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Apr 20, 2018

The Woes of the Municipal Airstrip

Millions of dollars, as much as seventeen, were spent on the overhaul of the Sir Barry Bowen Municipal Airstrip which was launched with much fanfare in November 2016. But a week ago, which is less than two years since its renovation, the runway had to be closed because it needed repairs. Imer Hernandez was the contractor of the sinking airstrip, but according to a release issued by the Belize Airports Authority, the remedial works were a normal part of the warranty period standard of BAA contracts.  The runway repairs are now completed, but alert pilots are saying the work is shoddy and presents a risk. The BAA reportedly met today to deal with this development. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Belize City Municipal Airstrip was rededicated in November 2016, after extensive works had been undertaken to upgrade the aerodrome.  That project saw the expansion of the runway, as well as an overall improvement of the facility as part of a National Aerodrome Development Strategy.  Upon completion, the airfield was inaugurated and renamed Sir Barry Bowen Municipal Airport in honor of the well-known businessman and aviator.  Today, however, there are serious concerns about the state of the landing strip.  Those issues are being raised by a number of pilots who enter and leave Belize City daily.  Milo Paz has been flying domestically for the past thirty years.

 

On the Phone: Milo Paz, Pilot, Tropic Air

“As you know, I have been flying since 1988 and I have a little bit of experience.  The municipal airstrip, after it was redone and the investment was done, the main runway started to sink just like Caye Caulker, except that this one started to sink just over a year now and it was very, very bad that this weekend they had to close down to do some emergency repairs.”

 

A week ago, the Belize Airports Authority issued a release providing an update on the Caye Caulker Municipal Airstrip.  In that statement, it also informed that as part of a strategic plan to modernize the country’s aerodrome network, the facility in the Old Capital would have been closed for a period of four days.

 

On the Phone: Milo Paz

“Some repairs were done.  The runway is usable, but it’s still in bad shape.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“What risk does this pose to pilots coming in and out of the Belize City municipal?”

 

On the Phone: Milo Paz

“Well at the moment, like I said, it’s usable so the risk is very little unless it starts to deteriorate again, then there would be some risk for the aircraft because of the landing gears and of course once something happens to the aircraft we are risking our passengers and pilots.”

 

The airport, several million dollars invested into its improvement via a contract awarded to Imer Hernandez, should have been able to withstand the wear and tear of daily use.  At the opening ceremony, Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Manuel Heredia Junior lauded the vision and the completed works.

 

Manuel Heredia Jr.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism & Civil Aviation [File: November 11th, 2016]

“In 2008, this administration noted the critical importance of our domestic airports to our economy and at that time, began an unprecedented campaign to enhance our local aerodromes across the country.  While we have been able to invest substantial resources in our aerodromes, the Belize City Municipal Airport remained a central point of our National Aerodrome Development Strategy.  The direct contribution of this municipal airport to travel and trade in Belize cannot be overemphasized.  Between 2011 and 2015, our travel services at BAA’s aerodromes countrywide, of this total, seven hundred and thirty thousand either landed or departed from this very airport, establishing it as the undisputed hub for domestic air travel in Belize.  This was the main premise for our investment, along with enhancing our compliance with international civil aviation standards.  As the minister in charge of tourism and civil aviation, I am delighted to share with you, that we have exceeded that initial vision, and have indeed made this airport into one of the premier domestic airports in our region.”

 

Regrettably, that vision has fallen short of the runway being built to last.

 

Isani Cayetano

“Is there an association, or is there a collective body of pilots who share a similar view when it comes to the Belize City municipal?”

 

On the Phone: Milo Paz

“Yes, well the view is in general, the runway has been going bad almost as soon as it was finished.  It was sad that so much money was invested in it and I’m no engineer to tell you what should have been done, but I’m sure that that was one thing that had to be kept in mind while it was being built all over again.”

 

The runway, says Paz, is presently fit for use, however, it is foreseeable that the problem will resurface sooner than later.

 

On the Phone: Milo Paz

“Unfortunately, it did not stand not even for a year and a half.  It was really bad, like I told you; they did some emergency repairs over the weekend.  They worked on it, it’s usable, it’s safe enough right now but I can see this problem continuing.”

 

News Five has attempted to get in contact with General Manager Nicholas Ruiz at the Belize Airports Authority.  Our calls and messages have gone unanswered. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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1 Response for “The Woes of the Municipal Airstrip”

  1. Kriol Chicken says:

    Nice half-assed job and the contractor gets rich…typical story from Belize…someone screwing over someone else…

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