International Standards and Recommended Practices


As the Organization preceding ICAO, 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:


Eight Annexes to the Paris Convention

Corresponding Annexes to the Chicago Convention


Classification of aircraft and definitions, the markings of aircraft; registration of aircraft; call signs



Certificates of airworthiness



Log books



Rules as to lights and signals; rules for air traffic

C and D


Operating crew



Aeronautical maps and ground signs



Collection and dissemination of meteorological information






With regards to Annex I – Radio Communications, this Annex had not been implemented in the Paris Convention, as the Protocol of Brussels of 1 June 1935 (signed during the 23rd Session of ICAN held in Brussels, Belgium from 27 May to 1 June 1935) dealing with this new Annex was never ratified. Work and amendments on this Annex started from 1935 without any final implementation in the Paris Convention. There was no Annex in the Paris Convention dealing with the question of Rescue. The ICAN Convention was a limited one and so was its implementation, because even during most of the 1930’s the aeroplane was a regional rather than a world-wide means of transport.


At the Chicago Conference in 1944, drafts of twelve technical Annexes were completed to serve as a guide to world-wide practice pending the coming into force of the Convention on International Civil Aviation and then their formal adoption by the ICAO Council and then acceptance by States.


Twelve original Annexes to the Chicago Convention


Airways systems


Communications procedures and systems


Rules of the air


Air traffic control practices


Standards governing the licensing of operating and mechanical personnel


Log book requirements


Airworthiness requirements for civil aircraft engaging in international air navigation


Aircraft registration and identification marks


Meteorological protection of international aeronautics


Aeronautical maps and charts


Customs procedures and manifests


Search and rescue, and investigation of accidents


It is to be noted that a draft technical Annex on Operations could not be prepared by the Chicago Conference in time to be included with the other Annexes found in Appendix V of the Final Act. When PICAO came into being in 1945, the OPS Division became therefore responsible for the preparation of a text on this subject.


When PICAO came into existence, much of its work involved the drafting of recommendations for standards, practices and procedures to be adopted by States pending the establishment of International Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) by the permanent Organization. At its first session, the PICAO Council organized the work of technical divisions with a view to effecting as rapidly as possible, in accordance with Resolution II of the Final Act of the Chicago Conference, the revision of the draft technical Annexes constituting Appendix V of the Final Act. The various divisions met and drew up specifications for what were then known as PICA0 Recommendations for Standards, Practices and Procedures during the interim period. After approval by the PICAO Council, these recommendations were presented to the various Member States for adoption into their national regulations. After the coming into effect of the Convention, they would assume the title of International Standards and Recommended Practices. 


Two committees of the  PICAO Council, e.g. the Air Navigation Committee and the Air Transport Committee, were established and the technical divisions composed of specialists from Members States and of observers from organizations interested in international civil aviation, assisted by the Organization’s Secretariat, were directed and coordinated by the Committees.


Front page of the Chicago Convention

With the coming into existence of the permanent Organization in April 1947, the status of the standards underwent a major change, as the work of the divisions was considered by the Air Navigation Commission, then adopted by the Council and finally submitted to the Contracting States. If a majority of the States does not register disapproval of these standards and recommended practices, they become effective; each states is bound to put them into practices or to notify to ICAO of any difference between any of its own practices and those established by the international standard. Adoption of these standards by the Council gives them status as Annexes to the Convention.


As standards were developed, either the subjects of annexes were split or new annexes were conceived, and most of the titles were revised. Also as the lettering system of the annexes based on the English alphabet might have led to confusion in other languages, the nomenclature of the annexes was changed to numerals. Since first adoption of the annexes, many amendments to them were considered in a continuous process of improvement and development.





Annexes to the Chicago Convention as adopted by 1953

Titles changed over the years since 1953


Personnel Licensing



Rules of the Air



Meteorological Codes

Meteorological Service for International Air Navigation


Aeronautical Charts



Dimensional Units to be used in Air-Ground Communications

Units of Measurement to be Used in Air and Ground Operations


Operation of Aircraft – Scheduled International Air Services

Operation of Aircraft


Aircraft Nationality and Registration Marks



Airworthiness of Aircraft



Facilitation of International Air Transport



Aeronautical Telecommunications



Air Traffic Services



Search and Rescue



Aircraft Accident Inquiry

Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation





Aeronautical Information Services



In addition, a material not yet sufficiently mature for inclusion in annexes has been assembled in a series of publications entitled Procedures for Air Navigation Services (PANS); approved by the Council for worldwide application, they may also comprise material prepared as an amplification of the basic principles in the corresponding annexes and designed to assist the user in the application of those principles. Moreover, specifications peculiar to some areas of the world, known as Regional Supplementary Procedures (SUPPS), were developed from the 1960s; they have a status similar to PANS in that they are approved by the Council, but only for application in their respective region. To facilitate the implementation and to promote the uniform application of the specifications in the various Annexes and PANS, Technical Manuals or Guidance Material in several forms or Manuals were later developed from the 1960s.


In the early years of civil aviation, no one foresaw the necessity of having provisions covering the negative side of civil aviation. The Organization addressed the subject of protection of the environment initially at the 16th Session of the Assembly held in Buenos Aires in 1968; the resulting complex study of the effects of aircraft noise led in 1971 to the adoption of Annex 16 - Aircraft Noise. The effect of aircraft engine emissions on atmospheric pollution was later examined. The scope of the existing Annex 16 was thus widened in 1981 to include aircraft engine emission provisions and the document was reorganized and re-titled Environmental Protection.  


