Courtesy Reuters

The Chicago Air Conference

Accomplishments and Unfinished Business

THE representatives of 54 nations -- all the world except the enemy states and the Argentine Republic, which were not invited, the Soviet Union, which did not attend, and Saudi Arabia, which did not accept -- gathered in the Stevens Hotel in Chicago on November 1 last. When they dispersed on December 7 some of the problems of international flying were well advanced toward solution, others were more clearly defined than they had been previously, and the difficulties still lying in the way of complete solution had become better understood. The Conference also had two other achievements to its credit: it had increased our store of experience with attempts at international organization and it had revealed some limitations of such attempts in the present mood of national governments.

It is pleasantest to speak first of the accomplishments. There were several. The most important, in its effect upon the legal status of international air transportation, came by surprise within a few days of the end of the Conference. The transit agreement, colloquially known as the "two-freedoms agreement," was formally proposed by the senior Dutch representative -- a very appropriate sponsor, in view of the unremitting struggle of the Netherlands for greater freedom in the air for more than 20 years past -- and was vigorously supported by the French delegates. It was introduced after a dramatic plea made by Mayor La Guardia and following a statement by Lord Swinton that the United Kingdom would view a transit agreement with sympathy. The agreement was thereupon made a conference document, open to separate signature then or later. By February 20 it had been signed by 33 nations. The number included all the great colonial empires with the exception of the Portuguese, and all the other leading aeronautical states and all states covering large enough territories to make the right of flying over them a matter of practical importance with the exception of Australia, China, Brazil and the Soviet Union. The signatures have been attached ad referendum and most have not

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