History: The beginning

Already, in the early years of aviation (before World War I) people with foresight had realized that the advent of the airplane added a new dimension to transport which could no longer be contained within strictly national confines. It was for this reason that, on the invitation of France, the first important conference on an international air law code was convened in Paris in 1910. This conference was attended by 18 European States and a number of basic principles governing aviation were laid down.
Needless to say that the technical developments in aviation arising out of World War I created a completely new situation at the end of the hostilities, especially with regard to the safe and rapid transport of goods and persons over prolonged distances. However, the war had also shown the ugly potential of aviation and it had therefore become much more evident that this new, and now greatly advanced means of transport required international attention.
Aviation pioneer Wilbur Wright explains
his aircraft to the King of Spain
For obvious reasons, the treatment of aviation matters was a subject at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and it was therefore entrusted to a special Aeronautical Commission, which hat its origin in the Inter-Allied Aviation Committee created in 1917. At the same time, civil air transport enterprises were created in many European States and in North America, some of which were already engaged in international operations (Paris-London, Paris-Brussels). Also in 1919, two British airmen, Alcock and Brown, made the first West-East crossing of the North Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland and the "R-34", a British dirigible made a round trip flight from Scotland to New York and back.
 Aviation fair - Paris 1909
It was events like these which incited a number of young aviators to propose that the international collaboration in aviation matters which had been born out of military necessity during and immediately after World War I should not end with the end of hostilities but should now be turned to peaceful ends, i.e. the development of post-war civil aviation because they believed that aviation had to be international or not at all. This proposal was formally taken up by France and submitted to the other principal Allied powers who received it favorably. This action then resulted in the drawing up of the International Air Convention, which was signed by 26 of the 32 Allied and Associated powers represented at the Paris Peace Conference and was ultimately ratified by 38 States. This Convention consisted of 43 articles that dealt with all technical, operational and organizational aspects of civil aviation and also foresaw the creation of an International Commission for Air Navigation (ICAN) to monitor developments in civil aviation and to propose measures to States to keep abreast of developments. It should be noted that this Convention took over all the principles that had already been formulated by the Conference that had been held in 1910 in Paris.
Louis Bleriot's cross-Channel flight of 1909 was
the first international flight by a heavier-than-air machine.
A year later the first international air navigation conference
was convened in Paris
To assist the Commission, it was agreed to establish a small permanent Secretariat under the direction of a General Secretary. In December 1922 this Secretariat assumed its duties with Mr. Albert Roper from France as General Secretary and it was located in Paris, where it remained throughout its existence. In fact, it should be noted that Mr. Roper also became the first Secretary General of ICAO and 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 (60 bis avenue d'Iéna). This seems to demonstrate certain continuity, at least as far as organizational measures in international civil aviation are concerned.
Air freight in 1921
Between Wars

The years between the two World Wars were marked by a continuous growth of civil aviation in both the technical and the commercial fields, even though flying was not yet opened to the masses but remained a rather exclusive means of personal transport. In fact, it was around 1930 when, after an ICAN Meeting, three prominent General Directors of Civil Aviation, met at the Paris Gare du Nord, and that the famous phrase was coined: "The layman flies, the expert takes the train", a phrase which perfectly reflected the uncertainties which surrounded flying at that time, especially during the bad weather periods in Europe. However, the search for higher speed, greater reliability and the covering of greater distances continued throughout this period in all industrialized States and each step forward in these fields brought the great potential inherent to air transport closer to reality.



It is needless to say that the aviation made during World War II not only resulted in horror and human tragedies but that its utilization also significantly advanced the technical and operational possibilities of air transport in a world which had finally found peace again. In fact, for the first time large numbers of people and goods had been transported over long distances and ground facilities had been developed to permit this in an orderly and expeditious manner. It was for this reason that, in 1943, the US initiated studies of post-war civil aviation problems which, once more, confirmed the belief that they either were to be tackled on an international scale or it would not be possible to use it as one of the principal elements in the economic development of the world and the first available means to start "healing the wounds of war" as President Roosevelt put it.

Visit by CINA to Japan - Sometime around 1930
Share this page: