Some months ago, the aircraft belonging to Wings of Hope was damaged in an incident in southern Belize rendering the vessel useless. Since then the Wings of Hope organization out of St. Louis, Missouri, USA sent an aircraft on loan to Belize’s office. Yesterday, however, Belize’s Wings of Hope received a Piper Cherokee 6 Aircraft to continue carrying out its mandate. Andre Carrillo, heads the Belize Emergency Response Team (BERT) who is responsible for the operations of Wings of Hope. He spoke on this replacement aircraft and the operations of Wings of Hope.
“It replaces the Cherokee 6 that we previously had in our fleet. Unfortunately there was an incident and the previous one as damaged and so Wings of Hope loaned us this aircraft that is behind us so through donations we’ve been able to get another Piper aircraft, a replacement and so this one is being taken back to Wings of Hope. The Wings of Hope aspect supports the regional hospitals. Unfortunately the level of service that we provide here in Belize does not exist in the rest of the country, we are able to provide the support through the air support and so what we do is we support the regional hospitals. The aircraft basically flies for the most part to the south of the country and islands to transfer patients to the regional hospitals or the private health care facilities in Belize City.”
“Now these are upon private request?”
“It’s on private request. The regional hospitals are supported through the government of Belize. We receive subventions and donations from the government of Belize as well to assist the regional hospitals with those transfers.”
The aircraft has a value of about seventy five thousand US dollars. It is quite a hefty investment and according to Carrillo their partners in the US have been very cooperative in helping Belize carry out the Wings of Hope service which is needed due to the high operational cost.
“Wings of Hope has been around before BERT, they were based in San Pedro. The relationship we’ve built with BERT and Wings of Hope includes the Wagner Foundation and the Wings of Hope from St.Louis. The Wagner Foundation is also supported by the Burlington Rotary International aswell and so these donor organization are the one who really form BERT and also with the Rotarians from Belize they also assisted with the formation of BERT and when Wings of Hope decided to partner with us they were essentially deciding to downsize their operations and so that partnership was made a reality. So BERT took on the aspect of Wings of Hope as well to compliment our land ambulance services. The maintenance for the air is essentially based on the hours the airplane flies. There is a yearly cost of insurance which increases every year and we’re talking about a figure in range of $30,000- $40,000 a year just to insure the aircraft, engines can run all the way up to $10,000 and while they are not perhaps yearly costs you need to ensure that its accounted for in your accounting so that you can meet those expenses when it comes up. So it might not be a yearly cost to do any kind of upgrade on the engines but when it costs we are talking in the area of hundreds of thousands.”
Wings of Hope, with its new aircraft, is looking to spread its traveling range beyond the borders albeit a challenge to do so.
“We are looking to re-implement the licenses and registration to ensure that we can fly internationally and that is within the region itself. It’s a small aircraft unfortunately we are not able to fly beyond Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras we used to fly to these regions a lot has changed since then so what we need to do is revisit the regulations and see how we can best serve the emergency needs of the country with respect to flying out. Mexico for instance it’s difficult to travel because of the challenges they are facing with the drug trade they’ve had a lot of stringent regulations and so its more stringent when you try to fly out to those regions you need to land at least two different airports before you can get that patient to an advanced healthcare facility. In this industry and field of emergency care seconds count and minutes matter and so if we are to fly to different airports to meet security regulations that is not good for the patient and so that is the consideration that we have at hand right now to see how we could best serve the emergency needs of the country with respect to flying out internationally.”
The Piper aircraft arrived late yesterday evening at the Philip Goldson International Airport.