The Technical Co-operation Programme – Projects


As the world’s rule-making body for international civil aviation, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was created to promote the safe, orderly and efficient development of civil aviation. One aspect of the Organization’s work has been, nearly since its creation, the assistance to States in improving civil aviation through projects implemented under ICAO’s Technical Assistance (or Co-operation) Programme. ICAO’s Technical Co-operation Bureau provides in-depth technological assistance to States with their aviation projects, supports ICAO’s Strategic Objectives (Safety, Security, Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development of Air Transport) and contributes to the global and uniform implementation the International Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). Another chapter of the ICAO Postal History provides a review of the origins of the Technical Assistance at ICAO and its evolution of the years (see link at: The Technical Co-operation Programme). Without being exhaustive due to countless projects carried out by ICAO since the 1950s, this chapter is intended to describe only a few projects undertaken by ICAO on the basis of the philatelic covers originating from these projects. For complete information of the ICAO cachets, the reader of this chapter shall refer to the information published in the United Nations Philatelists Monograph on the Origin Cachets of the United Nations, its Agencies and Predecessors, prepared by Mr. Blanton Clement, Jr., in June 2000.


Each civil aviation project may include one or more of the following forms of assistance: training includes school planning, equipment procurement, course development, instructors training, etc.; experts to provide specialist advice to the civil aviation administration or national airline (for planning studies, establishment of civil aviation authorities, air transport studies, legal expertise, etc.); fellowships to allow nationals to be trained abroad in civil aviation disciplines, often at civil aviation training centers that were established through ICAO technical assistance; and equipment, such as radio navigational aids or communication facilities, to ensure safe and regular air service. Fellowships were awarded in many fields, including training as pilots, aircraft maintenance technicians, air traffic controllers, radio and radar maintenance technicians, communication officers, airport engineers, electronics engineers, air transport economists, aeronautical information officers, aeronautical meteorologists, aviation medicine specialists, accident investigation experts, flight operations officers, airport fire officers, and instructors., etc. Major types of equipment provided include air traffic control, radar, and flight simulators; training aircraft; radio communication and radar systems; distance-measuring equipment; very high frequency omnidirectional radio ranges; instrument landing systems; no-directional beacons; "navaid" flight-test units; airworthiness data-acquisition systems; language laboratories; audiovisual aids; visual approach slope indicator systems; firefighting vehicles, etc. Major training institutions assisted by ICAO include civil aviation training centers established in more than 10 countries. The ICAO TRAINAIR Programme, which was established in the 1990s, is an international course sharing system that is based on a standardized process for the preparation of course material; launched in 2010, the TRAINAIR PLUS Programme benefits from more than 25 years of experience and expertise from its predecessor programme, in the fields of training development and sharing, capacity building, as well as instructional delivery.


The establishment of efficient civil aviation administrations greatly assists the development of civil aviation to useful ends and permits the States concerned to meet in increasing measure their responsibilities as signatories of the Convention on International Civil Aviation. With over six decades of experience and drawing upon all of the technical expertise and knowledge available within ICAO, the Technical Co-operation Bureau’s mission is to provide unrivalled in-depth technological assistance to States with their aviation projects.


It is to be noted that ICAO’s projects usually shared the same location as the United Nations Technical Assistance Board (UNTAB) or the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Representative; thus official mail to ICAO was transferred by pouch to the UN Headquarters in New York; then, a metered stamp was applied on the covers for routing to ICAO in Montréal; in some instances or at some periods, the diplomatic pouch was directly sent to ICAO. Mail was sometimes directly addressed by regular airmail to ICAO. A diplomatic bag, also known as a diplomatic pouch, is a container with certain legal protections used for carrying official correspondence or other items between a diplomatic mission and its home government or other diplomatic, consular, or otherwise official entities. The most important point is that as long as it is externally marked to show its status, the bag has diplomatic immunity from search or seizure, as codified in article 27 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.




