Tropic Air plane runs off the airstrip and into the sea
Saturday, December 13th, 2014
Despite no reported injuries, a full investigation is ongoing to determine what caused an airplane belonging to Tropic Air Limited to run off the airstrip and into the sea. The incident occurred on Thursday December 4th around 2:20PM at the Belize City Municipal Airstrip during a scheduled flight between San Pedro Town and Belize City. Five passengers and a pilot were onboard the single engine Cessna caravan when it ended up in the Caribbean Sea at the southern end of the airstrip.
The plane, which is estimated to cost some $4 million dollars is one of the new planes brought in by the company about four months ago. According to an official Police Report, when they arrived at the scene following a report of the incident, they saw a Tropic Air Cessna 208B Plane partially submerged in the sea about 10 feet off the south end of the airstrip. “Initial investigations revealed that the Tropic Air Flight 9N0281 left San Pedro at 2:00PM in route to Belize City and upon arrival at Municipal Airstrip about 2:15PM, the plane began experiencing engine problems and was unable to decelerate. Attempts were made to shut off the plane engine, however, the momentum caused the plane to overrun the airstrip and ended up in the sea.”
Chief Operating Officer at the Belize Civil Aviation Department Nigel Carter told the press that he cannot release any details that could harm the investigation. “I can only say to you that my international protocol and Belize law does not permit me to speak with any reference to any investigation. It may prejudice that investigation… in reference to the nature of accidents, there are many components to any accident. However, there are many contributing factors that may come into play to cause the aircraft to be in that position to have that accident occurs,” said Carter.
Meanwhile, Tropic Air has indicated that they are collaborating with the Civil Aviation Department to carry out a full investigation. Last year Tropic Air reported that they provided over 50,000 flights and moved more than 300,000 passengers to 16 destinations. It is one of the fastest growing airlines in Belize and the question of flight safety was put to both the Civil Aviation Department and Tropic Air.
According to Carter, flight operations in Belize remain safe. “We know that incidents and accidents happen from time to time. This year alone Belize is projected to have three hundred thousand flight operations. We believe that of the three hundred thousand flight operations if we do have an accident it is definitely regrettable, but our safety record remains up there with any first world country.”
In an interview with a Belize City media house, President of Tropic Air John Greif III stated, “Planes are built by humans, they are maintained by humans, they are flown by humans and stuff happens… our wives, our daughters, our grandkids fly on these planes, so safety is absolutely number one.”
According to the Civil Aviation Department, Tropic Air is in full compliance with meeting safety standards. “We know that Tropic Air has grown. They’ve expanded their routes and so forth, but we do regulate that growth. With reference to the introduction of any new aircraft to the fleet or any new route, we conduct extensive reviews and testing of the changes that are made to the system. So we can say that we have done our due diligence to ensure that the company has grown and been compliant with standards,” explained Carter.
While the investigation is ongoing, authorities confirmed that none of the five passengers or the pilot was injured. It is important to note that at the time of the incident, weather conditions were windy and rainy, making the flight more challenging for pilots, especially since works to expand the airstrip is ongoing. In addition, the flight was delayed in San Pedro Town to accommodate an injured shooting victim.
Because the investigation is in its early stage, the cause of the accident has not been confirmed. As part of their investigation, Belize Civil Aviation Department will be contacting the National Transport Safety Board in the US and Transport Canada to assist in the investigation.
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