Thomas Howes (born
July 4, 1953) is an American Northrop Grummanemployee who was captured by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia(FARC) and was held hostage from February 13, 2003to July 2, 2008. [citenews |title=Ex-captive: U.S. hostages could die in rescue |url=http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-05-19-pinchao_N.htm |work=USA Today |date=2007-05-19 ] He was rescued in Operation Jaque, along with the two other American contractors, Ingrid Betancourt, and eleven Colombian security personnel. [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,375481,00.html]
He was rescued by the Colombian national government on July 2, 2008 in a dramatic ruse.
Mission in Colombia
Thomas Howes was part of a team of a dozen or so pilots and technicians overseen by the U.S. Southern Command. Their operation was dubbed
Southcom Reconnaissance System, and Northrop Grumman held the $8.6 million contract for the work.
As the program became increasingly successful, several former pilots and others familiar with the program said civilian managers pushed flight crews farther over the jungles, often at night and sometimes 300 miles from their base.
Their mission expanded, too, from locating targets in the illegal drug trade chosen by the American Embassy to keeping a look out for leftist guerrillas, including those of FARC.
By 2002, pilots began to worry about what they perceived to be the lack of power and speed of their planes - the single-engine
Cessna Caravan- for a country as big and mountainous as Colombia.
Two pilots, Paul C. Hooper and Douglas C. Cockes, wrote letters in November and December 2002 to Northrop Grumman warning that flying single-engine planes was a recipe for disaster. The letters suggested that the Cessnas be replaced with twin-engine Beechcraft King Air 300s.
The planes were not replaced, and the two pilots resigned. After the two crashes, which temporarily halted the program, Northrop Grumman resumed the operation under a different name, the
Colombia Surveillance System, using twin-engine planes.
After the first crash, the program was transferred to a newly created company,
CIAO Inc.. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9907E3DE1F3AF937A25751C0A9629C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=3]
Marc Gonsalves, and Keith Stansellwere on a drug surveillance mission in Colombia's cocaine-producing southern jungle when their single engine Cessna plane crashed on February 13, 2003 on the territory controlled by FARC. The American pilot, Tom Janis, and a Colombian military intelligence officer were led out by FARC gunmen and shot. The three surviving Americans, (Gonslaves, Stansell and Howes) were forced to marched with the guerrillas, deeper and deeper into the jungle. After this, the three Americans' exact location was lost by US intelligence. Three different Americans associated with Northrop Grumman made an attempt to find the hostages by air but were all killed when their plane hit a tree. Then Colombian journalist Jorge Botero was allowed to contact them and record a tape to prove that they were alive and well – and ready to be traded for imprisoned members of the FARC being held by the Colombian government.
List of political hostages held by FARC
* [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/10/06/60II/main576739.shtml The Forgotten Hostages] on CBS 60 Minutes II
* [http://www.heldhostageincolombia.com Held Hostage in Colombia] documentary film
* [http://www.americans-held-hostage.com Americans Held Hostage] - web site dedicated to the hostages release.
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