In February 1951, the Government of Afghanistan requested technical assistance from the United Nations, including the provision of an expert to survey the construction of landing strips in connection with an oil drilling project and to advise on the development of future air services between principal cities of the country. A plan had been submitted by the ICAO adviser for the creation of a Civil Aviation Department and the needs of the country for airports and ancillary services. In 1953, as the Civil Aviation Department in Afghanistan was established, ICAO experts were assigned to advise on the country’s needs in aeronautical communications and radio aids, to give basic training in radio operation, and to advise the Director General of Civil Aviation on the provisional organization of the country’s meteorological services and to train weather observers; twenty qualified students from the Afghan Institute of Technology were selected for training in radio mechanics. The Council of Ministers had examined a preliminary study by the Civil Aviation Adviser on the development of a new airport near Kandahar and had decided to proceed with a more detailed investigation. An aerodrome engineer visited Afghanistan in 1954 to make a survey of aerodrome sites, in particular one at Kandahar suitable for international operations and one at Kabul for feeder line services. Recommendations for the location and construction were drawn up and preliminary cost estimates prepared. 

Training and assistance continued over the years in air traffic control, radio maintenance, radio operation, the maintenance of power plants at airports, meteorological observations, the supply and storage of equipment, motor transport maintenance, fire and rescue services, civil aviation administration, the drafting of civil air regulations, communications operations and engineering, personnel licensing, etc.

Assistance to the Afghan Air Authority and Bakhtar Afghan Airlines continued in the 1970s in the fields of aircraft maintenance, flight operations, heavy equipment maintenance, procurement/material control, traffic and sales, and airline organization and management. A large-scale project commenced in late 1977 until 1981 for the development of civil aviation, telecommunications and radio navigational facilities and services, and air traffic services. Assistance was progressively reduced (and later ceased) by the end of 1980s due to prevailing security conditions and restrictions.

After the ousting of the Taliban regime, ICAO responded in 2002 to a request from the Interim Government of Afghanistan for assistance by providing an assessment and plans for the rehabilitation of the civil aviation structure and airports throughout the country. Through the procurement of essential aeronautical, navigation, communications and ground operation equipment as well as through the provision of international experts, the project was to ensure that Kabul International Airport had safe, reliable and efficient domestic and international operations.


Registered service cover sent by the Technical Assistance Mission in Afghanistan to

 ICAO’s Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau.

The cover bears a grey stamp showing a DC-3 over Kabul, issued on 21 March 1951 (part of a set of 4 stamps). Postmark dated 10 Jul 1956.



Registered mail sent by the Afghan General Administration of Civil Aviation in Kabul

to ICAO’s Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau.

The cover bears one stamp (showing an Antonov AN‑2 biplane) of the set of 7 stamps issued by Afghanistan on 29 June 1984 for the 40th anniversary of ICAO.

Postmark dated 7 October 1984. Receiving cancel on the back.




By 1963, ICAO Technical Assistance Missions had been established in fourteen African countries, with the size of the individual missions varying from 120 experts down to single-expert missions. The technical assistance project in Burundi started in 1963. The principal concern was the organization of a Civil Aviation Department, but the expert also assisted with the preparation of an air law and the development of civil air regulations, carried out a study of the country’s air transport requirements, prepared a plan to meet its training needs in the field of civil aviation, and gave the aeronautical authorities advice and help on a variety of problems. Preparatory training was later started for students to be sent to the Civil Aviation Training Centre in Tunis. Later in 1968, a center for training personnel was established in the country, but more advanced training was provided through fellowships for study abroad.


Service cover sent by the Technical Assistance project in Burundi to ICAO’s Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau. Forwarded by pouch. Postmarked in New York on 16 July 1968. The UN meter was applied: 6-cent postage slogan FREEDOM OF INFORMATION / UNITED NATIONS / Correspondents Association / 20th Anniversary (on 4 lines).

The US Postal Service applied the auxiliary "EMBARGO / RETURN TO SENDER" marking (on 2 lines) in purple ink. Relations between the Canadian Government and postal unions were rocky during the Canadian Centennial period. In 1968, Canada's postal workers went on a 22-day postal strike from 18 July to 9 August, which was two days after the meter cancel was applied to the pouch letter from Bujumbura. Canada requested that the U.S. suspend all mail services to Canada during the strike. Mail to Canada was returned to senders by U.S. post offices with instructional markings and labels which were created by individual post offices on an ad hoc basis.




