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International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

The Convention on International Civil Aviation, signed in Chicago on 7 December 1944 (the Chicago Convention), came into force on 4 April 1947. The legal instrument that gives effect to this in Australia is the Air Navigation Act 1920. The Convention established certain principles and arrangements so international civil aviation can develop in a safe and orderly manner, and that international air transport services be established on the basis of equality of opportunity and operated soundly and economically.

Australia and Global Aviation

Australia works collaboratively with the international community, regional neighbours and the ICAO to enhance standards and guidance for safety, security, air navigation and facilitation, and environmental protection. Australia has contributed to the work of ICAO since it was established in 1947.

In particular Australia works closely with our neighbours in the Pacific region where air travel is vital to the economic development and trade links of the Pacific Islands, providing capacity and capability building assistance on transport safety, air navigation and security issues to a number of States in our region.

Australian Participation in ICAO Activities

The ICAO Council is composed of 36 Member States elected by the Assembly for a three-year term. Part I of the Council consists of 11 States of chief importance in air transport, Part II consists of States not otherwise included but which make the largest contribution to the provision of facilities for international civil air navigation, and Part III consists of States whose inclusion ensures that all major geographic areas of the world are represented on the Council.

Australia was successfully re-elected to Part I of the ICAO Council at the 40th ICAO Assembly held in Montreal in September 2019 as one of the States of chief importance in air transport.

Australia has maintained a Permanent Mission in Montreal, has been a Council member for over 70 years, and is represented on the Air Navigation Commission.

Australia’s involvement spans all of ICAO's five global strategic objectives—Safety, Air Navigation Capacity & Efficiency, Security & Facilitation, Economic Development of Air Transport, and Environmental Protection. Officials and experts from a number of Australian Government agencies make a significant technical and leadership contribution to a wide range of ICAO groups, including Panels, Working Groups, Study Groups, and Regional Implementation, Planning and Safety Groups.

Australia continues to be actively engaged in ICAO, including at the Asia and Pacific regional level, in the global and regional aviation response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery planning.

Arrangements for Australia's participation in ICAO are covered under two Memoranda of Understandings (MOU). The first is a Tripartite MOU between the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, Airservices Australia, and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority PDF: 367 KB ReadSpeaker.

The second arrangement is a multi-agency MOU on Civil and Defence aviation matters between the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Airservices Australia, the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the Department of Defence, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade PDF: 560 KB ReadSpeaker.

Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs)

The Chicago Convention provides (Article 37) for the Council of ICAO to make standards and recommended practices dealing with a wide range of matters concerned with the safety, regularity and efficiency of air navigation. The current standards and recommended practices are published by ICAO as Annexes to the Chicago Convention. The multi-agency MOU includes an attachment which shows the agency responsible for each Annex.

More information about Annexes is available from the ICAO website. Copies of the Annexes are available from ICAO or they may be accessed at major libraries. Annexes may also be inspected at the Library of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications and can be accessed by calling (02) 6274 7641 during business hours.

Notification of Differences to Standards and Recommended Practices

Article 38 of the Chicago Convention requires, where a State finds it impracticable to comply in all respects with a standard, or to bring its own regulations or practices into full accord with a standard, that notification be given to ICAO.

Such notification is referred to as a “difference” and is published by ICAO in Supplements to each Annex.

Contracting States to the Chicago Convention are also required by Annex 15 to publish their differences in their Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP). The Australian AIP is published by Airservices Australia.

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Facilitation

Annex 9 of the Chicago Convention is an important document for international civil aviation as it details the agreed international SARP’s to assist the free flow of passengers and goods, without compromising border integrity and/or sovereignty.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications sits on ICAO’s Facilitation Panel, and domestically is part of the National Passenger Facilitation Committee, in which relevant parties (including the Department Home Affairs, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, major international airports and the airlines) work together to put in place measures enabling Australia to comply with ICAO SARP’s to the maximum extent possible.

Australia regularly reviews its compliance with Annex 9 and lodges differences where necessary.

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Aircraft Accident Investigation

Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention provides the international SARP’s as the basis for aviation accident, serious incident and incident investigations, accident prevention and accident and serious incident reporting, with the sole objective being accident prevention. It is not the objective to apportion blame or provide a means of determining a liability.

ICAO manages a database known as the Accident/Incident Reporting system, where safety information discovered during an aviation investigation, and considered vital to accident prevention, is shared among contracting States worldwide.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is the responsible agency for carrying out the functions of Annex 13, involving civil registered aircraft in Australia and Australian registered aircraft overseas. For further information on the ATSB, visit www.atsb.gov.au.

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Aviation Environment

Annex 16 of the Chicago Convention sets out the SARP’s which have been adopted by ICAO signatory countries regarding aircraft noise and engine emissions.

  • Volume I applies to aircraft noise and specifies the SARP’s which apply to a wide range of aircraft.
  • Volume II applies to aircraft engine emissions applicable to specified aircraft engines.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications administers the Air Navigation (Aircraft Noise) Regulations 2018 which apply to all aircraft operating within Australian airspace, and for the Air Navigation (Aircraft Engine Emissions) Regulations which apply to specified aircraft engines. Further information on these regulations and downloadable applications for permits are available on the Department’s website.

Australia is implementing a State Action Plan on managing Australia's aviation carbon emissions DOCX: 5772 KB PDF: 824 KB ReadSpeaker. The Action Plan details a strategy for improvements and efficiencies in aviation environment practices in Australia. Australia supports the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) and has joined around 80 other ICAO Member States in volunteering to participate in the offset requirements of the scheme from 2021.

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Aviation Security

The Department of Home Affairs is responsible for aviation security. Australia contributes to the development of international aviation security policy and standards through its membership of the ICAO Aviation Security Panel. The Panel, which meets annually, is made up of aviation security specialists from ICAO Member States. It works to develop and maintain effective aviation security standards and recommended practices that are implemented worldwide, contributing to a more secure global aviation security network.

Australia, as a member of ICAO, regularly liaises with other aviation security regulators from around the world to discuss common aviation security challenges and share ideas and lessons learned. Australia has been delivering targeted international transport security capacity building activities within the Asia-Pacific region since 2007. Australia supports the work of ICAO to improve risk assessments and to facilitate the sharing of accurate and timely security, safety, intelligence and threat information.

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International Airports

Article 10 of the Chicago Convention requires States to designate airports for international use. This provision is given effect in Australian law by section 9 of the Air Navigation Act 1920 which enables the Minister to designate an airport as an international airport, should it meet the criteria.

Further information on the criteria and approval process for the designation of international airports can be found at the international airports page.

The categories of airports are:

  • Major International
    airports of entry and departure where all formalities incident to Customs, Immigration, Biosecurity and similar services are made available, and which are open to scheduled and non-scheduled flights;
  • Restricted Use International
    airports of entry and departure at which the formalities incident to Customs, Immigration, Biosecurity and similar services are made available on a restricted basis, to flights with prior approval only;
  • Alternate International
    airports specified in the flight plan to which a flight may proceed when it becomes inadvisable to land at the airport of intended landing;
  • International Non-Scheduled Flight
    airports at which approval may be granted, provided the prescribed prior notice is given, for international non-scheduled flights only; no other form of international operation is permitted;
  • External Territory International
    airports of entry and departure for international air traffic located upon an Australian External Territory, where all formalities incident to Customs, Immigration, Biosecurity and similar services are made available.

View the list of current designated international airports in Australia. Full details, including any special conditions that may apply to individual airports, are published in the Australian Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP).

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Last Updated: 16 September, 2021