In its concern about the growing threat of violence against international civil aviation and its facilities, including unlawful seizure of aircraft, an Extraordinary Session of the ICAO Assembly was convened on this subject in Montreal, in June 1970. Subsequently in 1974, the Council adopted SARPS in Annex 17 on Security: Safeguarding International Civil Aviation against Acts of Unlawful Interference.


In the 70s, ICAO had to address the problem of aviation’s emergence as a major mode of commerce, i.e. the growing threat to passengers, crews and public posed by the transport of dangerous goods. In 1976, it was estimated that more than one half of the materials carried by all modes of transport were potentially dangerous. To ensure that dangerous cargo can be carried safely by air, ICAO adopted in 1981 Annex 18 on The Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air, which became effective on 1 January 1984. This annex is somewhat unique in that it reflects coordinated efforts with the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ensuring full compatibility with their technical instructions.


The ICAO Air Navigation Commission, at the fourth and fifth meetings of its 190th Session on 8 May 2012, considered proposals developed by the Safety Management Panel (SMP) to transfer the provisions on safety management responsibilities and processes from existing Annexes for consolidation in new Annex 19 - Safety Management and related consequential amendment proposals to existing Annexes. The new Annex supports ICAO’s global safety strategy, which calls for improved standardization, increased collaboration among aviation stakeholders, new information-sharing initiatives, and prioritizing investments in technical and human resources required to ensure safe operations. The ICAO safety management International Standards and Recommended Practices provide the high-level requirements that States must implement to fulfill their safety management responsibilities related to, or in direct support of, the safe operation of aircraft. Being the first new ICAO Annex in over 30 years, Annex 19 became applicable on 14 November 2013.


Four new Annexes adopted after 1970



First adopted on


Environmental Protection

2 April 1971


Security - Safeguarding International Civil Aviation against Acts of Unlawful Interference

22 March 1974


The Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air

26 June 1981


Safety Management

25 February 2013


The development of the SARPs in the Annexes are considered and recommended by the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) for Annex 16 (Environmental Protection), by the Air Transport Committee (ATC) for the following two Annexes:  Facilitation (Annex 9) and Security (Annex 17), and by the Air Navigation Commission (ANC) for the other 16 of the 19 Annexes to the Chicago Convention.


The principal responsibility of the Air Navigation Bureau (ANB) is the provision for secretariat of the Air Navigation Commission and the Panels of the ANC, whereas the Air Transport Bureau (ATB) provides Secretariat for the Air Transport Committee and the various ad hoc Committees into which it is divided. The character and volume of the work discharged are thus largely dictated by the requirements of the various Panels, Committees and Working Groups. In addition to the tasks of preparation for the various meetings and the subsequent publications of reports, those Bureaus are also charged with the study of various problems connected with their respective subjects. Seventeen out of nineteen Annexes to the Convention are of a technical nature and fall within the responsibilities of the Air Navigation Bureau and its sections; the remaining two Annexes, Facilitation (Annex 9) and Security (Annex 17), are under the purview of the Air Transport Bureau.


Over the years, the ICAO Council has developed and adopted 19 technical Annexes to the Chicago Convention, most of which are under the responsibility of the Air Navigation Commission. The International Standards and Recommended Practices contained in these annexes are applied universally and have produced a degree of technical uniformity which has enabled international civil aviation to develop in a safe, orderly and efficient manner. In 2014, there were around 12,000 International Standards and Recommended Practices reflected in those Annexes, all of which been agreed by consensus through ICAO; it is through these provisions, as well as ICAO’s complementary policy, auditing and capacity-building efforts, that the air transport system today is able to operate just under 100,000 daily commercial flights, safely and securely, in every world region.


In 2014, ICAO organized its first ever ICAO Council off-site strategy session. The purpose was to determine how ICAO could better communicate with and assist its Member States. One of the major points covered during these meetings was the fact that there are still large discrepancies with respect to how some States implement ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). As a result, ICAO launched the No Country Left Behind (NCLB) campaign highlighting ICAO’s efforts to assist States in implementing the SARPs. The main goal of this work was to help ensure that SARPs implementation is better harmonized globally so that all States have access to the significant socio-economic benefits of safe and reliable air transport.


The following pictures illustrate some aspects covered by the Annexes.


ICAO emblem and allegorical scenes of the technical Annexes to the Chicago Convention on a brilliant blue background.

Oil painting by Exequiel Martínez, donated by Argentina in 1994, shown in the elevator foyer of the office tower in Montréal.


Canada - 1 June 1955

10th Anniversary of the interim Agreement and first PICAO Meeting.

Meteorological station and communications service.



Cyprus - 21 November 1994 - 50th Anniversary of ICAO

Map of Cyprus island with surrounding air routes

(Enroute Chart; Nicosia Flight Information Region (FIR).


Isle of Man - 27 April 1984

40th Anniversary of ICAO and 50th Anniversary of the first official airmail service to the Isle of Man

Aerogramme with de Havilland D.H.84 Dragon Mk 2, registered G‑ACXI.



Crew-man, aerodrome, and runway.