The technical assistance project in Cambodia started in 1960 and ended in 1969. A civil aviation adviser was assigned to this state at the end of February 1960 to prepare a provisional programme of technical assistance, began to organize training courses in communications and air traffic control and worked with national aviation officials on the solution of the problems involved in bringing the civil aviation services of the country into line with ICAO specifications and plans. Thereafter, the adviser guided and assisted the civil aviation authorities in their day-to-day work and conducted on-the-job training for members their sections, mainly: co-ordination and development of ground services, air traffic services, communications and licensing of flight personnel. Fellowships were awarded to pilots of the national airline for advanced courses at the Civil Aviation Safety Centers in Beirut or in Lebanon. Scholarships were also granted to air traffic controllers and radio maintenance staff.


Service cover issued by the project in Cambodia and forwarded to ICAO by pouch. The watermark pattern shows an aircraft.


Back of the above cover.




Technical assistance to Chile started as early as at the end of 1952 with a fellowship awarded in air traffic services, which included a course at the Training Centre in Oklahoma City and practical in-station training at two United States airports. Other fellowships and scholarships were awarded thereafter. Assistance was carried on for almost 20 years. From 1960, the mission assisted in the country’s airports development programme, advised on economic and financial aspects of domestic airline operations and assisted in the reorganization of the civil aviation administration. 


Service cover issued by the project in Chile to ICAO. Forwarded by pouch. Postmarked in New York on 8 July 1969. The UN meter was applied: 10-cent postage slogan Work for Progress.




A long-term programme for the development of the government-operated system of ground facilities and services started in 1959 for Ecuador and lasted 15 years.


Service cover issued by the project in Ecuador and forwarded to ICAO. Postmarked in 1962.


Service cover issued by the project in Ecuador and forwarded to ICAO. Postmarked on 19 June 1964.




On 18 January 1950, a letter was received from the Director of Civil Aviation of Ethiopia stating that his country wished to be listed as one of the first to benefit from the Technical Assistance Programme. In fact, Ethiopia became the second State to receive agreement for ICAO’s assistance, the first one being Iran. On 2 February 1951, an agreement for technical assistance was signed with the Government of Ethiopia, providing for the appointment of a mission of four experts (for advising on organization and operation of ground services, and for training local nationals in aeronautical meteorology, installation and maintenance of communication and navigation equipment, and in engine and air frame maintenance) and for the granting of nine fellowships. Among these, five fellowships for advanced flying training and three for air traffic services were awarded. The mission began its work in Ethiopia in April 1951, headed by Stuart Graham, one of Canada's first commercial pilots, veteran of 32 years of civil aviation development in Canada; at that time, he was Alternate Council Member for Canada on the ICAO Council and Member of the Air Navigation Commission of ICAO. A supplementary agreement was signed in February 1953 to expand the technical assistance services provided by ICAO in Ethiopia by adding two Experts. More information on this project can be obtained by clicking on the following link: Technical Assistance : The First Steps at ICAO.


Service cover sent by the Ethiopian Government

to ICAO’s Secretary General, Mr. C. Ljungberg. Postmarked on 11 November 1953.



United Nations New York – 9 February 1955 – 10th Anniversary of ICAO.

In 1951, the Ethiopian fleet consisted mainly of Convair CV-240 aircraft, which replaced

the Douglas DC-3 aicraft of the company.

The Pent Arts cachet reads as follows: Ethiopian Air Lines sponsored native trainees were provided fellowships by ICAO and given training as commercial pilots, meteorologists and mechanics, who are now handling full service on the lines.


Ethiopia – Addis Ababa – 1953

Two young Ethiopian students receive practical training in the maintenance and repair of commercial aircraft from ICAO Expert Mr. Nielsen of Denmark.




In 1949, the United Nations Mission to Indonesia recommended that the Indonesian Government be provided, through ICAO, with a number of aeronautical experts; an agreement, signed in 1950 with that Government by the Secretary General of the United Nations on behalf of the international organizations participating in the Technical Assistance Programme provided for the appointment of one senior technical expert in civil aviation, who took up his duties in July 1950. Indonesia was among the first countries to be provided with ICAO technical assistance. This was the beginning of the long-lasting technical assistance projects in Indonesia to help develop the civil aviation sector.

