Local airlines refuse to land at Caye Caulker

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 41            October 18, 2001

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As of October 1, 2001 Maya Island Air and Tropic Air have refused to land on the airstrip at Caye Caulker. This is the same decision that was made regarding the Corozal Airstrip approximately a month ago based on the fact that the airstrip had "deteriorated to a state that safe operations can no longer take place." With tourism already suffering and one destination destroyed, Caye Caulker residents are said to be furious that they are not receiving flights.

    Information received revealed there are not only pot holes but sink holes warping the runway as well. It was further reported at some spots, the edges have eroded all the way to the middle of the airstrip. Airline representatives state daily phone calls were made to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) with no results, thus the decision was made to cease flights to that destination. The airlines lament that a year ago Hurricane Keith did extensive damage to the airstrip, Tropical Storm Chantal made worse an already horrible situation and "now we are in the midst of rainy season."

   In an interview with Efrain Gomez of the Civil Aviation Authority it was learned that plans were made for the repairs and funds issued for the project. He informed that Ministry of Works was contacted to perform the task but was delayed by Hurricane Iris which hit southern Belize last week. Mr. Gomez stated that the Caye Caulker Airstrip is not "officially closed." He explained that reports made are followed up on and an inspection was performed. CAA discovered the airstrip needed patching but did not deem it unsafe for landing. He explained the remote location poses problems as materials and equipment, when they are made available, need to be "barged out" to the island. 

    This information was confirmed by a representative at the Ministry of Works who said they expect to be able to start by the end of this week or early next week. Delays are said to be a result of the rains brought by Hurricane Iris and that "dry stone is needed to lay asphalt." According to the Ministry of Works, when the runway dries up the Caye Caulker airstrip will be patched.

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