My grandfather, Col. C. J. Tippett, was the Director of the South American Office of the International Civil Aviation Organization from 1948 to 1960… but what is ICAO?
One of the many historically significant things that happened after two atomic bombs ended the Pacific part of World War II was the formation of the United Nations. Two wars had involved enough nations to be named “world wars” and many people felt it was time for some kind of “world government.” Or at least oversight.
One of the first concerns of the United Nations was regulating nuclear science, since it clearly had already been weaponized. Their next concern was aviation, since the atomic weapons had been dropped from an airplane. Military aviation was not on the UN table, every victorious post-war country made that very clear, but civil aviation was under discussion.
The ready availability of war surplus aircraft was making it possible for almost every country with an organized government to stock up and form commercial airline companies, which were starting to fly all over the world…
And into each other.
So on April 4, 1947, the United Nations formed the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to “promote the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation throughout the world.”
The organization was headquartered in Montreal, Canada, but all of the plans would be implemented through four regional offices. There would be an office in Paris, Bangkok, Cairo, and Lima. Each office would have a director, and this is where Colonel C. J. Tippett came in.
The Director of the South American office, in Lima, Peru would be responsible for civil aviation policy in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, British and French Guyana, and Surinam.
The United States was only a member nation of the UN, and not officially in a leadership role. But when it came to influencing South America, there was powerful concern in North America, and the US State Department knew exactly who they wanted in charge of the Lima office.
Tip had already been working extensively in Argentina and Brazil. He was well known, and well liked, by many highly-placed people in South American governments, and had ties to so many Washington offices that it was hard to figure out which one was in charge of him on any given assignment. Tip was the only American offered an ICAO directorship, and the rest is history… described in his own words, and in mine, in the book.
He met fascinating people and did amazing things – too many to tell here, but one of his most significant early accomplishments was establishing English as the language of air navigation and communication throughout his region, even before it was adopted as the worldwide official language of civil aviation.
Safety was Tip’s top priority throughout his aviation life, and in his experience, there was no time to reach for a dictionary for a translation of… “Clear the runway, I’m coming in hot!”