THE POSTAL HISTORY OF ICAO

 

The 1919 Paris Convention:

The starting point for the regulation of air navigation

 

Needless to say that the technical developments in aviation arising out of World War I created a completely new situation at the end of the hostilities, especially with regard to the safe and rapid transport of goods and persons over prolonged distances. However, the war had also shown the ugly potential of aviation; it had therefore become much more evident that this new and now greatly advanced means of transport required international attention.

 

Stamp cancel: 28 June 1919

For obvious reasons, the treatment of aviation matters was a subject at the Paris Peace Conference (Congrès de la Paix) of 1919. At the suggestion of Albert Roper, Air Expert at the French Cabinet of the Under-Secretary of State for Aeronautics, France had formally taken up the idea of international collaboration in aviation matters; the other principal Allied Powers received it favourably.

Front-page of the Paris Air Convention

Subsequently, a special Aeronautical Commission, which had its origin in the Inter-Allied Aviation Committee created in 1917, was formed on 6 March 1919 under the auspices of the Peace Conference. In seven months and using the groundwork laid at the 1910 Paris Diplomatic Conference, this Aeronautical Commission drew up a Convention Relating to the Regulation of Aerial Navigation, which was signed by 27 States on 13 October 1919. 

 

This new Convention (with texts in French, English and Italian) consisted of 43 articles that dealt with all technical, operational and organizational aspects of civil aviation and also foresaw the creation of the International Commission for Air Navigation (ICAN), under the direction of the League of Nations, to monitor developments in civil aviation and to propose measures to States to keep abreast of developments.

 

At 1 June 1922, fourteen instruments of ratification were deposited with the French Ministry of the Foreign Affairs; hence, the Convention and ICAN could enter into force forty days later, that is to say on 11 July 1922. Albert Roper was instrumental in obtaining those ratifications; he was at the origin of a series of meetings, which were named at the beginning Conférences anglo-franco-belges and took later the too broad title of Conférences aéronautiques internationales. The first eleven of these Conferences were held between 1920 and 1922 in Paris, London and Brussels until the Convention came into force. They were made up of staff from the aeronautics administrations. Those conferences and various other regional conferences (i.e. The Mediterranean Air Conference, the Baltic and Balkan Air Conference) were to study problems of detail and practical difficulty which arose in the operation of international airlines between the various states, and to report the results to ICAN for action by means of amendments to the annexes to the Paris Convention. Later, ICAO made large use of regional machinery. i.e. Regional Air Navigation Meetings and Regional Offices.

 

 

Postcard with hand-stamp: Versailles / Congrès de la paix

The Convention was ultimately ratified by 37 States, of which four countries (Bolivia, Chile, Iran and Panama) denounced it; therefore, in all, the Convention was in force for thirty-three States in 1940.

 

The postmark on the reverse side of this postcard is dated 28 June 1919 (VERSAILLES - CHATEAU CONGRES DE LA PAIX), date on which the Peace Treaty of Versailles was signed by Germany and the Allied powers at the Palace of Versailles. The Treaty of Versailles was the peace settlement signed after World War One had ended in 1918. The Versailles Palace was considered the most appropriate venue simply because of its size - many hundreds of people were involved in the process and the final signing ceremony in the Hall of Mirrors could accommodate hundreds of dignitaries. The Treaty also established the League of Nations, an international organization dedicated to resolving world conflicts peacefully.

 

ICAN was by no means the first international organization designed to further the growth of aviation.

 

Back of above postcard with date-stamp: 28 June 1919

In the non-commercial field, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) came into existence as early as 1905, as a result of a resolution passed at the Olympic Congress at Brussels. The FAI devoted itself particularly to private aviation, and the development of facilities for air touring had become one of its principal concerns.

 

At the initiative of the French Government, the First International Conference of Private Air Law was convened in Paris in 1925 to examine the question of the responsibility for the airlines and to undertake the immense work of the coding of the private air law; the final protocol of this Conference asked for the creation of a special committee of experts (Comité International Technique d'Experts Juridiques Aériens, C.I.T.E.J.A.) in charge of the continuation of the work of the Conference. Dr. Roper was the Secretary General of the International Conference of Air Law. The work of the C.I.T.E.J.A. was taken over by ICAO in May 1947 with the creation of the Legal Committee.

 

The International Chamber of Commerce (Chambre de Commerce Internationale, CCI) was created at the end of the year 1920. The Chamber was created to express the opinion deliberated on the business world. It was the body representative of the bankers, the tradesmen and the industrialists of the various countries; the delegates of the various branches of the economic activity there discuss the international questions that interest them and act in concert for a common action.  It had a Transports group under the auspices of which are discussed the aeronautical questions.

 

IATA Emblem

Following the horror of the First World War, everyone was convinced that the creation of a permanent organization was necessary to maintain world peace. As of January 1919, the Peace Conference of Versailles worked out the fundamental charter of the Société des Nations (League of Nations). The project was completed on 14 February 1919 and the city of Geneva was selected as seat of the organization. The objectives of the Organization were to constitute an international forum for the discussions carrying on questions of a political nature and legal, about disarmament, the economic relations, the protection of the minorities, the communications and transport, health and the questions social. One of its Commissions treated military, naval and air questions.

 

In 1919, six European airlines founded in The Hague, Netherlands, the International Air Traffic Association (IATA) to help airlines standardize their paperwork and passenger tickets and also help airlines compare technical procedures. The modern IATA (International Air Transport Association), founded in 1945 in Havana, Cuba, is the successor to the International Air Traffic Association.

 

There is a general acceptance that 1919 was the year when the air transport industry was born. In many countries, both domestic and international air services were launched on a sustained basis and the first International Convention Regulating Air Navigation was signed on 13 October of that year.

 

United Kingdom – 26 July 1969 – First Day Cover commemorating the 50th anniversary of Civil Aviation (1919-1969).

_________________________