This morning at around 5:30, a small plane made an unauthorized landing at the municipal airport in Belize City. It's a US registered Piper PA 34 Seneca twin-engine plane - and tonight it is under police guard. Authorities aren't quite sure what to make of it because the plane landed before the airstrip was opened and whoever was on board cut out immediately - leaving the police and Civil Aviation Departments with more questions than answers.
What we know is this. That same plane flew out of Belize last Thursday for Aruba, and had filed a flight plan to return on Sunday, but did not; it simply appeared this morning. Now, that might sound straightforward enough, but it's illegal - and very suspicious. Every single plane that lands legally in Belize - big or small - has to first file a flight plan with Civil Aviation and then land at the Phillip Goldson International airport to clear customs and Immigration. Of course, planes with illicit cargo, or illicit business do no such thing - but those ones usually land on improvised airstrips deep in the bush, not in Belize City - the country's largest population center. So, did the plane have an illegal cargo or an illegal passenger? Police don't have any clues at this time - and no one to ask since the pilot parked the plane and rolled out. We do now that the anti-drug unit is in charge of the case. Because of where the plane landed, Police suspect that the cargo, if illicit, was currency - cash money which can easily be fed into the system. The plane was not outfitted for long distance flying - which drug planes usually have. If and when the owners do appear - they will be criminally charged for an unauthorized landing.
So, like we said lots of questions, and the plane remains under police guard in a hangar at the Municipal Airstrip.
Unauthorized Entry! Mysterious Aircraft Lands at Municipal Airstrip
A small twin-engine plane landed at the Municipal Airstrip at around five-thirty this morning – before the facility opens at six. There is no sign of the pilot, passengers or cargo in the American-registered Piper Seneca which may have originated in Managua, Nicaragua. In fact, up to this afternoon, police had no clue as to why the plane made its unauthorized entry into Belizean airspace, and unauthorized landing at the Municipal airstrip at a time when nobody was there. We know that planes land in Belize carrying illicit cargo with some irregularity, though not publicity – but landing at the Municipal airstrip? Today Mike Rudon went looking for answers and found authorities doing the same. Here’s the story.
Mike Rudon, Reporting
This small airplane landed here at the Municipal airstrip at five-thirty this morning. The pilot and presumably passengers and cargo then left the scene as quickly and discreetly as they arrived. Authorities got the call about the unexpected landing and when they responded found the Piper Seneca parked neatly at this spot. Investigators have been able to determine that this plane was to have arrived at the P.G.I.A. Sunday, but it never showed up.
Supt. Mark Flowers, Commander, Gang Suppression Unit
“It did not come in at that time but it came in this morning and we are trying to determine right now who the occupants are because we know that the plan was for certain people to come in on Sunday but this is not an approved area for international flights and we know the flight originated outside of Belize and the fact that it landed here is cause for concern. We are concerned.”
Today, security on the site was heavy. It is being treated as a crime scene until Police and investigators can determine just how and why this landing happened when and where it did. But there is precious little information at this point.
Supt. Mark Flowers
“I don’t even know that there was not an emergency. We don’t know. If it was an emergency we are trying to determine. We are just at this stage where we know that the aircraft is here. I’ve seen things in there which suggests that there was a medical condition like bedding and that sort of thing in the middle of the plane, blankets. I don’t know. My own interpretation is that there might have been some sort of resting place, but I am not to make any determination. I will not go ahead of myself and say that there was…we have to have the authorities come in. Civil Aviation are here, the investigators are here and we are waiting for the Police representatives, the Anti-Drug Unit, whose charter it is to investigate these sorts of things.”
While the airstrip was not open for business when the plane landed, security personnel should have been present, but apparently nobody saw or is saying anything.
Supt. Mark Flowers
“That is what concerns me but it is not for me to make that determination. As soon as the appropriate people get here – the Anti-Drug Unit commander is on his way and as soon as he is here they will take over the investigation. We are merely securing the scene and I am doing what I think needs to be done now in terms of processing the outside of the plane. It is an American registered aircraft – N32218 I think is the registration. N is North America – the United States of America registration. We know that at the time of the filing of the flight plan the aircraft was in Managua, Nicaragua, which is an estimated four and a half hours away from here.”
Up to this afternoon, this is what Police had found out.
“We have tracked from the registration the owners…that is the easiest thing to do – two minutes. We know who the owner of the aircraft is. We know where it originated. We know that they were in Managua in Nicaragua up until at least they had intended to fly out of Managua on Sunday. We know that. We don’t know anything more than just that.”
The incoming aircraft did not show up on radar at the P.G.I.A. or at the Municipal Airstrip because both facilities were closed. Mike Rudon for News Five.
According to our research, since March twenty-eighth, 2014, the seven-seater twin-engine Piper Seneca has been registered to U.S. pilot, James A. Stallings of Irvine California.