Since then, ICAO has provided significant technical assistance to Indonesia for some 50 years under UNDP and Government of Indonesia cooperation. The Technical Assistance support was given for the development of civil aviation in major areas: training center, human resources development, capacity building, airport and aerodromes, industry development including airlines and aircraft manufacturers, airworthiness, navigation and air traffic management, development of the DGCA capabilities, role, functions and responsibilities (including regulations and procedures) in line with the relevant ICAO Annexes, recognized best practices and procedures, aircraft maintenance; inspection, surveillance and audit etc.


Service cover sent the Director, Technical Assistance Bureau at Montréal. Postmarked on 3 November 1985.

The design of ICAO’s emblem is incorrect: missing vertical and horizontal axes.




Over the years, Lebanon has taken steady steps through the Technical Cooperation Programme of ICAO towards the development and modernization of safety and security regulations in the field of civil aviation to cope with the sweeping changes worldwide and the rapid progress of technology.

From 1963, ICAO participated with the Government of Lebanon in the setting up of a Civil Aviation Safety Center (CASC) in Beirut. The major portion of the money necessary for the project was supplied by the Lebanese Government, with the United Nations Special Fund, for which ICAO is acting as executing agency, providing the balance. After Bangkok, Cairo, Casablanca, Mexico City, and Tunis, Beirut was the 6th Civil Aviation Safety Centre established in those years. The Centre was intended to serve as a post-graduate school for the maintenance of competence of qualified staff in establishing facilities for training airline personnel and government officials in the broad field of civil aviation safety. To maintain adequate safety standards, it was necessary both to give periodic refresher courses and training in the use of new equipment to pilots and other airline personnel and to have government services staffed with personnel qualified to deal with matters of licensing and control of civil aviation. Included in the Centre's activities was the following: training of air operations personnel, government and airline airworthiness inspectors and administrators, airport managers and fire rescue supervisors, training in advanced flight operations, personnel licensing, accident investigation, aviation medicine and flight safety economics. Equipment was also supplied, as follows: flight simulators, instrument flight equipment, an aircraft instrument laboratory, a structural materials laboratory, a flight radio laboratory, a twin-engined training aircraft. The Safety Centre was opened to nationals of other countries as well as those of Lebanon and the Governments of eleven neighboring states had indicated their intention to utilize the training facilities to be provided.

Since that time, the Lebanese CASC at Beirut International Airport has been a regional center for training on civil aviation safety programmes and, using the most complex modern facilities, the Center has provided training for thousands of airline pilots from all over the world.



Service cover sent by registered mail from Beirut’s Civil Aviation Safety Centre to UNDP in New York.

Postmark dated 4 January 1972.


Service cover sent by registered mail in June 1978 from Beirut’s Civil Aviation Safety Centre to ICAO.




By the end of 1950, Pakistan had requested the assistance in radio communications and air traffic services. By an exchange of letters with the Government of Pakistan and the conclusion of a contract with International Aeradio Limited, arrangements were completed for the provision of two instructors in radio communications and one in air traffic services to train Pakistani personnel in the IAL (International Aeradio Pakistan –Private- Limited, established since 1949) School in Karachi, commencing on 1 June 1951.

The three instructors continued their work throughout 1952 and were expected to remain in Pakistan for another year. Three ab-initio training courses in air traffic control, one course for ground radio operators, and one for ground radio technicians were completed and another in each field was in progress at the year’s end.

This training continued throughout the year 1953, with courses in air traffic control, radio operation and radio engineering, and short refresher courses of various kinds. This contract came to an end in May 1954.

The TAB project carried on in Pakistan for several years.



ICAO Technical Assistance Project in Pakistan.

Pictures (front and back) showing the training in progress provided by the Instructors of the IAL School.


Service cover sent to ICAO by the TAB Resident Representative in Pakistan. Dated 1956.




