Business Aviation Insider

March 13, 2017

Changing International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards could impact business aircraft operators.

During 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) made several important changes to its standards that could impact business aviation. ICAO’s influence on the U.S. business aircraft operations might seem distant or vague, but understanding the organization and its processes can help explain how these recent changes might affect your operations.

“It’s important for business aircraft operators to be familiar with ICAO’s role in our industry, especially for operators flying internationally,” said Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of regulatory and international affairs. “However, ICAO’s standards and recommended practices (SARPs) have an impact on domestic operators, too, since countries must evaluate adoption of ICAO recommendations as part of their domestic regulatory structure.”

ICAO is a United Nations specialized agency meant to uphold the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention). It is essentially a standards development organization with the primary goal of harmonizing civil aviation standards worldwide, especially for the 191 ICAO member states (nations). ICAO standards are found in references known as “annexes.”

ICAO is not a regulatory organization. Rather, it facilitates consensus among its member states for the development of SARPs, which form the basis for actions by states to implement procedures, practices, services, facilities and regulations that will meet the objective of the standard or recommended practice. In this regard, ICAO seeks to enhance harmonization that will enhance the ability of aviation operations to be conducted internationally.

The SMS of an international general aviation operator, conducting operations of large or turbojet aeroplanes, [is] to be commensurate with the size and complexity of the operation and meet the criteria established by the state of registry.


After a SARP is adopted, an effective date is also determined. This date is usually four months after the last day of the ICAO session in which it was enacted. An amendment is typically applicable approximately eight months after the amendment is adopted.

Aircraft operators must abide by ICAO standards when operating over the high seas. ICAO member states must either adopt ICAO standards, or file a difference with the organization, signifying that the state has a standard that differs from ICAO.

The recent changes to ICAO annexes below are not an exhaustive list. Instead, these items represent the changes most relevant to business aviation.

Runway Surface Condition – Global Reporting Format

Changes to Annexes 3, 8, 11, 14 and 15 seek to implement a standardized global format for assessing and reporting runway surface conditions. It is expected that most states will implement this format using “SNOWTAMs,” specialized NOTAMs notifying pilots of potentially hazardous conditions due to the presence of snow, ice, slush or standing water during winter operations.

Reporting of runway conditions is only part of the equation. The reported information must be useful for actual operations in order to positively impact safety. To address that, new operational standards have been developed. Section 3 – Large and Turbojet Aeroplanes – includes a new, which states, “An approach to land shall not be continued below 300 meters (1,000 feet) above aerodrome elevation unless the pilot-in-command is satisfied that, with the runway surface condition information available, the aeroplane performance information indicates that a safe landing can be made.”

Section 2 – General Aviation Operations – includes a new, using the same language as that for large and turbojet airplanes above, but as a recommendation only.

“These amendments are significant efforts because they require state-coordinated efforts between airports, manufacturers, navigation services and operators,” said Michael Hohm, director of ICAO liaison for the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC). “It must be an organized approach because all of those parties have to be actively participating.”

ICAO has delayed the applicability date for these changes until 2020, acknowledging the coordination necessary to implement these amendments.

ICAO flags

Required Communications Performance (RCP)

Amendments to Annex 6 Part II related to required communications performance were adopted on March 2, 2016 and became applicable on Nov. 10, 2016. These amendments are intended to clarify existing provisionsconcerning RCP and add a provision for surveillance equipment and performance-based surveillance. They address specific approvals; operational credits for operations with airplanes equipped with automatic landing systems, a heads-up device, enhanced vision systems and some other equipment; and equipage and operational criteria.

Essentially, these amendments are meant to keep up with new technology so equipment, minimum equipment lists, flight and training manuals, etc., are consistent with the installations of new technology. Each state of registry will establish its own criteria.

The RCP-related amendments primarily come into play after the state of registry of the aircraft enacts new legislation or regulations to address these items. For example, implementation of ADS-B equipage requirements in the U.S. would be subject to these amendments.

Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) And Flight Data Recorder (FDR)

Revised cockpit voice recorder standards were adopted on March 2, 2016, and became applicable on Nov. 10, 2016. These standards require extended recording periods for all airplanes of maximum certificated takeoff mass of over 27,000 kilograms (approximately 60,000 pounds) for which the individual certificate of airworthiness is first issued on or after Jan. 1, 2021. The CVR must be capable of retaining information recorded during at least the last 25 hours of operation.

Related standards limit the use of flight data recorder Information to airworthiness and maintenance purposes, including flight data analysis.

Finally, operators willing to “de-identify” their CVR and FDR data may also use that data in broader safety-management efforts.

It is important to note that international initiatives, including those at ICAO, seek to limit the use of CVR and FDR data to the prevention of future accidents, even though some states utilize this data for criminal prosecution.

Safety Management, Annex 19

Annex 19 saw its first significant set of amendments in 2016, although most changes are addressed to the member state’s state-required safety management systems (SMS) programs.

In addition to changes directed at state SMS programs, changes affecting operators have also been introduced. Specifically, 4.2 International General Aviation – Aeroplanes – requires “the SMS of an international general aviation operator, conducting operations of large or turbojet aeroplanes, to be commensurate with the size and complexity of the operation and meet the criteria established by the state of registry.”

While much of this requirement existed previously in Annex 6 Part 2, the standard was moved to Annex 19 and revised to require an operator to meet the safety management criteria established by their state of registry.

Appendix 3 of Annex 19 provides updated guidance pertaining to the protection of safety data and information and related sources.

“SMS is becoming more data-oriented to be more focused on data collection and analysis,” said Hohm, “but ICAO is still focused on appropriate protections for aviation personnel.”

Visit the ICAO website

Business Aviation Representation at ICAO

IBAC is the official representative of business aviation in ICAO proceedings. NBAA, as one of the 14 business aviation associations that are members of IBAC, ensures its members interests are also taken into account as ICAO procedures are developed or amended, said Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of regulatory and international affairs. “This enables the association to help guide ICAO’s procedures and ensure our member companies have the latest information related to ICAO amendments.

“Member companies are encouraged to be aware of changing ICAO standards,” continued Carr. “In addition to the impact on international operations, these amendments could eventually land on FAA’s work plan for incorporation into domestic rules.”