Belize police say that they are investigating a series of strange happenings at the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) involving three Mexican aircraft, the key one being a previously confiscated craft (from a suspected drug operation) which has been taken out of Belize without proper clearance after two men, who police have not named, were approved to take it on a test flight, but never returned.
Minister of Police and Public Safety Doug Singh told Amandala today, Thursday, that police have still not solved the mystery of a Mexican registered Beechcraft Queen Air 65, which was apparently taken out of the country, violating the official approval for it to go only as far as Dangriga for a test flight. It departed the Philip Goldson International Airport at 6:42 a.m. on Saturday, January 29, 2011.
Singh said that the puzzling thing about this case is that there is no documentation available to police to indicate who the men are who took off with the plane. He said that three vehicles went into the airport compound that morning.
The possibility of collusion with locals is being investigated by police.
Observers find it strange, though, that Belizean authorities are indicating that they do not know the names of the men who made off with the Beechcraft, especially the pilot, who would have had to present some kind of formal documentation to get clearance to fly in Belize’s airspace.
The craft, with only the pilot and co-pilot seats, apparently intended for carrying cargo, has an interesting history .
It was confiscated by the Government of Belize a few years ago in the Belmopan area, following a suspected drug operation, and was later auctioned off, according to police reports. (The photo appearing with this article is an image of the original plane, which has since been refurbished.)
Amandala’s information is that the craft, built in 1960, had been registered in the US to Runway Enterprises Inc. of Florida (a company owned by Biro Ninoska but now inactive) with serial number LF-19. The craft was registered up until a year ago as N19LF in the USA, “N” being the code for the USA.
Then, in January 2010, the Beechcraft was de-registered in the USA and exported to Mexico, as cited by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
According to official Belize information, the Beechcraft registration number in Mexico was XB-LRP, “X” being the code for that country.
The craft, valued at around half-a-million Belize dollars, arrived in Belize from Jamaica in April 2010 for repairs, said Singh.
Amandala has learned that it had been housed at the PGIA at a private hangar of Belize Civil Engineering Co. Ltd., managed by Glis Marin, until it was taken out of Belize this weekend.
The plane was taken on a test flight last August and again in October. On this third outing, it did not return, although, according to Singh, the flight did not have clearance to go further than Dangriga.
Amandala sources say only that the craft, which had been fueled adequately for a long flight, went “south,” but no one is saying anything about the location of the plane.
Mexican authorities in Belize have claimed they know nothing apart from what has been reported in Belize media. Marcelino Miranda, press officer for the Mexican Embassy in Belize, told Amandala that he has no official information and they are awaiting the results of investigations by Belize police.
Our newspaper understands from a high ranking source at Civil Aviation Authority that it was the Belizean company that sought clearance for the test flight—not the Mexicans themselves—and all documents presented to them were in order.
The Authority believes that the pilot and his companion, who they have not named, intended to leave Belize without permission. The reason has not been explained.
The flight, we are informed, should have taken about 30 to 45 minutes. The pilot was instructed to contact them during the course of the flight, but never did.
The Civil Aviation official said that the radar housed in Belize is a secondary radar and only shows the location of a craft when the pilot operates what is called a transponder. This is different from a primary radar that shows the flight within the radar’s range as a blip. At no time was the craft visible on the radar, our source clarified.
Had the flight crashed, the official also said, an emergency transmitter locator would have immediately been activated on impact, which would have sent an alert on an emergency frequency. That also did not happen, we were informed.
We understand that Belize Aviation, the local company, was being paid by a client in Mexico for the repairs.
Our newspaper notes that the case is not being called theft, which suggests that the owner of the craft, who has also not been named, has not filed a complaint with the police.
Belize Civil Aviation is not talking to the press. Marin told Amandala, when we contacted him today for an interview, to call him back, but we were unable to reach him on subsequent attempts and up to press time, our calls have not been returned. We were informed this evening that a written statement will be issued.
In related news, the Government has confirmed a report reaching our news desk that a group of Mexicans who landed two helicopters at the PGIA on Wednesday, January 19, 2011, were attempting to change the registration numbers of the helicopters, XA-UCC and XA-HSK, also in violation of aviation protocols in Belize.
An official statement from the Belize Press Office says, “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.”
The parties had claimed that they had permission from the Mexican civil aviation authorities to change the registration.
“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,” the Belize government statement said.
The choppers have reportedly been taken back to Cozumel, Mexico.