The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Association was constituted in Amsterdam on 19th and 20th October 1961, as a result of the efforts of a group of air traffic controllers to federate and further the interests of the air traffic control profession at the international level.

In 1959, the Swiss Association suggested to explore the possibilities of world wide federation o Air Traffic Controllers. The meeting was held in Frankfurt, Federal Republic of Germany. Plans were made to draft a constitution for a European Federation only: the European Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (EFATCA). A working group prepared a draft constitution, which was ratified by 12 Founder Member Associations: Austria, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany (F.R.), Netherlands, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Ireland and Switzerland. During the Constitutional Conference, held in Amsterdam in 1961, the IFALPA reprentative suggested to expand the Federation’s reach and to replace ‘European’ by ‘International’ – EFATCA thus became IFATCA. Its main aim was the furtherance of safe and efficient air navigation and the protection of their common professional interests.

The first Officers elected to the Executive Board, at the time called “Board of Officers”, were:

President: L. N. Tekstra (The Netherlands)
1st Vice-President: M. Cerf (France)
2nd Vice-President: R. Sadet (Belgium)
Honorary Secretary: H. W. Thau (Germany)
Treasurer: H. Thrane (Denmark)
Editor: W.H. Endlich (Germany)

The UK Guild of ATCOs joined IFATCA at the first annual conference in 1962 and immediately assumed responsibility for Standing Committee I (SCI) – Technical Matters in ATC. Arnold Field was the first Chairman and remained so until 1970 when he was elected third President of the Federation. It was largely through the work of this Committee that IFATCA established its reputation in international civil aviation.

Group photo during the Constitutional Conference in Amsterdam, October 1961
The ICAO Assembly Hall in the 1960s

Just prior to its 1963 annual conference, IFATCA received its first invitation from ICAO. IFATCA attended the RAC/OPS Divisional Meeting as an observer. Despite having only 4 months to prepare, Field and his Committee submitted 6 lengthy working papers. Key among these were ‘Control of Flights in VMC’, ‘Cruising Level Systems’ and ‘ATS Personnel Responsibilities’. The first paper proposed extension of air traffic control to aircraft flying VMC in controlled airspace and the latter represented a move for clear ICAO guidelines to controllers to take into account terrain clearance when radar vectoring aircraft. ICAO accepted the IFATCA position outlined in the various papers and ‘granted’ ‘Extended Control’ as requested, instituted the table of hemispherical cruising levels and defined air traffic controllers’ terrain clearance responsibilities. This collective acceptance represented an outstanding achievement for such a young organisation and was reflective of the high quality input from the individual professionals. Subsequently, IFATCA was asked to assist in the preparation of the primary control procedures in ICAO’s PANS/RAC document. When ICAO released its draft procedures mid 1964, substantive contribution had been made by only 5 States (France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the USA) and 1 international organisation – IFATCA! The Federation’s contribution to the final draft in 1966 formed the basis for the standards and procedures in use to this day.

By 1970, the membership of the Federation had grown to 26 Associations. Only six of those were from countries outside Europe, that year saw the Federation’s first annual conference organised outside Europe: Montréal, Canada. By the end of the conference, IFATCA’s membership had grown to 33 Member Associations, representing some 12,000 air traffic controllers.

Over the next decades, membership kept growing to total some 130 associations from all continents and over 50,000 air traffic controllers. For nearly 60 years, IFATCA has been the professional voice of the world’s air traffic controllers.

 

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