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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Press Releases (Other) > 2001 > June
Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 29, 2001


State Department Aviation Program Wins Federal Award

On June 26, the Aviation Program of the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) received the first Federal Aviation Program Award, presented by the U.S. General Services Administration for outstanding achievements in aviation management in calendar year 2000. The INL aviation team operates helicopters and airplanes in Central and South America to support host nations in the eradication of illegal drug crops and/or the detection, monitoring, and interdiction of drug trafficking.

INL’s Aviation Program, which is based at Patrick Air Force Base in Melbourne, Florida, has assisted governments in the Western Hemisphere to eradicate illicit opium and coca crops since 1988. Over the past two years, with the implementation of the Colombian government’s "Plan Colombia," the pace of aerial eradication missions has accelerated considerably; nearly 100,000 hectares of illicit coca and poppy crops in Colombia have been sprayed with INL aviation support since January 2000.

These spray operations take place over Colombian territory often controlled by heavily armed insurgents or paramilitaries, who "tax" coca cultivation in exchange for providing protection to plantations. Last year, over 60 INL aircraft were struck by ground-fire while on spray missions, though none were shot down. "These pilots and mechanics are patriots in every sense of the word," said Aviation Program office director John McLaughlin. "They risk life and limb every day to keep drugs out of the international market."

The Federal Aviation Program Award honors the safest, most efficient and effective Federal Aviation operations. A panel of independent aviation experts evaluated the 12 civilian aviation programs in the Federal government for overall excellence and innovative achievement during calendar year 2000. Judges looked for nominees that excelled in all elements of a flight program: management and administration, operations, maintenance, training and safety. The award is sponsored by the Aircraft Management Policy office in GSA’s Office of Transportation and Personnel Property, Office of Governmentwide Policy. The Aircraft Management Policy office develops policy related to the acquisition, use, and disposal of aircraft owned and/or operated by Federal aviation agencies.


Released on June 29, 2001

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