Alphabet Soup of the Air: the Agencies Which Regulate Aviation


Next year marks the 120th anniversary of the Wright brothers‘ historic flight, the first true powered flight in history. During that time, aeronautical technology and engineering have advanced at such a speed that those pioneers would be amazed to see how airplanes are today the world’s safest means of transport. But who looks after that flight safety as well as environmental protection, currently the two pillars of global aviation? Here’s an introduction to the primary agencies which fulfill that role:



International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)

Established by the Chicago Convention on Civil Aviation (produced by the 1944 convention of the same name and since updated eight times, most recently in 2006), the ICAO operates as an agency of the United Nations. Its principal objectives are aimed at aviation security, efficiency, and more recently environmental sustainability. It’Financed by 193 member countries, it promulgates and enforce worldwide rules and standards for air transport as well as coordinates coordinate these standards and rules in countries across the globe.

International Aeronautical Federation (IAF)

Based in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IAF is devoted to the creation, maintenance, and monitoring of rules and registries relating to air sports such as ballooning, paragliding, model-aircraft flying, and drone flying, as well as definitions regarding human space flight.



European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)

Operating under the aegis of the European Union, EASA’s main mission is to issue and unify air navigation and safety standards, as well as protect the envirnoment with regard to aviation within EU airspace. Although member countries of course each are responsible for licences, certification, and training with regard to non-military aviation, this agency takes responsibility for the rules each country implements in its respective territory. Its key functions include:

  • Certification and approval of everything relating to air navigation within EU airspace.
  • Provision of support as well as supervision to member countries which also fulfill these functions within their national airspaces.
  • Promotion of the use of European as well as international standards with regard to aviation.
  • Development of norms and rules relating to its area of jurisdiction.
  • Coordination and cooperation with other international bodies, always with an eye toward maximum European aviation safety.

Spain’s State Air Security Agency (AESA)

Within our own country, this agency is part of the Dirección General de Aviación Civil, which is itself part of the Ministry of Transportation, Mobility, and Urban Agenda. Its functions include:

  • Supervising, inspecting, regulating, and enforcing rules for everything that has to do with air transport, navigation, and safety (including airport safety).
  • Sanctioning companies and individuals who break these rules.
  • Licencing and certifying all Spanish aircraft and airports, as well as being in charge of training and certifying air-sector employees including flight crews and airport personnel including air-traffic controllers.
  • Inculcating awareness and a culture of safety at each level of the aeronautics sector.
  • Promoting sustainability and environmental protection in Spanish aviation, such as the use of biocombustible and hydrogen fuels as well as other best practices.

The USA’s Federal Aviation Administration  (FAA)

Part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, this agency has jurisdiction over all aspects of aircraft navigation and airport operation within this country. It also coordinates with other international aviation agencies, and its behavior has a good deal of de facto influence over those of other countries whose airlines operate service to and from the United States.

Latin American Civilian Aviation Commission (LACAC)

Based in Lima, Peru, the Comisión Latinoamericana de Aviación Civil covers 22 countries in Central America, South America, and to an extent the Caribbean. Its remit is to provide the aviation authorities of its member states a framework within which to discuss and plan all the required measures for cooperation and coordination of all their aviation regulation, as well as coordinate with other international bodies.