The project in Suriname started in 1963 and ended in 1969. The Air Traffic Services Expert/Instructor arrived  in April 1963 in Trinidad and Tobago to organize a regional training center for air traffic controllers and in June the first course opened with fourteen students from Trinidad and Tobago, two from British Guiana, and one from Suriname. A flying instructor joined the mission towards the end of 1964 to prepare for the start of flying training early in 1965. Experts were assigned to the regional fire-fighting and rescue services project in Latin America, gave training to fire-fighters and advice to the authorities on the organization of such services. Two experts of the regional frequency search and monitoring project visited Suriname in January 1965 to assist with the selection of frequencies in connection with the implementation of the ICAO Regional Plan. In 1966, two groups of eight mechanics received instruction; a radio maintenance instructor gave on-the-job training to the staff of the radio maintenance section. In addition to the training activities, experts assisted in the organization of maintenance services for aeronautical communications facilities and radio aids and in the establishment of a modern radio maintenance workshop.


Service cover issued by the project in Suriname to the Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau at ICAO.

Postmarked on 4 August 1966.




The first phase of a UNDP project in Yemen started in 1970 to improve air navigational and aeronautical meteorological facilities. A second phase started in 1977 to cover on-the-job training in various ground services and basic flying training; ICAO provided expertise in air traffic services, radio maintenance, flight operations, airworthiness, aerodrome fire and rescue, and flying instruction. A total of 54 fellowships in various fields of civil aviation were provided and operational equipment, including two single engine aircraft, was purchased.


Service cover issued by the project in Yemen to ICAO. Forwarded by pouch. Postmarked in New York on 15 January 1971. The slogan commemorates the 2nd anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Labor Organization (ILO, 1969).


Service cover issued by the project in Yemen to ICAO. Forwarded by pouch. Postmarked in New York on 5 March 1973. The UN meter was applied: 11-cent postage slogan World Food Programme – 10th Anniversary.




Bangladesh project


Service cover sent to ICAO. Postmark dated 31 March 1992.


Guatemala project


Service cover sent to the Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau at ICAO.

Postmark dated 20 July 1985. The word ORGANIZATION should be spelled with the letter Z (instead of S).


Nepal project


Service cover sent by pouch to the Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau at ICAO.

Postmark at New York dated 2 February 1979.



Service covers sent by pouch to the Technical Assistance Bureau at ICAO.


Oman project


Service cover sent by pouch to the Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau at ICAO.


Paraguay project


Service cover sent to the Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau at ICAO.


Rwanda Project



This cover, on official UN ICAO airmail envelope, was initially sent by UN Diplomatic pouch from Rwanda to UN HQ in New York and then to ICAO HQ using a meter postage. "EMBARGO / RETURN TO SENDER" auxiliary marking in purple ink (on 2 lines) applied by US Postal Service.

Relations between the Canadian Government and postal unions were rocky during the Canadian Centennial period. In 1968, Canada's postal workers went on a 22-day postal strike from 18 July to 9 August, which was two days after the meter cancel was applied to the pouch letter from Kigali, Rwanda. Canada requested that the U.S. suspend all mail services to Canada during the strike. 


Sao Tome and Principe


Service cover sent by pouch to the Director of the Technical Cooperation Bureau (TCB) at ICAO.  


Saudi Arabia Project



Service cover (front and back) sent to the Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau at ICAO.

Postmarked on 9 August 1961.

Registered Djeddah 4 with three superb strikes with single circle rarely seen Saudi Arabia.



Service cover (front and back) sent to the Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau at ICAO.

Postmarked on 6 January 1965. Cancel on arrival at Montréal on 10 January 1965.



Service cover (front and back) sent via pouch to the Secretary General at ICAO.

Postmarked in February 1972.



Service cover (front and back) sent via pouch to the Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau at ICAO.

Postmarked on 3 March 1973. Cover sent through US APO 09697.

The US Military Postal Service (MPO) supports mail delivery for US diplomatic facilities overseas. The MPOs use the city abbreviation APO (Army Post Office or Air Force Post Office).

On the back flap, the French word INTERNATIONAL should be written with the letter “E” at the end.


Sierra Leone project


Service cover by pouch sent to the Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau at ICAO.


Sudan Project


Service cover sent to the Director of the Technical Assistance Bureau at ICAO. Postmark dated 10 July 1964.