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The airport/airline relationship

Posted: 30 November 2007 | Roberto Kobeh González, President of the Council, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) | No comments yet

Airlines and airports, through their respective international organisations, play a crucial role in the activities of ICAO, whose chief aims, as contained in Article 44 of the Chicago Convention, are to develop the principles and techniques of international air navigation and to foster the planning and development of international air transport so as to, amongst other things…

Airlines and airports, through their respective international organisations, play a crucial role in the activities of ICAO, whose chief aims, as contained in Article 44 of the Chicago Convention, are to develop the principles and techniques of international air navigation and to foster the planning and development of international air transport so as to, amongst other things:

  • ensure the safe and orderly growth of international civil aviation throughout the world
  • encourage the development of airlines, airports and air navigation facilities for international civil aviation
  • meet the needs of the people of the world for safe, regular, efficient and economical air transport
  • prevent economic waste caused by unreasonable competition
  • ensure that the rights of Contracting States are fully respected and that every Contracting State has a fair opportunity to operate international airlines
  • promote safety of flight in international air navigation

A wide ranging and effective relationship

With observer status to ICAO, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airports Council International (ACI) are regularly invited to and take active part in, various meetings of the Organisation dealing with subjects of common interest. Of particular significance is their involvement in the Air Navigation Commission (ANC), which is the principal body of ICAO responsible for the development of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and Procedures for Air Navigation Services (PANS). The Commission is assisted in its work by small groups of experts nominated by Contracting States and international organisations and approved by the Commission. These include IATA and ACI.

The important distinction between a Standard and a Recommended Practice is sometimes not well understood. A Standard is any specification whose uniform application is recognised as necessary for the safety or regularity of international air navigation and to which Contracting States will conform in accordance with the Convention. A Recommended Practice is any specification whose uniform application is recognised as desirable for the safety, regularity or efficiency of international air navigation.

SARPs are detailed in the 18 Annexes to the Chicago Convention that cover all aspects of international civil aviation and for which the considered views and expertise of key stakeholders are essential for a thorough understanding of all issues involved.

The valuable contribution of these organisations have contributed to the universal acceptance of SARPs and related procedures by Contracting States and the world aviation community, following approval by the ICAO Council.

IATA and ACI, along with many other recognised international organisations, also take part in thematic conferences of ICAO and the Assembly of the 190 Member States. The Assembly is the sovereign body of the Organisation and normally meets every three years – except for extraordinary sessions. At the Assembly, the complete work of the Organisation in the technical, economic, legal and technical cooperation fields is reviewed in detail, and guidance is given to the other bodies of ICAO for their future work. This is another valuable opportunity for IATA and ACI to present their positions before the global decision-making body of ICAO.

In the day-to-day implementation of decisions and programmes, IATA and ACI work closely with their counterparts in the various Bureaux of the Secretariat of ICAO, namely Air Navigation, Air Transport, Technical Co operation Bureau, Legal Bureau and Administration and Services.
Over the years, the ongoing relationship with all levels of the Organisation has led to significant and long-lasting improvements in the overall safety, security efficiency and sustainability of international civil aviation. The following section describes some of the more recent initiatives that have brought together IATA, ACI and ICAO.

Global aviation safety roadmap

In the area of safety, the presentation to ICAO last December of the second part of the industry Global Aviation Safety Roadmap was indeed a milestone. Developed by IATA, ACI and other stakeholders of the air transport industry, in consultation with ICAO safety specialists, the Roadmap marked the first time that governments and industry had jointly developed a unified and coordinated approach to reducing accident rates, particularly in developing regions of the world, in accordance with ICAO’s Global Aviation Safety Plan – the GASP.

Designed to establish one level of aviation safety worldwide, the Roadmap was produced by the Industry Safety Strategy Group (ISSG) composed of, in addition to IATA and ACI, Airbus, Boeing, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA), also observers to selected ICAO meetings and activities.

The pertinence of the document also resides in the fact that all ISSG members are committed to assisting in the implementation of the Roadmap and to updating the document as required. Part 1 of the Roadmap – A Strategic Action Plan for Future Aviation Safety – provides the framework for action by Contracting States of ICAO, regions and the industry to correct inconsistencies and weaknesses in 12 main focus areas, including implementation of international standards, regulatory oversight, incident and accident investigation, Safety Management Systems (SMS) and sufficient qualified personnel. The document sets one or more short-term and medium-term objectives for each focus area over the next ten years.

Part 2 – Implementing the Global Aviation Safety Roadmap – describes and prioritises specific coordinated actions by industry to reduce risk and improve safety worldwide. For each objective identified in Part 1, it proposes best practices with related industry references and compliance metrics. Part 2 also includes Annexes containing recommendations on existing and proven technologies (and associated training programmes) to further enhance safety in flight operations, airport operations and air traffic control domains, as well as regional implementation through a knowledge-based regional assessment and deployment strategy.

Part 1 of the Roadmap was delivered to ICAO in December 2005 and subsequently endorsed by a Conference of Directors General of Civil Aviation of ICAO Contracting States in March 2006, with a recommendation that, “ICAO, in collaboration with all States and other stakeholders, continue development of an integrated approach to safety initiatives based on the Global Aviation Safety Roadmap – a global framework for the coordination of safety policies and initiatives.” The roadmap may be accessed on the ICAO website – www.icao.int/fsix
The Roadmap was eventually integrated into the GASP. Together, the two documents are a unique and pragmatic resource for maintaining and improving safety worldwide. In effect, the GASP can be seen as a proactive planning methodology for ICAO, States, regions and the industry to fulfil, in a complementary manner, the requirements of the focus areas listed in the Roadmap. The GASP also establishes a coordination mechanism to ensure that the Roadmap and the Plan are kept up-to-date in a synchronised manner.

