AOPA's staff, led by Senior Vice President Andy Cebula and General Counsel John Yodice, today met with Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and chief of staff John Van Fossen in an early morning meeting. Rep. Hoekstra has taken a lead on ensuring that the Bush administration establishes safeguards to protect civilian aircraft from future shootdowns. The congressman authored a provision in the most recent foreign appropriations act (P.L. 107-115) withholding funds supporting the U.S./Peruvian air interdiction program until new procedures are put into place. On April 20, 2001, the Peruvian Air Force fired on a plane mistakenly identified as a drug carrier piloted by Kevin Donaldson and carrying the Bowers family, a tragedy anticipated by AOPA President Phil Boyer in his 1994 letter to Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gelbard." AOPA fully supports Representative Hoekstra's leadership on this sensitive issue and his efforts to hold the U.S. agencies involved in the tragic incident accountable for their actions," remarked Phil Boyer. "It's vital that innocent civilian pilots not be subjected to the use of deadly force and that all means to prevent another such occurrence are employed," Boyer said.
AOPA's meeting occurs in the midst of Rep. Hoekstra's efforts to secure measures preventing a reoccurrence. The congressman is awaiting a second study by Morris D. Busby, a former American ambassador to Columbia, which is currently being reviewed by the administration—it is expected to make its way to Capitol Hill within the next couple of months. Until then, Hoekstra's staff reserves judgment on further actions by the congressman and believes the withholding of funds for the U.S./Peruvian interdiction program to be an effective means of monitoring the situation. AOPA member and pilot Rep. Peterson (D-Minn.) introduced a bill in May 2001 that would eliminate authority for employees and agents of the U.S. government to assist foreign countries in interdiction of aircraft suspected of drug-related operations.