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Dec 4, 2014

Crash Landing at the Municipal Airstrip

A single engine Tropic Air plane left San Pedro this afternoon and crash landed on arrival at the Belize Municipal Airport. While the pilot was able to land the plane, he could not bring it to a complete stop and the aircraft came to rest in the nearby sea. The incident is attributed to the slick conditions of the runway. On board were five passengers, including a shooting victim who was being transported to the K.H.M.H.  All escaped unscathed, but the aircraft is being deemed inoperable, a loss of four million dollars. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was at the municipal airport immediately after the plane crash landed. He files the following report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A domestic flight to Belize City, inbound from San Pedro this afternoon, crash landed at the Municipal Airstrip shortly after two o’clock, when it slid off the runway upon touchdown.  Onboard the single engine aircraft were five passengers, including Carlos Najera who had been shot during an early-afternoon robbery on the island.  According to John Greif the Third, President of Tropic Air, the commuter plane careened off the slick runway due to unstable weather conditions we have been experiencing since the beginning of the week.


Via phone: John Greif III, President, Tropic Air

Via Phone: John Greif III

“Today, December fourth, at approximately 2:20 p.m. our flight number two-eighty-one was en route from San Pedro to the Belize Municipal Airstrip.  As you know, the weather has been bad all over the country so the runway was rain soaked.  The pilot landed and was unable to stop the aircraft and it ran off into the shallow water at the east end of the runway.”


Fortunately, the pilot and his passengers escaped the accident unscathed.  The aircraft, however, became waterlogged almost immediately; its prop and wings jutting out from the shoals.  Moments later, authorities converged on the scene.


Via Phone: John Greif III

“We are investigating, along with Civil Aviation, what happened.  But our primary concern is the wellbeing of our crew; in this case it was one pilot and our five passengers.  And one of the passengers was medevaced from San Pedro, we had actually delayed that flight and moved it around a little bit to try to get a gunshot victim off the island.  So our primary concern is for the safety of our crew and our passengers but nevertheless we continue to try to determine exactly what happened.”


Isani Cayetano

“Were there any injuries reported as a result of this incident?”


Via Phone: John Greif III

“No.  Neither, we had everyone taken to the hospital and ironically three of the people were going to the hospital anyway.  So there were no injuries reported or otherwise.  They literally were no injuries.’


While it may be too early to determine the full extent of damages, Greif says the aircraft has been declared inoperable.


Via Phone: John Greif III

“Visually it is not very damaged but anytime an aircraft gets immersed in saltwater it’s useless so it won’t be able to be reused.”


Isani Cayetano: Can you speak to us about some of the safety precautions that can be taken by pilots in cases like these where the weather is one of the forces acting against a successful landing?


Via Phone: John Greif III

“Good question.  We take safety and training very seriously here at Tropic.  I don’t know if you remember, we reported it to the news about a year ago.  We bought a caravan simulator so we have in our office in San Pedro a device that exactly mimics the inside of the caravan.  It has ten or twelve flat screen TVs that mimic the look of the outside of the airplane so much so that when you’re taxiing in San Pedro you can see our terminal building from the San Pedro airstrip and everything.  And all of our pilots spend several hours a month going through recurrent training, weather training, instrument training and all that.  So we take the safety aspect of it very, very seriously.”


The primary issue, according to the experienced aviator, is the location and size of the airstrip itself.  Despite ongoing work to expand the facility, landing in Belize City is somewhat dangerous.


Via Phone: John Greif III

“The problem with the Municipal Airstrip is, I’ve been in aviation in Belize for over forty years.  I started flying here when I was fifteen and the Municipal Airstrip is simply too short, it’s too narrow and it’s surrounded by water on all three sides.  The government is expanding and lengthening it but it’s just taking forever to get that done.  So in my opinion, the primary enhancement to aviation safety in Belize would be to finally finish with the Municipal Airstrip.”


Isani Cayetano

“In terms of an estimated dollar amount, can you give us the value of the aircraft that has been damaged?”


Via Phone: John Greif III

“Sure.  It’s four million dollars.”


An investigation led by the Civil Aviation Department, as well as Tropic Air remains ongoing. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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12 Responses for “Crash Landing at the Municipal Airstrip”

  1. Spike says:

    Well now, thank you for flying Tropic Air and have a nice day!

  2. James says:

    It is sad to see how misinformed this article is and amazing how Mr. Grief blatantly lied to cover up what really happened. I understand he is covering for his company and all, but do not flat out lie about it. He could have easily said we are looking into the incident and investigating the cause of the accident. End of discussion. No he had to lie about the real cause of the incident, and Tropic Air even issued that lie as a post on their Facebook page. Unbelievable! Well anyways, the truth of the matter is that the engine on the airplane failed before landing at Belize City and it had to crash land. How do i know? Well i was only around the airstrip sending some packages when it all happened. A bunch of people witnessed the crash landing as well (employees of both airlines, taxi men and some passengers around the area). The plane came down with no engine on! The prop was not spinning, only a bit with the force of the wind against it. The airplane touched down violently and it was not able to stop at the end of the runway. No way to stop it without any power to do so. It barreled right off the end of the runway and hit the water nose first. The speed and impact cause it to spin tail first in the water. It whiplashed 180 degrees and ended up facing the runway upon stopping. It was not raining at the time this happened, and the runway was not wet nor it was slick. It had some puddles on it from the earlier rains, but nothing more. I also overheard some conversations after the incident between some employees and people around, and they said this pilot called in prior to crash landing stating that his engine was out. He was asking for them to clear the runway because he was going to attempt to land the plane as safe as he could. To me the lies stated by the Owner of Tropic is a slap in the face to a pilot that managed to land a plane with no power, and prevented a catastrophic event with any fatalities. By stating that the plane skid off the wet runway, they are saying this incident was caused by pilot error. To me this is quite the contrary. This event was caused by total NEGLIGENCE in the up-keeping and maintenance of the plane and engine by this company. Its a miracle this happened where it did and not somewhere this could have been worst. Now if the plane skid off the runway as stated, how comes it is facing towards the runway and it didn’t just end up nose first into the water? Also, are we that stupid to believe that a wet runway is the reason for this accident? I’ve flown in planes in actual rains and bad weather, and a turbulent and uncomfortable the ride might have been, i have never been in or heard about a plane not being able to stop on a wet runway. Maybe its time to cancel flying in the rain since its only dry weather flying that is safe now!