Sharing safety audit results with IATA

Another major step forward in improving aviation safety was an agreement between ICAO and IATA to share safety-related information from their respective safety audit programmes to better identify potential safety risks and prevent aircraft accidents.

The agreement calls for each organisation to provide the other with information from safety oversight audit results, as well as accident and incident monitoring. In addition, experts from each organisation are allowed to participate in audit missions of the other, upon request. In all cases, the consent of ICAO Contracting States and member airlines of IATA will be required.

The ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) consists of regular, mandatory, systematic and harmonised safety audits carried out by ICAO in its Contracting States to assess the level of implementation of ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices, identify safety concerns or deficiencies, and provide recommendations for their resolution.

The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) is the first global standard for airline safety management. Since its inception in 2003, IOSA has quickly become an industry standard. Over 150 airlines representing 70% of international scheduled traffic have been IOSA audited and there is close to 100 airlines on the Registry. The IOSA Registry is publicly accessible on the IATA website. It complements ICAO’s USOAP and is recognised by many governments including the US FAA. IOSA will be a condition of membership by the end of 2007.

At the signing of the agreement, then President of the Council Assad Kotaite had qualified the agreement as another concrete example of the close cooperation between the two organisations in exploring ways to improve aviation safety through information sharing, a fundamental tenet of global air transport. For his part, Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and Chief Executive Officer of IATA, had emphasised how safety was the industry’s number one priority and the fact that IOSA was at the core of the industry’s safety plan. The role of governments and global standards in safety is critical. He added that such close cooperation with ICAO was critical and a clear sign of IATA’s commitment to make a safe industry even safer, as well as a great example of government and industry partnership.

ICAO/ACI Global Air Transport Outlook Conference

Bringing all stakeholders around a common theme is one of the fundamental activities of ICAO as the global forum for discussion on international civil aviation matters. On cooperation with ACI, the world met at ICAO in June 2006 to review the challenges facing air transport in the years ahead.

In his address, Dr. Kotaite had put forth ICAO’s traffic forecast, with passenger-kilometres performed growing at an annual rate of 4.4 per cent up to 2015, equivalent to about 2.8 billion passengers. The positive outlook, he summarised, could only be reached by keeping in check the major impediments to growth, such as airspace and airport congestion. Other factors that can have a significant impact on growth are threats to the security of airline operations, airports and critical ground installations such as air traffic control towers, the evolving regulatory framework, as well as the impact of aviation on the environment.

This was an opportunity to showcase ICAO’s global strategy based on the Organisation’s six strategic objectives, designed to enhance the safety and security of global civil aviation, minimise its adverse effect on the environment, enhance the efficiency and maintain the continuity of aviation operations and strengthen law governing international civil aviation.

Airport management professional accreditation programme

Cooperation also involves joint initiatives on practical, operational issues such as airport management. Earlier this year, ICAO and ACI launched a first in aviation training in the form of the Airport Management Professional Accreditation Programme. The AMPAP leads to an I.A.P. (International Airport Professional) designation, whose holders will be recognised as having acquired comprehensive, expert knowledge in the field of airport management.

For ACI, the programme targets the need for in-depth management expertise for airport operators, who are under pressure to achieve greater efficiencies while ensuring full adherence to the international standards that are the hallmark of commercial aviation. AMPAP also responds to the challenge of dealing with a diverse range of business and operational requirements related to capacity constraints, safety, increased security threats, the logistics of new technologies and new airport business models involving investment from the private sector.

For ICAO, the accessible, affordable and universally available joint training programme is a very effective way to promote compliance with ICAO SARPs and results in global consistency in application, a feature which underpins a safe, secure, environmentally compatible and sustainable aviation industry.

With an emphasis on optimising knowledge-sharing across national borders, AMPAP reflects ACI’s and ICAO’s commitment to assisting career professionals to lead the industry through a period of exciting but exacting changes.

Truly global dialogue and cooperation

Currently, there are 86 international organisations that may be invited to attend suitable ICAO meetings. These include specialised agencies of the Untied Nations, UN Programmes, Regional Economic Commissions, Intergovernmental Agencies and Non-Governmental Agencies.
As the organisations representing airlines and airports, two fundamental components of the global air transport system, IATA and ACI will always be regarded as critical to the work of ICAO as the central institution for global governance in civil aviation.

About the author

Mr. Kobeh González has been Representative of Mexico on the Council of ICAO since January 1998. Whilst on the ICAO Council, he served as First Vice-President, Chairman of the Finance Committee and as a member of the Air Transport and Unlawful Interference Committees. He became President of the Council on 1 August 2006.

Prior to joining the Organisation, he held a number of posts of increasing responsibility with his Government’s Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics. As Deputy Director General in the area of Administration and Air Transport, he took part in negotiations on bilateral agreements with various countries. From 1978 to 1997, he served as Director General of the Air Navigation Services of Mexico (SENEAM), the agency responsible for providing navigation, air traffic control, meteorology and aeronautical communications services.

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