Belize Holds COCESNA Presidency - Rehabilitation for Belize’s Second Busiest Airport Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Wednesday, 22 December 2010 00:00

Groudbreaking for Airstrip RehabilitationFriday, December 17, was a big day for civil aviation in Belize. Officials of the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation and the Belize Airports Authority (BAA) made their way to San Pedro to take part in the 164th Board of Directors Ordinary Meeting of the Central American Corporation for Air Navigation Services (COCESNA).

COCESNA has the exclusive rights to provide air traffic services, aeronautical telecommunications and radio navigation aids for international civil aviation in the territories of member states. Those are primarily for flights above 20,000 feet. The member states are Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

COCESNA also contributes in Flight Safety Oversight and provides training at its aeronautical institution for personnel of its Member States. The Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Director of Civil Aviation are the Belize representatives on the corporation’s Board of Directors- a board for which Belize now holds the presidency.

However, in this case the perks preceded the position. On Thursday, December 16, officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Belize Airports Authority and COCESNA gathered at the San Pedro Airstrip to break ground on a 3.1 million dollar rehabilitation project. The San Pedro Airstrip is the second busiest in the country, second only to the Phillip Goldson International Airport. While it has come a long way from the hand chopped bushy surface it once was, the airstrip needs more input for the service it puts out.

Kenworth Tillett, General Manager of the Airports Authority, was unusually lost for words at the groundbreaking ceremony. He thanked COCESNA for the partnership; his colleagues at BAA for the hard work in drafting the proposal and the Ministry for its support. Tillett told the Guardian that the rehabilitation project includes an upgraded landing strip, security fencing, and larger parking area for private aircrafts, adequate lighting for emergency night-landings and a general enhancement of the safety and security features on the compound. According to Tillett, the landing strip will be elevated about four to five inches and it will be widened by thirty feet. It will be paved with “hot mix” for greater durability. The new parking is because of the increase traffic at the airstrip causing a congested environment. As it is right now, pedestrians from outside the airstrip, and even motorists, can easily access the compound. That is an extremely dangerous situation; however, the new security fencing will put an end to it. Lights will finally be installed so the country’s second busiest airstrip will no longer have to shut down as the sun sets. 

Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Manuel Heredia said that the project should create numerous jobs for San Pedro locals. The rehabilitation itself will create an initial 100 jobs. He said that improvement of the facilities will coincide with improvement in services. Therefore, that too will require more employment. Minister Heredia also spoke briefly about the renaming of the airstrip- the John Grief II Airport. John Grief II was a fighter pilot who came to Belize and fell in love with a San Pedrana. He later married her and eventually moved the family to San Pedro and landed the first plane on the island. He had a vision for the island and was key to the development of air traffic and tourism development in San Pedro. He also established the first hotel for tourists on the island. His son, John Grief III, spoke briefly at the ceremony. He said, “Bringing tourists to the laid back Island of San Pedro was one of my father’s dream, he wanted to take them away from hustle and bustle of the city.” John smiled and referred to the high security SICA meeting in saying, “Not knowing that he would be actually bringing them to the hustle and bustle.” 

The rehabilitation project which is a joint effort by BAA and COCESNA will be spearheaded by Thurton and Associates.