So you think you want to be an international pilot for a career, and you’ve heard people talking about ICAO, but don’t really know what that is? It is useful to know about this organization and what they do if international aviation is in your future. International Civil Aviation Organization (or ICAO), is an agency of the United Nations, which codifies the techniques of international air navigation and principles and fosters international air transport to ensure orderly industry growth and safety.
The ICAO Council recommends practices and adopts standards on air navigation, border-crossing for international civil aviation and prevention of unlawful interference. It also defines the protocols for air accident investigation. Its headquarters are in Montreal, Canada. ICAO has seven regional offices serving nine regions: Asia and Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand; Middle East in Cairo, Egypt; Western and Central Africa in Dakar, Senegal; South America in Lima, Peru; North America, Central America and the Carribean in Mexico City, Mexico; Estern and South Africa in Nairobi, Kenya and Europe and North Atlantic in Paris, France.
Both ICAO and IATA (see below) have their own airport and airline code systems. ICAO uses 4-letter airport codes and 3-letter airline codes. In the US, the ICAO codes are the same as the IATA code, with a prefix of “K.” For example Los Angeles International Airport is “KLAX” (ICAO) or “LAX” (IATA). Internationally though, it’s a little different. For example, ICAO code for Charles de Gaulle International Airport in France is LFPG and the IATA code is CDG. Airline designers are usually similar to the aircraft company name. For example, the identifier for Japan Airlines International is JAL and for Aer Lingus it is EIN. Thus a flight by Aer Lingus, flight 111, would be written as EIN111 and Japan Airlines flight 111 would be written JAL111.
There are other aviation associations that are not part of ICAO, such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade organization or airlines that is also headquartered in Montreal. There is also the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO) and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSP) with its headquartrs Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands.