Thursday, February 3, 2011

Statement on Aircraft Operations – Department of Civil Aviation

Press Release - Belmopan - February 3, 2011 - The Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture and the Department of Civil Aviation, take this opportunity to clarify certain reports in the local media about aircraft operations at the P.S.W.Goldson International Airport.

With reference to the Mexican registered helicopters, two of them landed on Wednesday, 19th January, 2011. Their nationality and registration marks were XA-UCC and XA-HSK. The two of them were of the type BELL 412EP. These helicopters and flight crew met all the technical requirements to operate in Belizean airspace.

On Sunday, 23rd January, 2011, personnel from the Belize Airport Concession Company Ltd. alerted the Department of Civil Aviation that there were persons working around one of the helicopters and that it appeared that they were changing the marks on one of the helicopters. The Department of Civil Aviation did not consider this appropriate and immediately took action to stop the activity.

On Monday, 24th January, 2011, the flight crew from the helicopters visited the Department. They indicated that they had permission from the Mexican Civil Aviation Authorities to carry out this change. They provided the Department with approval documents from the Mexican Civil Aviation Authority. The Department of Civil Aviation informed them that in accordance with international standards, this activity cannot be done outside the boundaries of the State of Registry. In this case Mexico.

Even though there was approval from the Mexican Civil Aviation Authority, this activity was not authorized to be carried out in Belize. The helicopters departed back to Mexico (Cozumel) with their original nationality and registration marks that they had on their arrival.

In relation to the aircraft with Mexican nationality and registration marks, XB-LRP, Beechcraft 65, it arrived in the country on the 12th April, 2010. Most of the time this aircraft was parked at a private maintenance hangar at the P.S.W.Goldson Airport.

The aircraft did a test flight in August of 2010 and another in October, 2010. These flights were approved after flight safety inspectors from the Department of Civil Aviation perused the aircraft and flight crew documents to ensure that all are in order. These flight safety inspectors consist of pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers working for the Department of Civil Aviation.
On Monday, 24th January, 2011, permission was sought and there was no objection from the Department of Civil Aviation for another test flight since the documents were found in order a flight safety inspector. The flight test was carried out on Saturday, 29th January, 2011. This flight test was to be carried out in the area of Dangriga. After the flight departed, the Tower Air traffic Control Officer informed the pilot to contact the Radar Air Traffic Control Unit. Even though a Transponder Code was assigned, it was never activated by the pilot nor was there any radio contact made with this unit. This flight was considered as a local flight since at no time were the Air Traffic Services notified that this aircraft would leave the country.

After many attempts to contact the aircraft failed, and there was no indication of the aircraft having crashed, it was believed that the pilot’s action was that of not returning to its point of departure. The matter was then handed over to the law enforcement agencies at the P.S.W.G. International Airport for further investigation.

The Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture and the Department of Civil Aviation, will continue to promote the safe, efficient and expeditious movement of domestic and international air transportation through the provisions of proper regulatory procedures in accordance with the air navigation regulations in force and the Standards and Recommended Practices of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Send in your poems!!

The poetry reading will be held at the San Pedro Lions Den during their annual Valentine Dinner & Dance held on February 12th, 2011!!

ACES Croc Chronicles #2

Submitted by ACES Biologist Cherie Rose

Croc Being Illegally Harassed is Rescued
On Jan 13th, the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) received a call from the San Pedro Town Council about a croc in DFC near W&W Store. This time it wasn’t humans that were in peril, but the small crocodile that was stuck in a polluted water hole no more than 2ft deep. Every time the animal would come out to sun or try to escape kids would throw rocks at it, so obviously that croc needed to be rescued. On Wednesday, Jan 19th, ACES did just that.

At 11 am the ACES team arrived at the site. A few neighbors came out to watch and help if necessary. A couple children who were watching reported that just minutes prior to our arrival, some other children were again throwing rocks at the poor croc. Seems ACES arrived none too soon.

By 11:20 the croc was rescued, data collected, tagged and re-released in a secluded lagoon area south east of Port Authority. Although the 5ft 8in croc suffered several injuries to her back from the rocks, she seemed otherwise healthy. Swimming ‘happily’ in her new habitat, we don’t suspect she’ll try to return to DFC.

Some people may say kids will be kids; but throwing stones at crocodiles is illegal. American crocodiles, named so because they are only found in North, Central, and South America, are a protected species in Belize. Belizeans should be proud to have them here. Worldwide there are not many of their species left. We need them to keep the island’s environment healthy; so we must start trying to safely co-exist with them.

Vendors Illegally Selling Protected Species Parts
While kids may be kids, it is the adults who set the precedent for their behavior. Children learn by example, and on Thursday night, Jan 20th, around 7pm ACES received an anonymous call that there was a crocodile skull for sale at the town square. Not only is this illegal in Belize, but it is illegal worldwide to have in one’s possession any part of an American Crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, without the proper permits. Additionally, ACES was told that the vendor was wrongly informing tourists that they could indeed cross international borders with the skull. In the USA, the offense of smuggling a crocodile skull across International borders is punishable by up to twenty (20) years in a federal prison. I have to ask; how would Belize look as a country when an otherwise innocent tourist is arrested for smuggling crocodile parts, and then tells the world that a Belizean not only sold them the illegal croc skull, but also told them it was okay to take it across International borders?

Belize Forest Department (BFD) Wildlife Officer Rasheda Garcia- Sampson had just recently informed all the vendors that it is illegal to sell or even to have in one’s possession parts or pieces thereof from any protected species, including but not limited to crocodiles and jaguars. Some vendors evidently think they are above the laws of Belize. Thanks to communications between Chief Arnold and the BFD, for the first time on Ambergris Caye, the San Pedro Police was able to enforce this law of the Belize Wildlife Protection Act (Chapter 220) and confiscate the illegal croc skull. For now, the skull will remain in the possession of the SP Police Department. ACES hopes to be allowed to use the skull in upcoming educational presentations on crocodilians and how to safely co-exist with them that will be open to the public and available to schools here on the island.

ACES sends a great big Thank You to everyone involved with both croc cases. Your help is taking a bite out of extinction!

ACES's mission is commitment to conserving Belize's critical habitats and protected species through scientific research and education to prevent further extinction of species Worldwide and to preserve Belize's wildlife for future generations. For more information about ACES or to report a problem croc please call 666-3871 or 631-6366.

6-a-side Tournament Continues!!

San Pedro’s Saca Chispas stadium continues to be the venue for the Six-A-Side Tournament being hosted by the San Pedro Town Council and organized by Councilor Joseph Elijio.
Results are as follows:

Saturday January 29th
San Pedro Strikers (1) vs Fire Blazers (1)
San Pedro Police Department (2) vs Tropical Stars (2)

Sunday January 30th
San Mateo Warriors (1) vs Fire Blazers (0)
San Pedro Town Council (1) vs San Pedro Strikers (0)
The current standings are as follows:
San Mateo Strikers 9 Points
San Pedro Police Department 7 Points
San Pedro Town Council 7 Points
Tropical Stars 5 Points
San Pedro Strikers 5 Point
Fire Blazers 4 Points

Scheduled games for the upcoming weekend are as follows:

Saturday February 5th
San Pedro Police Department vs
San Mateo Bombers
Tropic Allstars vs San Pedro Strikers

Sunday February 6th
San Pedro Police Department vs
San Pedro Town Council

Sunday’s game will be followed by a friendly game with the San Mateo Girls taking on the San Pedro High School girls.