International pilot organizations condemn Peruvian attack on unarmed civilian aircraft

April 24, 2001

The International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) has condemned the military shoot-down of an unarmed civilian aircraft in Peru.

"Nothing justifies a no-questions-asked destruction of civilian aircraft," said Phil Boyer, IAOPA president and president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. "We would have thought the nations of the world would have learned an important lesson from the downing of Korean Air Lines 007 in 1984.

"This aircraft, carrying an American missionary and his family, was clearly unarmed and no immediate threat to Peruvian interests. It appears that the Peruvian fighter pilot did not fully comply with the standard International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) intercept and identification procedures prior to shooting down the aircraft."

The Peruvian fighter jet attacked the aircraft, owned by the U.S.-based Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, on Friday (April 20), one hour after a U.S. surveillance plane said it might be a flight ferrying illegal drugs.

However, U.S. officials said the surveillance crew had urged Peruvian authorities to take further measures to identify the suspect aircraft and force it to land peacefully.

In 1994, AOPA had opposed a U.S. plan to furnish radar tracking and targeting information to South American governments intending to intercept and shoot down drug smugglers.

At that time, AOPA said, "Deadly force against civilian aircraft is irresponsible and fundamentally wrong." It warned that it would be much too easy to misidentify an innocent civilian and asked, "How can anyone feel assured that a Cessna carrying members of Congress on an overseas fact-finding mission could never be mistaken for an identical Cessna full of drug smugglers?"

AOPA also fought a long campaign in the late 1980s and one again in 1998 to defeat proposed legislation authorizing the U.S. Customs Service and other agencies to shoot down or force down civilian aircraft flying under suspicious circumstances toward a U.S. border.

Boyer noted that following the KAL 007 disaster, ICAO had unanimously adopted modifications to Article 3 to the Convention of Civil Aviation stating that "every State must refrain from resorting to the use of weapons against civil aircraft in flight."

Boyer said, "We call upon ICAO and every world nation to renew their commitment to not use force against civil aircraft. There are more civilized, yet effective, measures available to bring alleged violators to justice." (Aircraft interception procedures are listed in the FAA Aeronautical Information Manual(AIM). Interception signals are also listed in the FAA AIM.)

The International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations comprises 56 national AOPA-type organizations worldwide with a total membership of more than 400,000 aviators.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association was founded in 1939 to protect the interests of general aviation (non-airline, non-military aviation). General aviation comprises 92 percent of all aircraft flown in the United States—some 206,000 aircraft flown by more than 600,000 pilots. More than one half of all U.S. pilots belong to the 370,000-member AOPA.

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