Annex 6 – Operation of Aircraft


Developed by ICAO, the International Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) contained in the nineteen Technical Annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (also called Chicago Convention) are applied universally and produce a high degree of technical uniformity which has enabled international civil aviation to develop in a safe, orderly and efficient manner.

The purpose of Annex 6 is to contribute to the safety of international air navigation by providing criteria for safe operating practices and to contribute to the efficiency and regularity of international air navigation by encouraging the Member States to facilitate the passage over their territories of commercial aircraft belonging to other countries and operating with these criteria. The current Annex 6 Operation of Aircraft is divided into three parts/volumes: Part I – International Commercial Air Transport – Aeroplanes, Part II – International General Aviation – Aeroplanes, and Part III – International Operations – Helicopters.

When PICAO came into existence in 1945, 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 two committees of the PICAO Council, i.e. the Air Navigation Committee and the Air Transport Committee.


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 of the Conference. When PICAO came into being, the OPS Division became therefore responsible for the preparation of a text on this subject. For this purpose, the following documentation was used: drafts submitted by the Governments of United Kingdom and USA; comments on the USA draft prepared by a number of other Governments; a study of the USA draft prepared by IATA; and notes from the PICAO Secretariat.


The Operations (OPS) Division held its first Session (21 meetings) from 29 January to 11 April 1946. The OPS Division reconvened for its second Session from 25 February to 11 April 1947; the principal items upon its agenda were the review and revision of the Recommendations for Standards, Practices and Procedures for Air Service Operations (scheduled operations) developed during its first session, and the preparation of similar Recommendations to govern non-scheduled operations.


The Standards and Recommended Practices for Annex 6: Operation of Aircraft - Scheduled International Air Services were first adopted by the ICAO Council on 10 December 1948 to become effective on 15 July 1949. Further amendments to the Annex were based on recommendations of the 3rd and 4th Sessions of the OPS Division which were held from 8 February to 13 March 1949 and from 27 March to 27 April 1951 respectively. The 4th Session of the OPS Division recommended a number of amendments to Annex 6, dealing with fuel and oil requirements, emergency and survival equipment to be carried aboard aeroplanes, and aeroplane navigation lights. Further to that and with the adoption of Amendment 128 on 4 December 1951, Annex 6 was renamed Operation of Aircraft – International Commercial Air Transport.


Adopted by the Council on 14 December 1966, amendment 150, originating in recommendations of the 4th Air Navigation Conference held in Montréal from 9 November to 3 December 1965, took the form of a complete substitute for the Fifth Edition of the Annex, bringing the provisions of the latter more into line with the requirements of operations with modern, high-performance, turbo-jet aeroplanes. Among the more important modifications incorporated in it, there was a change in the applicability provision, making the Annex applicable only to aeroplanes engaged in scheduled and non-scheduled international air transport operations.


Recognizing the growing importance of international civil flying other than air transport for remuneration or hire, the 15th Session of the Assembly (Montréal, 22 June to 16 July 1965) directed by Resolution A15-15 that the appropriate ICAO standards, recommended practices and related material should be examined to determine their suitability for all international civil aviation. Pursuant to Recommendation 8/l of the 4th Air Navigation Conference (Montréal, 9 November to 3 December 1965), the Air Navigation Commission (ANC) prepared Standards and Recommended Practices for the operation of aircraft in international general aviation, which were adopted by the Council on 2 December 1968 as Annex 6 Part II – Operation of Aircraft – International General Aviation, resulting in designating the previous Annex 6 as Annex 6 Part I – Operation of Aircraft – International Commercial Air Transport, which was adopted on 23 January 1969.


Front page of Annex 6, Part I

In general, Part I and II of Annex 6 address aeroplane operations; neither part is specifically applicable to helicopter operations. Therefore, a new document was developed by the Air Navigation Commission (ANC) as a means of including provisions for helicopter operations and was first adopted by the ICAO Council on 14 March 1986 as Annex 6 Part III - Operation of Aircraft – International Operations - Helicopters. Consequent to the adoption of Annex 6, Part III, an amendment to the title was introduced to indicate that Annex 6, Part I and Part II were applicable only to aeroplanes, as follows Annex 6 Part I – Operation of Aircraft – International Commercial Air Transport – Aeroplanes and Annex 6 Part II – Operation of Aircraft – International General Aviation - Aeroplanes. Part III of Annex 6 introduced new Standards and Recommended Practices and detailed guidance material concerning flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders to be carried in different categories of helicopters engaged in international commercial air transport operations and international general aviation operations. 


Subsequently, as a result of a study carried out by the Air Navigation Commission, a panel of experts (Helicopter Operations Panel, HELIOPS) was established in 1982 to develop Standards and Recommended Practices covering the aspects of helicopter operations similar in scope to those for aeroplanes. The first meeting of this Panel was held in Montréal from 23 to 31 March 1983. The resulting comprehensive Standards and Recommended Practices for helicopter operations were adopted by the Council on 21 March 1990.


In order to keep pace with the evolution of aviation industry, the provisions of Annex 6 are constantly reviewed. The very international nature of commercial aviation, and of general aviation to a lesser degree, requires operators and pilots to conform to a wide variety of rules and regulations. The Standards accepted by all Contracting States cover such areas as aircraft operations, performance, communications and navigation equipment, maintenance, flight documents, responsibilities of flight personnel and the security of the aircraft.


After Malaysia Airlines MH370 aircraft went missing in May 2014, a multidisciplinary Ad-Hoc Working Group was formed at ICAO; its findings and recommendations resulted in new amendments to Annex 6 to the Chicago Convention which will take effect between now and 2021. They relate primarily to the requirement for aircraft to carry autonomous distress tracking devices which can autonomously transmit location information at least once every minute in distress circumstances, the requirement for aircraft to be equipped with a means to have flight recorder data recovered and made available in a timely manner, and extending the duration of cockpit voice recordings to 25 hours so that they cover all phases of flight for all types of operations. These new provisions adopted by ICAO Council in March 2016 were aimed at preventing the loss of commercial aircraft experiencing distress in remote locations.


The following stamps from the ICAO philatelic collection display a few pictures of aircraft in flight.


Navigation lights to be displayed by aircraft in the air,

as per Annex 6, Part I, Appendix 1.



Cameroon – 30 November 1984 - 40th Anniversary of ICAO

Boeing 737 of Camair in climbing position. Black (Yaoundé) and red (Douala) cancels.


Kuwait – 7 December 1994

50th Anniversary of ICAO

Airplane in flight

Vietnam – 7 December 1994

50th Anniversary of ICAO

Boeing 737 in flight from Vietnam Airlines


Maldives – 31 December 1994

50th Anniversary of ICAO

Boeing 747 in flight from Virgin Airline

Bolivia – 10 December 2007 - International Civil Aviation Day

Generic aircraft taking off into the sunset. Only 200 pieces were produced.