Progress on ICAO's Strategic Objectives — Safety — Emergency Response

Emergency Response


Global aircraft tracking


On 2 March 2016, the ICAO Council adopted Amendment 40 to Annex 6 — Operation of Aircraft, Part I, which included, among other elements, Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) relating to the location of an aeroplane in distress.


The SARPs establish the requirement for an aeroplane to autonomously transmit information from which a position can be determined at least once every minute when in a distress condition. An aircraft is in a distress condition when it is in a state that, if the aircraft behaviour event is left uncorrected, could result in an accident. The SARPs are applicable to new aeroplanes with take-off mass greater than 27 000 kg from 1 January 2021. The requirement also recommends that it apply to new aeroplanes with take-off mass greater than 5 700 kg from the same date.


The SARPs specify that autonomous transmission of position information needs to be active when an aircraft is in a distress condition. This will provide a high probability of locating an accident site to within a 6 NM radius. It also specifies that the transmission can be activated manually. The SARP is not technology-specific and will allow for various solutions, including a triggered transmission system. It specifies performance criteria such as that the autonomous transmission of position information needs to be capable of transmitting the information in the event of aircraft electrical power loss, at least for the expected duration of the entire flight.


Standards for aircraft tracking under normal conditions have been developed and are planned for applicability in November 2018. If adopted, these Standards will ensure all aircraft in oceanic airspace provide, either to the relevant Air Traffic Services Unit or to the Operator, a position report at intervals of not greater than 15 minutes. Guidance material to support these provisions is expected to be completed by March 2017. Work on the Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) Concept continues and will encompass aircraft tracking under normal conditions, distress tracking, and post-flight localization and recovery functions.


A public website on Global Tracking Initiatives has been launched and is updated regularly.


Conflict Zones


The Task Force on Risks to Civil Aviation proposed that ICAO develop a centralized system for the sharing of information on risks to civil aviation arising from conflict zones. In March 2015, the Council of ICAO agreed that there was an urgent need to establish and host a simple, centralized, web-based conflict zone repository and to make information available to States, industry and the public. The Conflict Zone Information Repository (CZIR) began operations for an initial one-year period, starting on 2 April 2015, on the understanding that during this period there would be an ongoing process of review and evaluation. In this connection, the Council agreed to establish a subsidiary Repository Review Group (RRG) that would be responsible for this ongoing monitoring.


On 17 February 2016, the RRG reported to the ICAO Council regarding the CZIR’s evaluation phase, including recommendations to modify it based upon the experience and inputs of the Member States of ICAO. Based upon this report, the Council agreed, on 17 June, that ICAO should continue operation of the CZIR on the following basis:


​•​that postings would be reserved for information that met the intent of “conflict zones” as defined by the ICAO Council;
​•​that posts on the ICAO website would only be made available when the information was made available by the State affected, or when another State provided the information and there was no disagreement between the two States; and
​•​that the Repository would now also include links to States’ own sources of information related to risks to civil aviation from conflict zones.


The Council also requested that improvements to the CZIR be considered by the RRG. In November, the Council noted that there had been significant progress on the part of States and industry in developing new innovative systems, separate from the ICAO Repository, which served to rapidly share information concerning the risks associated with operations in or near conflict zones. The Council also noted that since July 2016, the number of new postings to the CZIR had decreased substantially. Given these developments, the Council would consider in the first quarter of 2017 whether or not to continue with the CZIR and whether it might not be more appropriate to redirect the resources currently invested in the system to other areas such as the development within Member States of their risk management capability.


Disaster risk reduction in aviation and crises response mechanism


The 39th Session of the Assembly considered a proposal to establish an institutionalized ICAO approach to respond to crises that would enable the Organization to mitigate the impact of disasters on international civil aviation. The proposals called for the development of both a strategic approach to improve the resilience of civil aviation infrastructure to disasters, as well as a tactical approach to aviation-specific crises that could affect the safety or continuity of international civil aviation.


The Assembly noted that the international strategy for disaster reduction, as embodied in the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030), reflects a major shift from the traditional emphasis on disaster response to disaster reduction and seeks to promote a culture of prevention already underway in ICAO.


The Assembly adopted Resolution A39-24, “Strategy on disaster risk reduction and response mechanisms in aviation”, that directs the Council to establish a crisis response policy and disaster risk reduction strategy in aviation that would institutionalize and guide the Organization’s strategic approach and tactical responses to aviation-specific crises that could affect the safety or continuity of international civil aviation. In adopting this Resolution, the Assembly was mindful that States are primarily responsible for prevention and reduction of disaster risk, and any response undertaken by the Organization should be guided by, and in concert with, the State(s) affected.




In February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The WHO called for a coordinated and multi-sectoral response through inter-agency cooperation. ICAO assumed responsibility as the focal point for the aviation sector facilitating communication with the WHO and other UN agencies.


ICAO implemented an Aviation Sector Group comprised of ICAO, International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International (ACI), International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) and International Transport Forum (ITF). Through the Aviation Sector Group, ICAO ensures information-sharing between all stakeholders and the coordination of activities within the aviation sector. In consultation with this Group, ICAO has developed and implemented a web-based Airport Vector Control Register, providing information on the methods used by airports to control insects or animals that might transport an infectious disease.


The intent of the Register is to facilitate the sharing and dissemination of information and to assist States with development of disinsection policies based on risk assessment. ICAO has expanded this initiative through the development of a comprehensive risk assessment tool. The 39th Session of the Assembly adopted Resolution A39-28, “Performance-based criteria and guidance material on aircraft disinsection and vector control measures”, which supersedes A37-14. In addition to the above initiatives, ICAO is engaging with the WHO to develop performance-based criteria to evaluate all disinsection methods, including non-chemical means of disinsection, and to develop recommendations regarding the use of non-chemical disinsection methods.

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