How air laws have impacted global air travels


In an exclusive interaction with B&FT, Captain Victor Kwesi Amoah, an aviation mentor and enthusiast, highlights another chapter of the enviable history of global aviation.

Q. I am eager to learn more on the laws; shall we continue?

Yes, before we continue I even want to emphasise some other conventions that impact aerodrome and passenger travel. First, though, aviation was developing with 15 years of aero dare-devils’ activities of successes, and failures there were hindsight, insight and foresight for future adventurist. The aero dare-devils’ events in the mid 1920s were not as much as it used to be in the beginning of 1904.

In Annex 14 of the Chicago Convention, it was agreed on how to upgrade an aerodrome to take care of commercial activities. The moment an aerodrome is upgraded for commercial purposes (passengers, cargo and bullion), it becomes an airport. Thus, aerodrome and airport are not the same. As we recall from previous features, an aerodrome is an open area (either land or water) intended for departure and arrival of Aircraft, with hangars built for allied activities such as maintenance, refuelling and so on.

The things needed to upgrade an aerodrome to an airport are fire service operation to take care of emergency activities, customs, immigration, airport authority offices – those who are supposed to furnish the crew with necessary information needed for flight. The airport building layout has to be unique, whether big or small in size. It has to have a standard layout that has an area for the public. Also, an area restricted to passengers, airport workers and other security personnel. There has to be an area for transit – people coming from one airport to another.

Landside of any airport – irrespective of its size – is an area accessible to the public; for instance, the car parks, restaurants and other commercial businesses around the check-in and arrival halls of an airport.

As the passenger is going through the formality, he/she goes through a security screening point in order to be admitted to the airside which is strictly for passengers or any airline/airport worker with a valid identity card (pass).

Safety management department of an airport is also a whole unit that keeps assessing the risks that can be encountered in airport operations, and finding strategic ways to mitigate it to an acceptable level.

How tall the grass should grow before pruning/weeding are some of the many factors to be considered when accessing safety and environmental issues of an upgraded aerodrome. An airport is very sensitive to wild life. When even a bird impacts an engine or the body of the aircraft, it can cause a lot of damage.

Airport is an area allergic to sound pollution, and wild life.

The next regulation, having a direct impact on passenger travel in Annex 9, is Facilitation. Chicago Convention member-states agreed to the process a passenger needed to go through from the time they arrive at the airport of departure to the time they disembark at destination. It makes travel process very seamless. It is very common to observe passengers arrive at the airport, go through the check-in process where their bags are weighed, tagged and tickets perused before issuing the traveller a boarding pass. These done, they proceed to the immigration (international travel) and security screening point. This process ensures the passenger is travelling with non-contraband items in their hand luggage and in their pockets. They proceed to their respective boarding gates for their pre-boarding and boarding formalities. Upon arrival at destination, passengers proceed to immigration (international flights only) and to the baggage claim area to identify and pick them from their respective carrousels. They then proceed to the waiting area to meet and greet their hosts or go on to the appropriate ground transport terminal to head out of the airport.

Those with onward connections (flight) proceed to their respective transit lounges/desks for further processing. All these formalities, practised over the decades, have made travel very seamless. We have another set of procedures for air freighting operations, thanks to the Convention!

Annex 17 is about aviation security (AVSEC). During the Chicago Convention in 1944, Annex 17 did not exist, but as and when the industrial evolution was being threatened by hijacking and related hazards, it was necessary for the Chicago Convention to be amended. That had to do with procedures and programmes to prevent unlawful threats to passengers at the airport. These threats range from the somewhat innocent activities, such as pick-pocketing, racketeering, planting time bombs at crowded areas on the landside of the airport, and the almighty hijacking onboard flights in Midair. Obviously, these activities and other level of threats negatively impact passenger travel experience, so the ANNEX 17 of the Chicago Convention that tasked airports, airlines and air cargo companies to design and enforce the threat mitigation programme came in very handy.

Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention is used by member-states to investigate an air accident. The idea of investigation is not for apportioning blame, but just trying to establish the cause of the accident to prevent similar occurrences. The Annex 13 describes qualified people who constitute the team and what it should look out for. The tool to be used during the investigation is also very important. That is, a flight data recorder.

Every aircraft has a flight data recorder somewhere at the tail that records the speed, altitude and other flight parameters to ascertain exceedances or otherwise. It also has the voice recorder to listen out on crew conversations to determine whether check list were well read and complied with. How to conduct interviews with the witnesses and crew involved are all activities in the convention that can come up with probable cause and suggest – via journals and other aviation related media – possible training and ways to avoid a similar occurrence in future.

