North Carolina - Airport Codes and Location Identifiers

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Overview

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth. Its headquarters is located in the Quartier International of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The ICAO Council adopts standards and recommended practices concerning air navigation, its infrastructure, flight inspection, prevention of unlawful interference, and facilitation of border-crossing procedures for international civil aviation. ICAO defines the protocols for air accident investigation followed by transport safety authorities in countries signatory to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation.

ICAO is distinct from other international air transport organizations, like the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association representing airlines; the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO), an organization for Air navigation service providers (ANSPs); and the Airports Council International, a trade association of airport authorities.

The forerunner to ICAO was the International Commission for Air Navigation (ICAN). It held its first convention in 1903 in Berlin, Germany, but no agreements were reached among the eight countries that attended. At the second convention in 1906, also held in Berlin, 27 countries attended. The third convention, held in London in 1912 allocated the first radio callsigns for use by aircraft. ICAN continued to operate until 1945.

Fifty-two (52) countries signed the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention, in Chicago, Illinois, on 7 December 1944. Under its terms, a Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization (PICAO) was to be established, to be replaced in turn by a permanent organization when 26 countries ratified the convention. Accordingly, PICAO began operating on 6 June 1945, replacing ICAN. The 26th country ratified the Convention on 5 March 1947 and, consequently PICAO was disestablished on 4 April 1947 and replaced by ICAO, which began operations the same day. In October 1947, ICAO became an agency of the United Nations linked to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO).

The International Civil Aviation Organization establishes sets of 4-letter location indicators which are published in ICAO Publication 7910. These are used by air traffic control agencies to identify airports and by weather agencies to produce METAR weather reports. The first letter indicates the region; for example, K for the contiguous United States, C for Canada, E for northern Europe, R for the Asian Far East, and Y for Australia. Examples of ICAO location indicators are RPLL for Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport and KCEF for Westover Joint Air Reserve Base.

ICAO codes are separate and different from IATA codes, which are generally used for airline timetables, reservations, and baggage tags. For example, the IATA code for London's Heathrow Airport is LHR and its ICAO code is EGLL. ICAO codes are commonly seen by passengers and the general public on flight-tracking services such as FlightAware, though passengers will more often see the IATA codes, on their tickets and their luggage tags. In general IATA codes are usually derived from the name of the airport or the city it serves, while ICAO codes are distributed by region and country. Far more aerodromes (in the broad sense) have ICAO codes than IATA codes, moreover IATA codes are sometimes assigned to railway stations.

 

Wikipedia Article on ICAO Airport Codes
 


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