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AMSA celebrates International Civil Aviation Day

Sunday 7 December 2014

On 7 December 1944, delegates from 54 nations gathered in the Grand Ballroom of the Stevens Hotel in Chicago at the invitation of the USA. Australia was one of the inaugural participants.

AMSA's aviation search and rescue officers on shift on 8 December 2014

The participants concluded and signed the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also more popularly known as the ‘Chicago Convention’, the defining international agreement which has since permitted the global civil aviation system to develop peacefully and in a manner benefitting all peoples and nations of the world. This convention also established the United Nations agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which serves as the forum for international cooperation in all fields of civil aviation.

Today the Chicago Convention has 191 signatories.

So what has this got to do with AMSA, a maritime authority?

The convention is supported by 19 annexes applicable to the operation of the international civil aviation system. Annex 12 sets out the international standards and recommended practices for the global aeronautical search and rescue (SAR) service. The Federal Government has delegated Australia’s responsibilities for Annex 12 to AMSA.

In 1997, the Australian civil aviation SAR service function was transferred from Airservices Australia to AMSA, creating for the first time in Australia a joint aviation and maritime SAR service coordinated from a single location. This aligns with the joint ICAO and International Maritime Organization (IMO) goal of encouraging harmonisation of aeronautical and maritime SAR services globally.

As Australia’s aviation SAR service provider, AMSA provides this service to the civil aviation community through AMSA Search and Rescue in Canberra, which also provides Australia’s international maritime SAR service under similar maritime conventions.

The designated Australian SAR Region, as agreed through ICAO and IMO, covers more than 10 per cent of the world’s surface. AMSA Search and Rescue has coordinated thousands of aviation and maritime SAR incidents within this area, and provided SAR assistance on many occasions to neighbouring countries, since AMSA took on this function in 1997.

AMSA has increased its engagement on ICAO SAR matters in recent years including:

  • ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group on the Harmonisation of Aeronautical and Maritime SAR - this forum guides global aeronautical and maritime technical SAR guidance and coordinates content for the ICAO/IMO International Aeronautical and Maritime SAR Manual (IAMSAR). AMSA is one of eight aviation SAR expert members
  • ICAO Asia/Pacific SAR Task Force – this forum is developing a regional SAR plan to address deficiencies in the Asia/Pacific SAR system (expected delivery mid-2015). AMSA Chairs this group
  • ICAO Asia/Pacific Air Navigation Planning and Implementation Regional Group (APANPIRG) Air Traffic Management (ATM) Sub-Group – this forum facilitates continuous and coherent development and implementation of, and addressing of deficiencies identified with, the Asia/Pacific Regional Air Navigation Plan which includes aviation SAR services. AMSA participates as part of the Australian delegation to this group. AMSA has been actively influential during the past few years with elevating and addressing regional SAR system concerns within ICAO.
  • ICAO Multi-disciplinary Meeting regarding Global Tracking, May 2014 – this extraordinary meeting was called by ICAO in response to global concerns regarding the ability to track flights worldwide following the Malaysia Airlines MH370 tragedy. AMSA attended as part of the Australian delegation and influenced the meeting agreeing to the need for action to also address related global SAR system issues
  • ICAO Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) - in June 2014 ICAO invited AMSA to provide SAR expertise to the development of a concept of operations for a global flight tracking system. An AMSA officer worked with this group which delivered a high-level concept document for a new GADSS system to ICAO’s Air Navigation Commission in September 2014. SAR forms a significant part of the GADSS concept which will be presented to the world aviation community in February 2015 at ICAO’s High-level Safety Conference, Montreal
  • AMSA SAR Expert Secondment to ICAO – one of the issues raised during the May 2014 ICAO Global Tracking meeting was the need for ICAO to increase its resources allocated to SAR matters in order to improve the global effectiveness of the SAR system across national and regional boundaries. With the support of the Australian Prime Minister, AMSA and the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development are funding a two-year secondment of one of AMSA’s Search and Rescue Chiefs to Montreal to assist ICAO in this regard as an ICAO SAR Technical Expert.