This has been an exceptional year. We recently published the 4th edition of the World Civil Aviation Report, a publication that shares the work we have undertaken to address some of the challenges facing civil aviation today. In 2020 ICAO had to contend with the challenges posed to civil aviation by the COVID-19 pandemic, while at the same time carrying out our regular work programme.
The spread of infectious diseases along established trade routes has been known since history was first written. The most widely known early pandemic occurred during the Middle Ages (1347) with the arrival in Europe of the bubonic plague (the Black Death) which killed about one-third of the population. It is not surprising that the framers of the Convention on International Civil Aviation had foreseen the possibility that air transport could become a vehicle in the worldwide transmission of communicable diseases.
The latest edition of this report opens with a statistical presentation of the impact of COVID-19 on the air transport industry. There is also a special section on the pandemic that reviews the preparedness of the air transport industry and the challenges posed by the new coronavirus.
The lock-downs promulgated by many States brought the whole air transport industry to a virtual standstill during the early months of the pandemic. This publication looks at the ways ICAO, in collaboration with other international organizations, quickly stepped in to provide immediate assistance and guidance to States in implementing measures to enable the safe operation of international flights. ICAO set up the ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) to provide global guidance for the safe, secure and sustainable restart and recovery of the air transport sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An article penned by the Director-General of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) describes the challenges faced by its members who continued to provide air navigation services to ensure the safety of humanitarian and medical supplies flights. The Report also describes initiatives by the Chinese air transport industry to kick-start that sector of the economy.
The World of Civil Aviation Report illustrates the ways airports began to process departing and arriving passengers through the widespread introduction of new technologies to limit the interaction between passengers, airport and security staff, as well as customs and immigration officers, as the industry tries to normalize its activities. In this context, ICAO is the lead international organization in the development of electronic travel documents and related procedures as described in the Report.
COVID-19 has also affected some other civil aviation activities. Among these, the Report brings to the attention:
- the economic plight of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific caused by the lack of air services and much-needed tourism;
- changes in the implementation of ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA);
- its impact on the guidance material and the delivery of training courses offered by ICAO; and
- the delay in the applicability dates of several provisions contained in amendments to the ICAO Annexes and to the Procedures for Air Navigation Services (PANS) adopted during 2020.
As part of the environmental protection programme of ICAO, the Report refers to the new standards adopted for particulate matter emissions from gas turbine engines, the adaptation of civil aviation to climate change and initiatives undertaken on capacity building and assistance to States to reduce CO2 emissions.
Aviation safety and security are two of the main regular programmes of ICAO. The Report describes the continuous safety and security audit monitoring programmes of the Organization, the capacity building and assistance to Member States on aviation security, and the promotion of safety enhancements in aerodrome operations.
International cooperation is also an underlying theme of Report, such as regional cooperation on aviation safety, and the global cooperation in implementing ICAO’s programmes on environmental protection and on counter-terrorism.
Other subjects covered in the Report include:
- ICAO’s efforts to encourage the global development of innovation in aviation;
- ICAO’s Integrated Communication, Navigation, Surveillance and Spectrum (ICNSS) project;
- the results of a survey carried out before the pandemic was declared on the assistance to passengers during airline and airport disruptions;
- how aircraft leasing has been a lifeline for some airlines;
- a description of ICAO’s World Air Services Agreements Database (WASA);
- the consequences of solely using air transport operational codes in statistical databases; and
- issues related to the calculation of a cargo load factor for passenger aircraft.
With regard to aviation statistics, in addition to those related to the pandemic, the Report also includes global and regional statistics for 2019 on air carrier and airport operations, on fatal accidents of commercial aircraft and on acts of illicit interference (security).