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There seems to be a lot of confusion about the role of ICAO in aviation regulations. Maybe this is largely caused by a large portion of the community being from the US? Although the US is an ICAO member state, the FAA tends to prefer making their own rules, rather than adopting ICAO Standards and Recommended Practises.

I thought I might clear up some confusion by simply quoting the Wikipedia page (emphasis mine):

Standards And Recommended Practices (SARPs) are technical specifications adopted by the Council of ICAO in accordance with Article 37 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation in order to achieve "the highest practicable degree of uniformity in regulations, standards, procedures and organization in relation to aircraft, personnel, airways and auxiliary services in all matters in which such uniformity will facilitate and improve air navigation".

SARPs are published by ICAO in the form of Annexes to Chicago Convention. SARPs do not have the same legal binding force as the Convention itself, because Annexes are not international treaties. Moreover States agreed to "undertake to collaborate in securing (...) uniformity", not to "comply with". Each Contracting State may notify the ICAO Council of differences between SARPs and its own regulations and practices. Those differences are published in the form of Supplements to Annexes.

A Standard is defined by ICAO as "any specification for physical characteristics, configuration, material, performance, personnel or procedure, the uniform application of which is recognized as necessary for the safety or regularity of international air navigation and to which Contracting States will conform in accordance with the Convention".

A Recommended Practice is defined by ICAO as "any specification for physical characteristics, configuration, material, performance, personnel or procedure, the uniform application of which is recognized as desirable in the interest of safety, regularity or efficiency of international air navigation and to which Contracting States will endeavour to conform in accordance with the Convention".

A common misunderstanding seems to be that anything contained in the ICAO annexes are simply recommendations that countries can pick and choose from as they so desire. However, ICAO states are actually expected to follow the Standards and Recommended Practises, and will publish a list of differences between national regulations and ICAO SARPs. Even the US has such a list (it is remarkably long, too).

I suggest the following:

Instead of phrasing questions and answers like ICAO SARPs are less "correct" or "important" than, say, FAA regulations, I recommend that we realise, that the ICAO SARPs do in fact form the background for most aviation regulations in the world - even if the SARPs themselves are not legally binding.

I also suggest that the weird tag is replaced by the tag - or just use the simple tag. If a question is specifically about ICAO Recommended Practises, the tag could still be used - but in that case we need a separate tag as well.

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    $\begingroup$ The "icao" tag is intended for questions about ICAO (like the FAA tag is about the FAA and not about their regulations), so I would keep that one the same. Maybe we need to rename "icao-recommendations" to "icao-standards", but I don't think that "icao-sarps" is as usable as the others to people who aren't already familiar with icao. As far as phrasing questions, they are asked by people who may not be as familiar with ICAO as you are (myself included) so feel free to suggest edits when you see something wrong! $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Jul 21 '16 at 21:18
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I like the idea of having an tag. We could then have the and tags as a synonyms for so that people unfamiliar with this term would still be using the right tag.

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Instead of phrasing questions and answers like ICAO SARPs are less "correct" or "important" than, say, FAA regulations, I recommend that we realise, that the ICAO SARPs do in fact form the background for most aviation regulations in the world - even if the SARPs themselves are not legally binding.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what you're getting at here. If a question asks specifically about what the ICAO SARPs say about a particular matter, then an answer based on the ICAO SARPs is correct. However, if the question were to ask about a particular matter in a given place, then a correct answer should be based on the civil aviation regulations of that place (whether those be FAA, EASA, etc.) and an answer based on the ICAO SARPs would not necessarily be correct and is definitely not authoritative.

In the case of questions about a matter in a particular place, ICAO SARPs are indeed 'less correct.' Whether the relevant civil aviation regulations agree with the ICAO SARPs or not is more or less irrelevant to the answer of such a question, as the local regulations are authoritative regardless of whether or not they agree with ICAO on that matter. Should the relevant local regulations be difficult to locate, I suppose an answer could be written based on ICAO SARPs, but such an answer should definitely include a disclaimer that it might not be correct in the case that the local regulations don't match the ICAO SARPs. However, I think trying harder to find the relevant local regulations before writing an answer would be a better course of action.

If a question doesn't specify whether it's asking about ICAO SARPs or the actual situation in a given region, then clarification should be requested in the comments and, once clarified, edited into the question (and retag, as applicable.) Closing as 'too broad' until such clarification is made might also be appropriate in some cases.


Regarding the tags, I don't really see much of a problem with , as all ICAO SARPs are, in effect, recommendations for policies that member countries should enact. However, making be a synonym for it seems reasonable to me. I don't see any reason for these to be separate tags.

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    $\begingroup$ I see many answers which seem to assume by default that, if a specific country or governing body is not specified in the question, it must be about USA/FAA procedures. I think this is a shame, because it ends up looking like the answer applies to all countries when, in fact, that is far from the truth. In such a case, it would be better to ask for clarification before answering the question $\endgroup$ – J. Hougaard Aug 4 '16 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ @J.Hougaard Yes, I agree that asking for clarification would generally be the correct course of action in that case. The exception might be if you can tell the OP's location in some other way, such as their profile, in which case writing an answer for that location is generally acceptable. However, even in that case, posting an additional comment on the question asking to confirm the location and explicitly stating your assumption of location in the answer are still good ideas. $\endgroup$ – reirab Aug 4 '16 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ @J.Hougaard It's also probably worth pointing out that most of the people on Aviation.SE are pilots, engineers, controllers, mechanics, and/or otherwise involved directly in aviation. While ICAO SARPs are academically interesting, the matters of practical importance to those involved in aviation are those of the local regulations. This is probably why there are several hundred questions tagged with faa-regulations or easa-regulations, but only a couple dozen with icao-recommendations or icao-sarps. $\endgroup$ – reirab Aug 4 '16 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ @J.Hougaard We have gotten better about asking for clarification and even closing questions when someone doesn't specify the regulations, and it is a regulation oriented question. There are still some individual users who jump in and place an answer "that would apply if you are asking about FAA rules." I think that we should discourage that practice by downvoting the answers which make an assumption so that it doesn't keep happening. (Their heart may be in the right place trying to give something useful, but if they turn out to be wrong it hurts us in the long run.) $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Aug 4 '16 at 20:04

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