Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Tom Wierum at his Central Farm airstrip hanger, serving the Twin Towns of San Ignacio/Santa Elena in Western Belize.
The 2nd ANNUAL Fly In is set again for this Sunday at Central Farm Airstrip, February 2http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif2nd. For pilots and plane owners, family and friends to fly in and socialize. Food will be available and a Bowen & Bowen tent for beer and soft drinks. The general public is NOT invited again this year. This is a small intimate gathering and social event for flyers of airplanes. To kibbutz and swap flying stories, hairy lies and such and admire each others airplanes.
The Aero Club of Guatemala City will be e-mailed later this week, but probably too late to get them here for this 2nd Annual Fly In. Next year perhaps? We are still in the organizing and experimenting stage, with the FLY IN format for here and learning as we go along. Building tourism in the aviation field is an uphill battle, against inexperienced people and bureaucrats who do not understand the nature of such things here.
The AOPA pilots association of Belize, will be holding a meeting. Items to be discussed are:

1. Switching the home made Belizean Form for AOPA filling out used by our Aviation Authority, from the local form, to the International AOPA form, to be standardized for international private plane visitors.
2. There are so many complaints over the past year to do with the International Airport practices of entering and leaving the country on the weekend. We brought this up last year, but the UDP were just coming into power and didn't know how to organize and run the country. They are better organized as a political government now, after a year in office, so there is some hope that the CABINET can be influenced to improve things at the International Airport.
3. Two of the things are: the AOPA form changeover needed. The second thing very important is the current practice of charging private pilots entering and leaving the country on a Saturday and Sunday, $240 dollars, for overtime service. This is unconsciouble, as the staff are on duty for regular airlines anyway and this is a normaly 24/7 service. Or should be. The problem is excacerbated by the need of a tour guide ( $50 usa ) to show visiting pilots how to move from one bureaucracy to the other scattered all over the International Airport facilities, to get the necessary stamps and get signatures on their forms. Half the time, the person cannot even be found, as he is someplace else gossiping, or outside talking to a sweetheart on the cell phone, or something. This should be a 20 minute process. Nobody in the UDP had enough experience last year to take notes and tend to this private aircraft business over this past year, but the AOPA of Belize is going to get more aggressive and seek help, not from the administrative bureaucracy, but from the CABINET in an oversight capacity, to get the civil service moving. We need to modernize pilot services and streamline them in one location. Already the private aircraft travel forums on the internet are warning private pilots not to fly into Belize on a weekend. Pilots are angry. The latest Bronco vehicle costs more than most small airplanes and nothing like this is charged at the Mexican border, or Benque for private cars.
4. What is needed is ORGANIZATION and perhaps a year later, from when this problem was first presented to the new UDP government, it might get done soon? The different people, customs, immigration, Baha, Health and others who need to sign off and stamp forms for private aircraft, should be organized so they are ALL in ONE OFFICE, "along one counter", and a queue of entering pilots just move down the counter dealing with one bureaucracy after the other, in one room, like in Mexico. The entry and departure services need streamlining to International Entry point standards if we are going to build private aircraft tourism. Belize is not a friendly place yet for this.
5. The THIRD ANNUAL FLY IN is expected to be bigger in 2010, and we are going to promote strongly the TOURIST AIRPLANE OWNERS MARKET from Aero Club Guatemala City. There are over 500 planes in their private aero club up there. It is the biggest private plane club in Central America. Cancun fliers are also interested in flying down to our BREAKFAST and FLY IN event. Many of which fly down to the Rio Dulce for weekends, in their hillside weekend houses and fishing with their boats.
6. The problem for NEXT YEAR, ( 2010 ) is going to be arranging a government officer, representing Immigration and Customs, to enter private aircraft to the FLY IN at Central Farm airstrip. He or she would be needed for one, perhaps two days, from the Benque border station. The two hundred extra flying miles to the coast of Belize is out of the question. We hope to enlarge the Central Farm airstrip FLY IN event, to USA visitor tourists, by private plane also. Which means more hotel rooms and restaurant meals sold in the Cayo Western Regional Area.
7. The potential to make a big event in 12 or 15 years is there. What we need is an educated and cooperative government to make it work. Tourism progress comes in increments year by year.
8. If you have a plane and wish to attend on Sunday, please notify TOM Wierrum at: primebuilders@btl.net tel: cell 610 1924 at Sterling Freight at Central Farm Airstrip.

This year the general public is not invited, but possibly for next year in 2010? This has to be discussed among pilots. There are a lot of costs involved, with bathrooms and security, that have to be considered, once you go outside of the small gathering, of Belizean plane owner pilots and friends. Plane people understand airplanes, hangers and such, but the general public do not.

No comments: