A bulletin earlier this week announced that Maya
Island Air and Tropic Air had ceased flights to Corozal as of Saturday, August
25, 2001. This decision was based on the fact that the airstrip had
"deteriorated to a state that safe operations can no longer take place." In an
interview with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Tuesday, they announced
repairs were underway and operations could resume on Wednesday.
The deterioration of several district runways in
Belize have been a point of contention between local airlines and the CAA for
some months. Reports have been made and promises given to remedy the situation
but it would appear the recent flight cancellations hastened the process to some
The San Pedro Sun contacted the CAA and was informed that Director Efrain Gomez was out of
the country. Deputy Director Russell Manzanero willingly provided information that the CAA had
been informed over the weekend of the local airlines' decision and that the
airstrip was closed on Monday to facilitate "urgent" repairs. He also provided
the above mentioned facts, although, when questioned regarding CAA's policy for
scheduled maintenance and safety standards, the San Pedro
Sun was given the standard line "I am not authorized to give
out that information."
Speaking to Tropic Air's Johnny
Greif III, he stated this is only the beginning. In order of severity, Punta
Gorda, Dangriga and Caye Caulker may be the next runways avoided because of
safety hazards. Rains from Tropical Storm Chantal made worse an already horrible
amount of potholes and washouts. Noting that we are heading into the season for
increased amounts of rainfall, without proper maintenance, the future looks dim
for flying to other destinations unless something is done soon.
Mr. Greif added that the airlines only want the CAA to do
their job. He stated, "They expect airlines to abide by strict standards and
airlines expect the same safety assurances from the CAA." Reportedly, a number
of incidents have occurred due to the condition of runways, but fortunately no
injuries or fatalities have occurred. Attempts made to contact Maya Island Air
for comment were unsuccessful.
airlines' complaints are usually met with "we're getting the money," from the
CAA. Obviously, there needs to be a mechanism in place for funding this much
needed safety maintenance before something happens that cannot be repaired, such
as the death of a passenger because of unsafe runways. Maintenance always seems
to be pushed aside until the financing can be arranged or, apparently, until
airlines quit landing.