The morning of Saturday, February 21, 2015 saw the Department of Civil Aviation having to do some damage control following the collective decision of air traffic control personnel to report sick. It was an incident that affected a wide cross section of persons, ranging from pilots, to locals coming home and tourists arriving in the country. It has been just over nine months since that ordeal transpired and since then the authorities in the Civil Aviation Department have put some measures in place to prevent a re-occurrence.
“Well the first thing was an issue of not having air traffic controllers. We have hired over the last two years at least sixteen new air traffic controllers and working with the additional BDF and additional six so that is twenty two new air traffic controllers that we have that we are training. Remember I had said at that time that I could hire twenty people with PHD and the learning curve would be the same because there just has to be the basic training, the on the job training so that is what we have been going through. We have improved their conditions. At work, we have certainly I think, Belize per capita and maybe in terms of quantity, is the country that has invested the most in training over the last two years and we have been constantly dialogueing with them to the extent that I think today a lot of those issues that were present, has been resolved because of our interaction with them and because of the support from the Ministry of Public Service.”
With these measures now being in place and with the upcoming upgrades at the air traffic control base, Director of the Civil Aviation, Lindsay Garbutt says that it will hopefully translate to some savings, among other benefits.
“The airlines are always asking for the best possible technology to make it safer for them like was mentioned by INDRA, if you have a technology that lessens the time they have in the air making more direct routes; that’s less money they spend and hopefully that translates into lower prices for the Belizean passengers.”
As it relates to the airlines using Belize as a hub, Copa Airlines, which is headquartered in Panama, Central America, is scheduled to make its inaugural flight to Belize City on Tuesday, December 8. Meanwhile, American Eagle, whose parent company is American Airlines and headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, is expected to make Belize one of its destinations in early 2016.