AIRCRAFT BUILDING IN BELIZE HAS COME A LONG WAY!
by Ray Auxillou
Light manufacturing of aircraft has come a long way in Belize since colonial days of the former British Honduras. Nowadays, at least three aircraft have been built from scratch to plans in Belize and nobody knows how many ultra light kit built airplanes are flying the skies? The aviation department issues no statistics. With limited range, most homebuilt experimental and ultra light sports aircraft in Belize are more of a hobby than serious flying. Flying is done around the farm, or the Caye, or up in the mountains.
Three aircraft were built of mahogany and ceconite, or polyfiber covering, with Volkswagon engines back some eight years ago. Whatever remains of them are up in the Belizean Mennonite communities, who lead innovation and manufacturing in Belize.
Since then, airplanes of the ultra light category requiring no license requirements in the International arena, have come and gone here in Belize, with visitors who stay here for a year or two, or have retired in Belize. Currently there are ultra light aircraft spraying crops in the Belizean Mennonite farms of Blue Creek and Spanish Lookout. These intrepid Belizean roots Caucasian people descended from Mexican immigrants have constantly taught themselves light manufacturing in many different fields, without the benefit of a University, or College education. They make airplanes, carbon fiber canoes and rebuild diesel engines, or build hydro electric dams to produce electricity. Not bad for a population of Belizeans who mostly only attended a one room primary school house out in the rural countryside, with one teacher.
Other ultra light aircraft exist in Belize, mostly built from kits. You often hear of them over in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. There is one parked at Central Farm owned reputedly by a man in Chaa Creek who flies for fun in his Rotax engined, fabric triangular wing and aluminum framed TRIKE. Various times we hear of them down in Placentia. Some even have been assembled with amphibious ability. Their safety record is far better than driving a car, or handling a speed boat, or running a grocery shop.
This is an enormous change and improvement in Belize since colonial days, when the British CARICOM aviation inspector refused me permission to build an aircraft on Caye Caulker. He was an Englishman and in those days the English were protecting their own light manufacturing aircraft export industries to the colonies. There was a time, of a story in the newspaper of some young Belizean decades ago, who was actually arrested by overzealous provincial ignorant bureaucrats in the civil service, for trying to fly his own homebuilt experimental airplane powered by a motorcycle engine. I'll never forget that oppressive stupidity, such an event expressed, in defeating the purpose of building the nation of Belize. Today it is different. Ultra light airplanes are all over the place. Perhaps not in the dozens, because they tend to come and go with visiting owners, or tourists. But they are here and the beauty of most experimental homebuilt aircraft under 1800 lbs gross weight, as ultra lights, they are not required to be licensed in most countries, including Belize. This frees the innovative inventive spirit of humans. From such small beginnings, we can easily build a commercial ISLANDER twin engine aircraft now in this country imported from the UK, if one had the money and the mind. No longer is such technology any mystery to interested Belizeans.
Santa Elena Public Library out in the Cayo District even has a growing collection of Sports Aviation Experimental magazines, for interested airplane kit builders. One day, as internet providers start putting up the hundreds of relay antennas needed to bring internet to the rural homes in hills and valleys of Belize, there will be much more light manufacturing industry like this as rural entrepreneurs are able to research today's wealth of ideas and instructions from around the world for all manner of things. This new generation of my grandchildren will have wonderful new opportunites to build new businesses, that once were the sole perogative of the major industrialized nations.