1945-1946: PICAO – The spirit of internationalism


Montreal – Postcard showing the Sun Life Building

Started on 6 June 1945, the Provisional International Organization (PICAO) was to remain in existence until the permanent organization was created, but its life in any case was restricted to three years.


Temporary accommodations for PICAO had been sought in the Windsor Hotel, prior to occupying more permanent quarters in the Dominion Square Building. With 94 staff in January 1946, PICAO’s quarters were located on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th floors of this building.


However, due to unsatisfactory accommodations available in the Dominion Square Building, the PICAO Council came quickly to a recommendation to solicit office space in the Sun Life Building. In June 1946, staff from the administrative offices started to occupy space in this building.  At the same time, a Council Committee on Accommodations was formed to make recommendations on questions relating to the housing of the permanent Organization.


Montreal – Postcard showing the Dominion Square

Arrangements for additional temporary space were occasionally made with the head office of the International Labour Office (ILO), transferred from Geneva to Montreal during wartime until 1948 at the invitation of the Government of Canada and McGill University. Their offices were first located on 3480 University Street and later on 3450 Drummond and 3540 Mountain (now de la Montagne). When ILO’s head office moved back to Geneva in 1948 and was replaced by a Branch Office for Canada, the whole of ICAO’s Air Navigation Bureau occupied the empty space left by ILO on Drummond until ICAO’s new premises on University Street were completed.


The buildings around the Dominion Square are an excellent example of Montreal’s rich architectural heritage. Officially inaugurated in 1878 and enlarged in 1909, the Windsor Hotel is of Second Empire style and projected an image of opulence for the rich bourgeoisie of the time; the site chosen for the hotel was a sign of the gradual shift North-West of the business and social centres of Montreal, mainly due to the construction of two train stations in that area, and the large fire of 1852 that swept a great part of the hotels and business establishments. Depicting the Beaux-Arts style, the Dominion Square Building was built in 1927 as a commercial building facing St. Catherine Street; its structure uses the modern technology of the time, steel-frame. The Sun Life Building was once the tallest building in the British Empire and is representative of the rapid development of Canada in the 1920's; the classical elements found in this building are part of the Beaux-Arts styling.


18 December 1946 – Service cover sent by PICAO from the Dominion Square Building. From May 1946, a sequential number (see above 26414) had been printed on all outgoing mail for statistical purposes.


From the very beginning of PICAO`s work, it became quickly clear that some of the technical problems confronting international civil aviation could be best solved on a regional basis among those states concerned in a given region. Within the framework of the single world-wide ICAO dealing with international civil aviation problems, many particular regional requirements can be most efficiently considered by regional discussions, e.g. the planning of international civil air routes which was largely done by the airlines that would fly them, the coordination of trans-European air traffic with domestic and short-range overland traffic versus long-distance transoceanic navigation, etc. Recognizing the regional differences, ICAO had an active interest in providing the machinery by which flying particularities of the individual regions may be examined.


During the second Session of the Interim Council in November 1945, the world had been divided by PICAO into ten (later reduced to eight) flying or air navigation regions; areas are not all-inclusive and a certain amount of overlapping is necessary. Regional arrangements or special regional organizations, called Regional Route Service Organizations, operating within the general framework of PICAO, would be necessary to plan special measures of cooperation on air navigation facilities, to consider the application and interpretation of standards and practices to meet situations particular to a given geographical area, and to study and develop local operating practices supplementing the international standards.


24 April to 15 May 1946 – 1st European-Mediterranean Route Service Conference (i.e. RAN Meeting), held in Paris, France

Regional Route Service Conferences would be held for each region; a trend was however noted later to hold meetings covering two or more regions, simplifying the problem of change of procedure at regional boundaries, and thus diminishing since 1952 the number of regional meetings to eight. Such meetings scrutinize the region’s air navigation needs, determine what airports, weather reports and navigation aids are necessary, consider the extent to which those already in existence meet the need, and decide what must be added to make air travel safer and more regular. Until April 1946, regional meetings were convened at the request of the Council by the designated host State; later, invitations were issued directly by the Council of ICAO.


During the Council’s discussions held in April 1946, it was felt that the Route Service Conferences should be called meetings, as they should be considered as purely technical in character. Moreover, the expression route service was found impossible to translate into French; as the meaning of this English term was not clear, the Council agreed to change the title of those gatherings from PICAO Route Service Conferences to PICAO Regional Air Navigation Meetings (RAN).


Due to the existence of military facilities useful for international civil aviation and their probable discontinuance due to the cessation of the war hostilities, early coordinating actions were considered desirable and necessary for four of the ten regions: the North Atlantic, European-Mediterranean area, the Caribbean area, and the Near and Middle East. Because of the drastic curtailment of military air transport services in the North Atlantic, it was found urgent to discuss provisions to protect and support civil aviation operations in that area.


Map of the world with the ten PICAO Air Navigation Regions


The various technical air navigation divisions (composed of specialized groups of technical experts from Members States) began meeting almost immediately during the September-October 1945 period to bring the draft Annexes into final draft form, based on recommendations for changes made by the States during the six-month period between the Chicago Conference and the beginning of PICAO’s work.


29 August 1946 - Commercial cover sent to the PICAO Secretary General