This is very educative! May we share more insight on the business side of aviation!

The Chicago Convention also made an impact on the business side of aviation. On the business side, Nine Freedoms of the Air was discussed at the convention. The countries referred to themselves as member-states.

The first freedom is the right of a member-state to grant another member-state the right to overfly her territory on the way to another territory without landing.

The second freedom is where a member-state grants another member-state the right to land in her state for non-revenue purposes, such as for refuelling, maintenance or for emergency.

The third freedom is where member-state grants another member-state the right to fly from her country to the member-states’ country. For example, Ghana granting British Airways the right to fly passengers from her home state (U.K.) to Ghana. The third freedom always has an addition of the fourth freedom – that is from foreign back to home.

The fifth freedom sounds a bit controversial, owing to aeropolitics. Sometimes, a country can grant another country the right to fly from her home country to a foreign country and then to another foreign country. For example, if Africa World Airlines from Ghana can fly passengers from Accra to Monrovia, drop and pick passengers from Monrovia to Sierra Leone. In practice, over the last two decades, Ghana has granted Kenya Airways that right. It is also a freedom which is mostly enviably guarded to prevent other member-states from taking undue advantages.

The sixth freedom is very common. That is the right to fly passengers from one foreign country to another, provided that airline goes through its home country. For example, I want to fly from Accra to USA using KLM. KLM is taking me from Accra to Chicago but makes a stopover in its home country (Amsterdam). KLM and other foreign airlines depart from Ghana to other foreign countries through theirs. Classic examples are Turkish airlines, British Airways, Emirates, to mention just a few.

The seventh freedom grants the right to fly passengers from a foreign country to another foreign country, but there is no connection to your home country. For example, British Airways from UK will base in Ghana, originate from Accra and fly passengers from Accra to maybe Banjul, the Gambia. These two countries have no connection with their home country.

The eighth freedom is, you are still a foreign country but you are flying passengers to two points within a foreign country. For example, Africa World Airlines – based in Ghana – flies passengers from Lagos to Abuja, and comes back to Accra.

The ninth freedom also flies passengers to two points within a foreign country, but not connected to the home country.

With time, bilateral agreements were made between member-states and an era of deregulation was introduced in the USA in 1978 (more on that later).

  1. Wow, I am mesmerised! Air transport is one of the safest. How has the enforcement of the laws contributed to this? Your last thoughts.
  2. Member-states agreed that the mother law body is the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). It is the world’s well-structured body with the headquarters in Montreal-Canada, which oversees the activities in terms of safety and business of all civil aviation member-states in the world. The question is, how does it know that all civil aviation – member-states – in the world are complying with the Chicago Conventions and other regulations? It came up with a document called Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP). This document is used to determine how the member-states oversee airlines, training schools, maintenance organisations, air traffic services, emergency services, and all allied stakeholders. Sometimes, the audit takes about 5 days, and findings/observations are thoroughly debriefed while corrections, if any, are effected. Member-states also have a checklist where they go to airlines or aviation training organisations to ensure compliance.

When a negative finding comes up, suspension of activities of that particular organisation in question is enforced depending on the gravity of the finding and its imminent negative effect to safety.

Observation too comes to the fore as part of the checklist though it is not considered as non-compliance.

The International Air transport Association (IATA), as the union for all airlines, does so many activities. They provide syllabi, training courses, set examination questions, award certificates, and does economic research to satisfy the interest of all airline members. About 96 percent of airlines are in union with IATA.

In the past 20 years, it decided to set up another unit among the union called IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). This audit is to primarily access the safety and quality control systems of its member airlines to assure compliance. Just like any audit checklists, findings are appropriately addressed and documented.

Last, but not least, is Safety Management System, an airline maintenance organisation. Air traffic, training schools, and stakeholders of civil aviation are supposed to have an extra department called the Safety Management Department. Such a department also has quality management working together.

Safety Management Department ensures that control systems are ensuring compliance. One way of doing that is creating a system where we identify hazards that may occur, and coming up with proactive programmes to mitigate the hazards to acceptable level. That has continually made the industry very safe, making the players be on their toes to avoid unnecessary failures.

Stay tuned, our next features will walk us through the technological breakthroughs that added flavour to commercial aviation. Adieus!

Leave a Reply