Echoes from the Past

Revisiting a Seminal Moment in Aviation History

Nearly 700 representatives from 54 nations gather on Nov. 1, 1944, at the Stevens Hotel in Chicago, Ill., to attend the International Civil Aviation Conference.

The location of this year’s annual Air Safety Forum couldn’t have been more fitting, given the Association’s strong connection to Chicago, Ill., and the role the city played in the union’s founding and early history. This year’s forum attendees met at the Hilton Chicago, formerly the Stevens Hotel, where—eight decades prior—a different group of aviation stakeholders met to sign an agreement that outlined a framework for international air commerce.

On Nov. 1, 1944, approximately 700 representatives from 54 nations assembled at the then Stevens Hotel to attend the International Civil Aviation Conference. Over a five-week period, attendees hammered out an agreement and on Dec. 7, 1944, signed the Convention on International Civil Aviation, more commonly known as the “Chicago Convention.”

A plaque located outside the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Chicago commemorates the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

This landmark agreement would in fact set the stage for the development of modern air commerce, outlining the “Five Freedoms of the Air,” which permit nations to enter and land in another nation’s airspace and establishing what would eventually become the International Civil Aviation Organization as an agency of the United Nations. Nearly 79 years later, as contemporary air safety advocates recently gathered in that very same ballroom to discuss the future of air travel, it’s only natural to contemplate how far aviation has progressed in that time and what challenges still lie ahead.

Capt. Jason Ambrosi, ALPA’s president, addresses those gathered for this year’s Air Safety Forum, which was held at the Chicago Hilton, formerly the Stevens Hotel.

This article was originally published in the October 2023 issue of Air Line Pilot.

Read the latest Air Line Pilot (PDF)