  3. A Pilot says:

    James has some good points but is obviously not a pilot but does like drama. Just because the engine failed does not make it a crash landing. A wet runway can make a significant difference in braking ability. It seems that was not a factor in this case. A Caravan with an inoperative engine doesn’t want to stop flying and is hard to stop. Short runway with water on the end and engine out and you will usually end up with a wet airplane. To the pilot, well done.

  4. Jerry says:

    What James said is exactly right. I was also at the airstrip and have been apart of aviation a long time. From good sources is that the pilot reported engine trouble from a couple miles out and as he got closer he reported he was going to have to make and emergency landing. I was on the ground there and saw the plane make the turn to land on the runway and could see the propeller wasnt turning indicating there was no power from the engine and i knew it was serious. The pilot did an amazing job gliding it to the ground and touch down on the runway but with no engine power and unable to use reverse thrust he would be unable to stop the plane at the end of the runway, he did something amazing again by avoiding the sea wall at the end of the runway which could have flip the plane had he hit it. He turn the plane on to the clay filling at the side and went into the water. Everyone got out without injury. Now what JOHN GRIEF is saying is a out right LIE. It hadnt rain at the airstrip and there was no water on the runway, and by him saying this, and that the plane slip off the runway is putting the blame on the pilot, who instead is a damn hero for bringing in TROPIC AIRS sickening plane and saving these people lives. And this is how they have been for years, and if CHANNEL 5 had gotten the story from the people on the ground like other media houses instead of the owner of tropic they wouldnt have gotten this cover up story. And I hope they fix it on tonites news cast. And by the way this has also been TROPIC AIR third accident in the last month, the others you havent heard of because of quick cover like this.

  5. Dumb Guy says:

    In case of an accident, put your head between your legs and kiss your bum goodbye.

  6. Dumb Guy says:

    Man you gotta hate these 3 words from the pilot -”Brace for impact”.

  7. Belizean Soul says:

    James- are you a pilot, or trained in any aspect of aviation? Me tink not. Just another ignorant rubbernecker spreading gossip.

  8. James says:

    I’m sorry but I shouldn’t have used the words “crash landing” to describe the situation. The more appropriate words were emergency landing, but at the time of the long post I just couldn’t get it in my head to put. And yes I am not a pilot but I was present there, along with many others like I stated. Many people witnessed what had transpired and also heard employees of both airlines speaking of the events. So Belizean soul, Unless you are Mr. Grief himself or some paid groupie, or were at the scene as i was, do not offend someone who witnessed something first hand. I do not need to be a trained anything to know what I saw in that incident. I just do not appreciate the Belizeans being lied to as always by people in power. These are people’s lives they are handling! Covering stuff up like this will only make them continue doing what they are or are not doing, and a worst incident will happen. These aren’t rumors I was stating, but first hand events that were witnessed personally. And throwing a pilot under the bus for the companies own irresponsible negligence is wrong. He had to put down a plane with massive failure, and did it without any more serious repercussions.

  9. Belizean Pride says:


  10. Former Belize aviation professional says:

    1) The plane was new (less than two weeks old). Rules out bad upkeep.
    2) If you fly more you will have more issues. Tropic is twice the size of Maya and flies at least three times the amount of hours.
    3) don’t pass judgement until all the facts are out.
    4) Belize aviation does have a ways to go still but it is vastly better than just a few years ago. I should know, I used to work in the Belize aviation industry.

  11. Someone that knows says:

    There is many conflicting reports on the age of the plane….. A fuselage could be NEW,USED or rebuilt from a previuos accident, in this case if there was an engine problem we have to look at how old the power plant is,
    Total time since new, repaired or overhaulled
    Every time the airplane flys 100 hrs there is maintenance done on the engine…. There fore any maintenance done on an engine could cause a miss happ…. From a loose fuel line to an oil leak?????? What I wounder is if there was no damage to the fuselage and there was a huge quantity of fuel on the coast line, were did it come from? Thw C208 has integral seal tanks on each wing, Even the fuel caps are water tight??????
    I am just happy every body was unhurt

  12. US Aviator says:

    Just for the record “Someone that knows”, you do not know anything. The 100 hour inspection does not include the engine. A hot section (since this was a turbine engine) occurs only infrequently and a overhaul is at 3500 hours. The reports of a turbine propeller not spinning (or very slow) is interesting. With all turbine engines, they are free-spinning, so I am not sure how any non-pilot could tell, as the prop would spin fast enough to confuse most regardless if the turbine was engaged or not. I do not doubt eyewitness testimony, but as an accident investigator in the US, witnesses are usually the most unreliable of sources.

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