THE POSTAL HISTORY OF ICAO

 

1946: Montreal confirmed as capital of international civil aviation

 

A matter of high importance for the Provisional International Civil Aviation organization (PICAO) was the setting of the First Session of the PICAO Assembly. This Assembly was originally scheduled from 21 May until Sunday 8 June 1946, but ended in fact on 7 June. Although the Assembly was held at the Windsor Hotel, Montreal, some of the meetings were held at the Dominion Square Building (10th floor). Mr. Louis de Brouckère, Chairman of the Belgian Delegation, was elected President of the PICAO First Interim Assembly. The Assembly comprised representatives of forty-four Member States, observers from ten non-member States, and eight international organizations. The session closed with two plenary meetings, one on 6 June, devoted to the selection of the site of the permanent organization and the filling of the existing vacancy on the Interim Council (left by the USSR), and the other on 7 June, at which the Assembly considered the final reports of the Commissions.

 

The Windsor Hall of the Windsor Hotel, Montreal, on 21 May 1946, the first day of the PICAO Assembly, was attended by some 400 people in all from every part of the world.

On 6 June 1946, Montreal was selected as the permanent headquarters of the Organization, by 27 votes; the other candidates cities obtained respectively: Paris 9 votes, Geneva 4 votes, a city not named in China 1 vote. The choice of Montreal proposed by Chile was supported by Peru, the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

 

Why was Montreal selected? While insisting on the excellent hospitality offered since of the beginnings of PICAO by the federal, provincial and municipal authorities, the delegates described Montreal like a roundabout of the international means of communication and a strategic centre with a formidable economic, scientific, technical and aeronautical expansion being felt for a few years. One insisted on the vast spaces of the Canadian territory, offering unlimited possibilities for the scientific and practical experiments in the field of aviation. Moreover, PICAO was to be established as close as possible to the central head office of the United Nations.

 

In parallel with the General Assembly of the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization (PICAO) which completed its work on 7 June 1946, the first regional air conference (called AIR CONFERENCE/CONFERENCE DE L’AVIATION on the postmark) was held from the 6 to 8 June in the large room of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal, under the auspices of the Montreal Board of Trade.

A Journal of the Assembly was issued daily, giving the order of the day, summaries of meetings of the previous day and important announcements.

It brought together the delegates of the air industry, the representatives of PICAO and the IATA. More than 250 delegates from the various provinces of Canada, the United States and overseas took part in the three-day discussions, the first of the kind in the East of Canada. The various aspects of aviation were discussed under the general topic of "Montreal in the Age of Aviation". Several lecturers of mark presented various aspects of the commercial aviation of the moment and the future. Six particular committees were formed in order to discuss the means to be taken by Montreal to play in its role of administrative capital of international aviation.

 

The conference completed its work by declaring that Canada had to play a great role in the future development of world aviation, so much because of its strategic position to the roundabout of the international air lines than because of the vast spaces that the travelers must traverse to go from one ocean to the other. Canada was at that time in a critical as well as strategic position of the geographical map where every direct route between North America, on the one hand, and Europe or Asia, on the other, crossed the country. Canada was recognized as a power of first importance in the commercial operations and the development of aeronautics.

 

Cancellation showing the slogan related to the

Air Conference, held in Montreal from 6 to 8 June 1946

The main features of Montreal’s development as a world air centre were highlighted. In 1923, Canadian Vickers Limited began building flying boats; five years later, St. Hubert airport was inaugurated. Airmail services were also started in that year between Montreal and other important points; before the war, Canada carried more airmail than any other country in the world. In 1930, the British airship R-100 made its first trans-Atlantic flight to Montreal; in that year also, 42 out of the 146 airplanes manufactured in Canada were built in the city of Montreal. In 1936, air express for valuable freight was organized, linking Montreal with 32 countries of the world.

 

Meanwhile, the 400 delegates taking part in the General Assembly of PICAO selected Montreal to establish the permanent headquarters of PICAO; moreover, Montreal also became the permanent head office of the IATA. The secretariats of these two organizations would be located in a new building, to be constructed shortly in Montreal thanks to an important subsidy of the federal authorities. Montreal became thus the centre of the world civil aviation.

 

It is to be noted that, in 2007, Montreal was the only city in the world where, within a radius of 30 kilometres, one can build an airplane from A to Z: landing gear to the motor, through the wings and assembly. This made Montreal the third aircraft manufacturer pole in the world, behind Toulouse, France, and Seattle, USA. However, it would be a mistake to limit the aviation industry to the Montreal area alone. There were businesses in 13 of 14 regions of the Province of Quebec. More than 80% of the production was exported, providing jobs to more than 40,000 people. This allowed Quebec to rank sixth in the world behind the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Japan. Some emerging countries, such as China, will be in the future formidable competitors due to cheaper labour.

 

Canada is the second largest country in the world in terms of geography, covering more than 5 500 km from Atlantic to Pacific and through the Arctic. In 2014, it had over 35 000 registered aircraft, the second largest civil aviation registry in the world; moreover, Canadian air traffic control centers helped to guide almost all trans-Atlantic flights and most trans-Pacific flights with destinations in key North American population centers. It is clear that Canada remains one of the states of chief importance in international air transportation.

 

In 2014, Canada remains also a major aerospace development hub; it had more than 700 aerospace-related companies with more than 170 000 employees generating $22.8 billion in international commerce. Canada invested $1.2 billion annually in research and development investments, with $600 million invested within the Greater Montréal area alone. There were over 10 aerospace research centers and universities, and numerous international aviation organizations headquartered in Montréal, making the city a global international aviation center.

 

As a matter of fact, in 2014, nine other international aviation organizations have established offices in Montréal, including the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International (ACI), based in Geneva until 2010, and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations (IFALPA), which moved from London in 2012. This core of expertise has in turn drawn several other international organizations to Montréal, including the Statistics Institute of UNESCO, and facilitated the development of the important Secretariat of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBDS).

 

Guide Book for the Interim Assembly,

setting the pattern for all future Sessions.

 

Postcard showing the Ritz-Carlton Hotel

where the Air Conference was held on 6-8 June 1946.

 

Service cover franked with the meter of the 6th United Nations General Assembly, and addressed to Mr. A.D. Thiessen,

the PICAO Librarian, Officer in charge of the library for members of the Delegations during the Interim Assembly

(in the Blue Room on the ground floor of the Windsor Hotel)

 

Commercial cover sent to Mr. H. Vaage, Officer in charge of the document distribution during the Interim Assembly

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