A $3.7 million project to upgrade the San Pedro Airstrip, undertaken in partnership with Central American Corporation for Air Navigation Services (COCESNA), is nearing completion, Belize Airports Authority General Manager Kenworth Tillett told The Reporter on Monday, June 4.
Official inauguration ceremonies may still be two months away but it’s been 18 months since Tillett joined Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Manuel Heredia Jr. and COCESNA officials for the ground breaking ceremonies on December 16, 2010, which coincided with COCESNA’s 164th Board of Directors Ordinary Meeting.
Rodla Construction, the company that built the Philip Goldson International Airport, is doing the work.
The paving of the runway with hot mix is complete, although the asphalt mixture still takes some time to cure to ensure maximum durability.
The height of the landing strip has also been raised four to five inches and widened to 30 feet. The apron was also widened to allow for the parking of private aircraft.
The project was done in two phases., and work began in April 2011. Tillett affirmed the perimeter fence is 99.9% complete.
A security fence was deemed necessary to prevent island residents from wandering onto the airstrip, which would be extremely dangerous if a flight were about to land. With regard to the runway, the landing lights remain to be installed and the runway markings need to be painted, Tillett said.
Although all of Belize’s airports effectively shut down after dark, Tillett said, with future expansion and growth of the tourism sector, the day is fast approaching when the airport will need to be ready for 24-hour operations, and so the runway lights are being installed to accommodate night flights, and emergency medevac flights.
COCESNA has the exclusive rights to provide air traffic services, aeronautical telecommunications and radio navigation aids for international civil aviation in Central America, primarily for flights above 20,000 feet. The corporation also helps with supervision of flight safety and personnel training at its aeronautical institute.
It has been suggested that the airport be renamed the John Grief II Airport in honor of aviation pioneer John Grief II, a fighter pilot who founded Tropic Air, one of the island’s most thriving airlines.
Tropic Air has since grown to serve all destinations in Belize as well as provide several international flights within the region.