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Monday September 21, 2015

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Jet in Jet's Bar

Welcome to Zangaro, From the movie "The Dogs of War"

A 1987 photo of Belize international airport, view from the cockpit of an airline.
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Belize Abroad
It is saddening to reflect that no great ancient races inhabited these lovely Isles, that no great man ever lived, and laboured, and worked, and fought, and died, and left a name for posterity to honour and to cherish as a ‘household word’; that no time-honoured tower or world-famed temple, or pilgrim haunted shrine ever stood on yonder cape—in short, that the past is all a blank.
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The first and only international airport in Belize! The changing times of Belize Airport to meet tourist demand, various years

Top photo from Early 1970's - makes the current Phillip Goldson Intl look huge!!!! Tan, Taca, Sahsa, Tamsa, and Maya used to all share the space on the right!!!

In 1968 a major upgrade would create offices for the still fledgling Civil Aviation Department (established 1956) and following the 1973 expansion it was re-named the Belize International Airport. Boeing 707-720 jets for the inaugural flight of the new Belize Airways Limited (BAL) were able to land for the first time in Belize on October 1st, 1977, following the runway extension of 1976, and it was re-named yet again, this time the Philip Goldson International (on February 7, 1988) between the expansions/upgradings of 1982 and 1990. The last major work was done in 1998, with a frenetic effort to finish before the August General Elections.

If you fly in and out of Belize’s Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport, the number of connecting flights you can catch is remarkable. On your way to Corozal, Caye Caulker, Dangriga (Hopkins), Kanantik, San Pedro, Savannah, Placencia and Punta Gorda, you receive a free sightseeing tour that could include flying over majestic Maya mountains, lush rainforests, winding rivers and the second longest barrier reef on the planet. Built between 1943 and 1944 during World War II, this airport has been a vital military asset that a senior U.S. Air Force general called “the best defended airfield in Central America.” Goldson has hosted British Forces Belize, the Royal Air Force, U.S. Army Air Corps and other “guests” of the country when the defense of the western hemisphere required enhanced mobilization. It remains the 7th busiest airport in Central America.

Belize Airport from Paul Pollard on Vimeo.

When government officials decided to name Belize’s international airport in honor of Belizean newspaper editor, activist and politician Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson, they decided not to use his entire name, honoring the living legend by calling it the Philip S.W. Goldson Airport instead. Despite going blind in 1978, he turned a distinguished career into advocacy for the Caribbean Association of the Disabled, remaining a patron and icon until he died in 2001.

Goldson is truly a self-sustaining facility that covers 457 acres of land and offers pilots 9,900 feet of runway and apron. Two terminals host 12 international airlines. There are 7 departure gates and within the 110,000-square foot building and a surprising number of services under roof that include 14 car rental agencies, 8 duty free stores, 15 retail and convenience stores, 2 ATMs, 1 bank, 2 restaurants, 2 delis and one shoe shine emporium. Eight cargo companies are headquartered here, too.

Just because Belize’s airport small, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of interesting things to do while waiting for a flight and that’s a fact. Jet’s Bar, operated by Jet himself, has been keeping passengers in good spirits for 30 years, probably because Jet’s is the only bar in the airport! For travelers more interested in boutiques than booze, stopping at the Harley Davidson store for kicks and the Belikin Beer Shop are mandatory, even if you neither ride nor imbibe. Souvenirs of your Belize visit are also available – just in case you had such a great time during your stay that you forgot about friends and family back home!

Top photograph courtesy Belize Abroad

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