Dr Assad Kotaite died at Hôpital Notre-Dame, Montréal on 27 February 2014, aged 89.

Assad Kotaite, acknowledged as one of international civil aviation’s most prominent and respected figures, was born in Hasbaya, Lebanon, on 6 November 1924. He graduated from the French University of Beirut (1948) and received a Doctor of Law from the University of Paris (1952), continuing his studies at the University’s Institut des hautes études internationales, and the Academy of International Law, The Hague.

His aviation career began as Chief of Legal Services, International Agreements and External Relations, Lebanese Directorate of Civil Aviation (1953-1956). He was a member of the Legal Committee of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the specialised agency of the United Nations for international civil aviation. He served as Representative of Lebanon on the Council of ICAO (1956-1962), then Chief of Administrative Services for the Lebanese Directorate-General of Transport (1963-1964), and subsequently reappointed as Representative on the ICAO Council (1965-1970).

During Dr Kotaite's term as a Representative on the ICAO Council, he served on the Air Transport Committee, Finance Committee and the Working Group on ICAO Financial Regulations. For several years, he was a member of the ICAO Standing Group on Implementation.

In 1970, he was appointed as the fifth Secretary-General of ICAO, remaining in this position until becoming the third President of the Council of ICAO in 1976 in which position he served 11 consecutive mandates. He was also President of the International Court of Aviation and Space since 1995.

Throughout his career, Dr Kotaite drew inspiration from the Preamble to the Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1944 (also known as the Chicago Convention) which provides that international civil aviation can greatly promote and preserve peace, friendship and understanding among ICAO’s Member States and their peoples. The consummate diplomat, Dr Kotaite engaged with heads of state, regulators, associations, industry leaders, and political figures, as a champion of international co-operation and dialogue.

His leadership guided global aviation through increasingly complex, competitive and politically challenging times and especially during some of the most critical episodes of crisis. The consequences of unlawful interference, seizures, military interceptions, disputes and conflicts which could have led to wider global tragedy were often avoided by his influences and interventions. In My Memoirs: 50 Years of International Diplomacy and Conciliation in Aviation, Dr Kotaite detailed many of these events, offering insight into the role of multilateralism in resolving the many technical, political, economic and legal issues which continue to face international civil aviation.

He retired on 31 July 2006, bringing an illustrious 53-year career in public service to a close.

My Memoirs also describes the numerous awards, honours and Honoris Causa degrees which he received from around the world.  Shortly after, Dr Kotaite became the first-ever President Emeritus of the ICAO Council, an honorary designation bestowed upon him by the Organization’s governing body.

After retiring, he established the Assad Kotaite Graduate and Postdoctoral Fellowship. This programme acknowledges the importance of assistance and cooperation in the field of specialised aviation training with the objective of advancing the safety and development of civil aviation by strengthening the capabilities of national civil aviation personnel. All proceeds from My Memoirs go into this fund.

More recently, Dr Kotaite received the 40th Edward Warner Award, the highest honour in the world of civil aviation, in recognition of his eminent contribution to the development of international civil aviation, most notably in the field of diplomacy and conciliation.

His career is celebrated by the Assad Kotaite Lecture of the Royal Aeronautical Society, hosted annually by ICAO, in which prominent international aerospace leaders present on advanced topics.

Donald L Van Dyke
Permanent Representative to ICAO
Royal Aeronautical Society
Chairman, Montreal Branch

8 April 2014