Organization shall have two governing bodies: the Interim Assembly and the Interim Council (Article I, Section 2 of the Interim Agreement).


The powers and duties of the Interim Council are described in Article III, Section 5 of the Interim Agreement. So, among those, any subsidiary working groups, which may be considered desirable, shall be established; among those, there shall be a Committee on Air Navigation and a Committee on Air Transport; if a Member State so desires, it shall have the right to appoint a representative on any such interim committee or working group.


In Part I of the Final Act of the Chicago Conference (i.e. Work of the Conference), Chapter II on the Draft Technical Annexes, the International Civil Aviation Conference resolved that the participating States undertake to forward to the Government of the United States (or PICAO if established) by 1 May 1945 any recommendations which they may have for necessary additions, deletions or amendments to the Annexes prepared at the Chicago Conference. The US Government or PICAO shall transmit such suggestions to the other participating States in anticipation of meetings of the technical committees to be established by PICAO. So, substantial groundwork had already been done awaiting action by the Interim Council. The emphasis was on arrangements for the provision of adequate air navigation facilities and for setting up air safety standards.


The Committee on Air Transport (or Air Transport Committee, ATC) was established by the Interim Council on 28 August 1945 and held its first meeting on Wednesday 3 October 1945 at 14:30 in the Committee Room No.1 at the Dominion Square Building, Montréal. Dr. F.H. Copes van Hasselt, representative of the Netherlands on the Council, was the Temporary Chairman. The functions of the Committee on Air Transport (ATC) were spelled out in the Interim Agreement.


Two technical sub-committees or working groups (named Division by decision of the Council on 30 November 1945) were established under the authority of the ATC: Facilitation of International Air Transport (FAL) and Statistics (STA). It is to be reminded that a Customs Sub-committee was initially established under the aegis of the Air Navigation Committee; it was transferred on 21 November 1945 to the Air Transport Committee and changed its name to Sub-committee on Facilitation of International Air Transport. The FAL Division met for the first time in Montreal from 24 January to 2 February 1946 and established a set of provisional standards designed to standardize procedures and minimize government documentary requirements for aircraft entering foreign territories. In 1945, the ATC of the Provisional Organization set up a statistical reporting system by which each Contracting State would report on the activities of its international airlines on a monthly and annual basis by means of standardized forms; this reporting system was partly based on statistical tables used by the International Commission for Air navigation (ICAN) before the war.


The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was officially born on 4 April 1947, thirty days after the Chicago Convention had been ratified by the required twenty-six states. The Air Transport Committee is the second subordinate body of the ICAO Council specifically provided by the Chicago Convention. Article 54 of the Chicago Convention does not clearly define the role of the Air Transport Committee. It shall be responsible to the ICAO Council and its members shall be chosen from among the representatives of the members of the Council; its duties were to be determined by the Council.


The new Air Transport Committee was to replace the PICAO-created Air Transport Committee; but the new Committee was not established in 1947 with the creation of ICAO, as the argument was that PICAO’s Air Transport Committee was working well and any change would disrupt the Organization’s work. It was not until the Second Session of the Assembly (held in Geneva from 1 to 21 June 1948) that Resolution A2-9 recommended to proceed at the earliest practicable date with the implementation of Article 54(d) of the Convention and to transfer to the new Air Transport Committee the functions of the present Committee.


At the 13th meeting of its 5th Session on 12 October 1948, the Council adopted a resolution concerning the establishment of the Air Transport Committee as provided in Article 54(d) of the Convention and fixed the number of members to twelve, appointed by the Council from among representatives of Council Members States.


The first meeting of the new Air Transport Committee was held in 19 January 1949. The ATC created by PICAO in 1945 ceased to exist; the functions of the original ATC were transferred to the new ATC, the membership remaining unchanged except for the Chairman. The work of the FAL Division was continued and a second meeting of this Division was held in Geneva, Switzerland, in May-June 1948.


Two of the Annexes to the Chicago Convention are under the purview of the Air Transport Committee: Facilitation (Annexe 9) and Security: Safeguarding International Air Transport against Acts of Unlawful Interference (Annex 17). In the fulfilment of its responsibilities, the ATC is assisted by the Air Transport Bureau of the Secretariat. The FAL and STA Divisions are still in operation in the years 2010.


Ideas or proposals to amend the Annexes are discussed in a variety of meetings of expert panels, working and study groups (within their specific technical purview), regional meetings (for technical problems specific to a geographic region) and Air Transport Conferences (for discussion of several interrelated technical issues), in conjunction with other international organizations (especially IATA), at the Assemblies, and in the permanent bodies of the Organization. The proposals then go to the ATC and ultimately are recommended to the Council, where they are approved or rejected. At ICAO, the consensus building is admirable and usually successful; however, it also implies that the implementation of some decisions is very time consuming.


Cut showing slogans related to the third Session of the Facilitation (FAL) Division,

held from 21 November to 7 December 1951 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


First day cover of the eighth Session of the Facilitation (FAL) Division,

held from 6 to 23 March 1973 in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia.