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Dec 8, 2017

Anniversary and New Offices for Civil Aviation Department

The Government of Belize and COCESNA have invested roughly thirteen million dollars for better management and security for the airspaces within Belize. Today the Department of Civil Aviation officially opened the Approach Control Center at the Phillip Goldson International Airport.  The state-of-the-art equipment features an upgraded radar head, which provides information on aircrafts flying over Belize and help them to land. Andrea Polanco shares more about the modern air traffic control facility.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Department of Civil Aviation inaugurated this second floor of its headquarters – it is where the heart of its air traffic operation is located– the radar control center – an upgraded, state of the art system to manage better our airspace. This room is the area control center –responsible for controlling aircraft en route between airport approaches and departures. It is fitted with hi-tech pieces of automated equipment; simulators; and these screens that show aircraft information – to be used by air traffic controllers to help flights to land safely. Marsha Hinkson says that before a flight is within Belize’s airspace they coordinate with Merida – as their adjacent unit in the direction of U.S.A – and a flight plan is filed before departures.


Marsha Hinkson

Marsha Hinkson, Chief Air Traffic Controll Officer, Civil Aviation Department

“Once the air controller gets the information, they would input some information in our system so that it would correlate to what is given to us. So, then when that aircraft is presented on the radar screen, when it comes within the range, it would then have the details of that flight with it. When it is in contact with Belize then, when it is transferred from Merida to Belize, the controller will then accept control of it and be given descent and if necessary speed restrictions for the air-craft and later when it gets closer, he would be doing what is called vectoring – giving the aircraft specific degrees to turn in order to bring him in line with the run-way so that he could execute a safe landing.”


Nineteen air-traffic controllers help to provide this essential service – and this multi-million dollar upgraded system makes their jobs easier – but more importantly, it helps to get air travelers to and from destinations safely. And with Belize having the busiest airspace in Central America, these upgrades are critical.


Lindsay Garbutt

Lindsay Garbutt, Director, Civil Aviation

“About eleven million went into all the equipment you see and another million and a half in terms of the infrastructure. We wanted to be sure that we have all the latest and best technology and first world air navigation equipment.  Belize has the busiest airspace in Central America. Let me explain, we do not get the most international flights – that is Costa Rica and El Salvador. But, we have so many, more than one hundred and thirteen thousand flights a year which means we are the busiest airspace. Tourism depends so much on Tropic and Maya and other local airlines, so it is a significant work to try to manage it so these equipment help us to do that.   Now that we have first class air-traffic controllers and now that we have first class equipment means safe airspace.”


But while thousands of flights depend on this system and the services of the air traffic controllers – aircrafts that do not want to be detected can elude this high-tech radar system and go undetected within Belize’s airspaces.


Marsha Hinkson

“The aircraft need to be equipped with what we call a transponder. It is a secondary surveillance radar, therefore, it has to have that equipment on board and apart from that they would need to turn on the equipment. If they do not turn on the equipment they would not be detected by the radar. So, we will be able to pickup aircraft which are firstly equipped and secondly the equipment is turned on.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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