ICAN’s Global prospects reduced to regionalism


The International Commission for Air Navigation (ICAN) held twenty-nine sessions between July 1922 and October 1946, with an interruption during WWII. ICAN had developed 8 Annexes (A to H), as follows: Classification of aircraft and definitions, the markings of aircraft (A); Certificates of airworthiness (B); Log books (C); Rules as to lights and signals, rules for air traffic (D); Operating crew (E); Aeronautical maps and ground signs (F); Collection and dissemination of meteorological information (G); Customs (H).


ICAN’s Premises

Avenue d'Iéna

To assist the Commission, it was agreed to establish a small permanent Secretariat under the direction of a Secretary General. As architect of the International Air Convention of 1919, Mr. Albert Roper from France was naturally elected to this position during the first ICAN Session. ICAN was located in Paris (provisionally at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs 3, rue François 1er; from January 1923: at 20, avenue Kléber; and later from May 1937: at 60 bis, avenue d'Iéna), where it remained throughout its existence. In fact, the European Office of ICAO in Paris, on its foundation, took over the offices of the ICAN Secretariat and remained there for its first 19 years until August 1965.


Although finely crafted, the International Air Convention also contained some articles that were to become quickly controversial. First of all, Article 5 provided the right to a Contracting States to not permit the flight above its territory of an aircraft that did not possess the nationality of a Contracting State. Moreover, Article 34 of the Convention did not grant equal voting rights to its members, enshrining thus a permanent status of inequality among States who could become parties to the Convention. Amendments to these two articles were to enter into force after the States had declined to become parties to it. A modification of the latter article entered into force in May 1933: each Contracting State had, starting from this date, only one voting right.


Although the United States had played a major role in drafting the Convention, they never ratified it; Russia was never represented at the Paris Peace Conference and showed no interest in becoming a member of ICAN.


Belgium – Brussels 1935 International Exhibition

With thirty-three States having ratified its Convention in 1940, ICAN had been a real success, at least within Western Europe. It shall be noted that, before WWII, the world consisted of approximately fifty sovereign countries; moreover, at that time, it was not absolutely required to have agreements covering the whole world, as the airlines usually did not fly beyond continents, except for some airmail flights to South-Atlantic and for some transatlantic flights which started in 1939. Finally, some countries, such as USSR and China, were closed to international traffic.


Brussels 1935 - International Exhibition

Poster stamp showing the Heysel Palace 5

The Paris Convention was superseded by the Convention on International Civil Aviation signed at Chicago on 7 November 1944.


The 23rd Session of ICAN was held in Brussels, Belgium from 27 May to 1 June 1935 in the framework of the Brussels World Fair. The mail with a rectangular hand cancel for the Session, dispatched for the participants, was obliterated at the postal office of the exhibition. This seems to be the only known postal item related to ICAN.


ICAN prepared an Official Bulletin regularly published to report on its activities, whereas Albert Roper edited the Revue Aéronautique Internationale in his personal capacity (outside his functions of ICAN Secretary General).


From 1922 to 1939, ICAN held 27 Sessions. The first Session was held in Paris from 11 to 13 July and on 28 July 1922. At the pace of two or three Sessions per year until 1929, ICAN met only once a year from 1930. The Secretariat was the only permanent body of the Organization and counted 28 staff in 1939.


The twelve draft technical Annexes adopted at the Chicago Conference in 1944 expanded the regulations adopted by ICAN before the war and contained new provisions dictated by the experience in air navigation gained during WWII. As the Paris Convention and ICAN were to remain in existence until the coming into force of the Chicago Convention, the ICAN Secretary General took the initiative, immediately after the Chicago Conference, to convene the ICAN Sub-Commissions and technical Committees to conduct the review of the Annexes to the Chicago Convention and to consider the amendments required to the Annexes to the Convention of Paris; these meetings were held at the ICAN headquarters in Paris between 9 April and 5 May 1945. With similar intention, ICAN adopted a new text for the regulations for the International Radio-electric Service of Aircraft and for the instructions concerning the International Aeronautical Telecommunication Service. The recommendations of these meetings were submitted first for advice to the ICAN Legal Committee which met between 12 and 16 June 1945, then to the 28th Session of ICAN, held in London from 21 to 25 August 1945, which adopted a large number of these changes for inclusion in its Annexes.


The Interim Council of the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization (PICAO) met in Montreal on 15 August 1945, and offered the post of Secretary General to Albert Roper, who was later authorized by ICAN to occupy the same function within ICAN until its liquidation. During its 29th Session (final Session), held in Dublin, Ireland from 28 to 30 October 1946, ICAN adopted the resolutions for its future liquidation, which came into force on 7 April 1947, date of entry into force of the Chicago Convention. All the ICAN assets were transferred to ICAO.


Opening meeting of ICAN first Session held at Quai d’Orsay, Paris, France

on 11 July 1922.


Belgium – Brussels 1935 International Exhibition

Postcard with cancel of the exposition (11 May 1935)


Copy of the first page of the initial issue of the Revue Aéronautique Internationale,

prepared and published by Albert Roper, under his personal responsibility.

Thirty-three numbers were published; the last number was published in June 1939.