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Suspected drug plane moved to Belize Defence Force Air Wing

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Suspected drug plane moved to Belize Defence Force Air Wing

Unread post by bimjim » Sun May 06, 2018

http://www.kathrynsreport.com/2018/04/f ... d.html?m=0

Suspected drug plane has been moved to Belize Defence Force Air Wing in Ladyville Village
Friday, April 27, 2018

Police have still not issued an official report on the suspected drug plane that landed on Tuesday morning on the San Estevan road in the Orange Walk district.

By the time police arrived at the scene on Tuesday morning, the cargo, pilot (and passengers) were long gone.

Yesterday, BBN readers sent a video of the plane being flown away, but where was it heading to?

According to a report from 7 News Belize, the jet is now at the BDF Air Wing in Ladyville Village.

The jet is a Hawker Siddeley 225 twinjet usually used by rich corporations.

On Wednesday evening, after consistent media requests for information of the discovery of the suspected drug plane, the Ministry of National Security issued a statement indicating that along with its regional partners, including the United States, Mexico, and Central American neighbours, they rely on information from each other to keep informed of any airplane tracking towards Belize and the region.

The Ministry said that despite these efforts, there has been a spate of illegal airplane landings in the country as these aircraft manage to avoid detection from the available regional radars.

Last month, the United States International Narcotics Control Strategy Report cited Belize as a major drug transit country.


BELIZE CITY, Wed. Apr. 25, 2018

The transshipment of drugs through Belize has entered a new phase of sophistication after a twin engine jet plane landed on the San Estevan / Progresso Village Road, located about 3 miles out of San Estevan village, Orange Walk District, early yesterday morning, Tuesday.

The Hawker Siddeley 225 jet (wing span: 14.32m (47 ft 0in), length: 14.42m (47 ft 5in) (It has also been classified by some experts as a British Aerospace 125 — which is a twin-jet business class aircraft.) has presented Belizean law enforcement officials with a major challenge: how to move the mid-sized jet from the village road, where it is now under the guard of Belize security forces. Although it is most likely still airworthy, reportedly, there are no pilots in Belize who could fly it from its present location.

The passenger seating for the jet has been removed, which suggests that the space was used for loading cargo—in this case, drugs, most likely cocaine that is bound for the United States’ illegal drug market.

A jet plane is not a quiet aircraft; its landing is noisy because of its propulsion engines. Yet this plane not only landed, but its cargo was offloaded, before it disappeared without a trace.

An attempt was obviously made to set it on fire, but it appears that whoever thought about setting it ablaze had a change of mind, for the possible reason that setting fire to such a large aircraft would bring authorities to the area more quickly.

The Orange Walk Police formation, in whose jurisdiction the plane landed, has not issued any report to the media concerning the aircraft, and the officer in charge did not return our phone calls, so the country has been left in the dark, as far as this particular drug plane is concerned.

Did the plane land here in an attempt to refuel? Did it drop off its cargo here? Were any traces of illicit drugs found on the plane? Who was involved in facilitating its landing? How long after the plane had landed did the police find out about it? What actions did they take? All these questions need answering.

Belize Civil Aviation has the expertise to trace the origin of the aircraft, but everything has been left in the hands of the police, because the plane was apparently involved in illegal activities and its landing here was an illegal landing, making it a police matter.

This particular jet was manufactured in the United States, in Petersburg, Virginia, in 1983, and last year, 2017, it was certified.

Belizean authorities therefore have to determine if the aircraft was stolen and brought here, and what are the legal rights of the owner to reclaim it from the Belize government, which technically now owns it.

According to a report on 7News, police had intelligence that the plane would land, and they had deployed a number of officers in the Orange Walk area in an attempt to intercept it. It’s been reported, however, that it took a couple hours for them to find the site on which the landing took place.

7News also reported that engineers were brought in to assess the airworthiness of the jet, and to figure out a way to remove it from the village road.

According to some reports, residents of nearby communities in Orange Walk had indicated that, prior to the landing of the plane, they had heard sounds of a low-flying aircraft. There have also been reports that a few hours before residents heard these sounds, persons who use the road on which the landing took place had observed strange markers on the ground.

Since last November, a total of 7 planes have landed in Belize, but no one has been detained and none of the cargo from the planes has been found.

Our research indicated that jets of this type, with a similar date of manufacture, are valued in the region of US$500,000. Government will have to decide what to do with the jet, because Belize lacks the expertise to make use of it.

Late this evening, the Ministry of National Security issued a press release entitled, “Statement on recent spate of illegal airplane landings.”

The release explains that Belize relies on regional partners, including the United States, Mexico and Central American neighbors, to inform “of any airplane tracking toward Belize and the region.”

The release said that “Despite these efforts, there has been a spate of illegal airplane landings in the country as the aircraft manage to avoid detection from the available regional radars.”

The release explains that by the time the illegally flown airplanes enter Belize’s airspace, the information changes.

The release added, “These aircraft actively avoid radar detection; therefore, Belizean authorities must rely principally on actual sightings and the most recent intelligence received locally, or from our regional partners, to try to anticipate the landing areas for the planes.”

“The Ministry of National Security, in conjunction with regional partners, continues to seek ways to improve detection capabilities to prevent the illegal landings. In the meantime, the Ministry encourages the public to immediately report suspicious aircraft sightings to law enforcement agencies (Police, Belize Defence Force, Belize Coast Guard); doing so can aid in a timelier response by the authorities,” the release ends saying.

It is noteworthy that the Ministry of National Security release said nothing about the most recent plane, the jet, which landed in Orange Walk.

It appears that as long as Belize continues to rely on a radar system which requires that airplane pilots turn on their transponders, we will never be able to detect, by radar, illegal flights of drug planes.

At the inauguration of the new Belize Civil Aviation building last December, air traffic control officer Marsha Hinkson explained how the new, multi-million dollar radar works.

“The aircraft need to be equipped with what we call a transponder. It is a secondary surveillance radar; therefore, it has to have that equipment on board. Apart from that, they have to turn on the equipment. If they do not turn on the equipment, then they would not be able to be detected by the radar,” she said.

A drug plane landed on the San Estevan/Progresso Road yesterday morning - and that's where it remains tonight, on the shoulder of the road.

But, 7News has learned tonight that preparations are being made to fly it from there to a secure location. As we told you it is a Hawker Siddeley 225 jet, which local pilots are not qualified to fly. But, the police department did find a qualified pilot in the PG area, and we are told he went to the site today to assess the aircraft. If all goes as planned, he is expected to fly it out of there early tomorrow. We'll wait and see.

And while the government will now have to decide what it plans to do with the jet - which does have a fair market value - the bigger issue is - what's up with all these planes? Since November of last year - this is the seventh suspected drug plane that has landed in Belize. Most of them were burnt, one was left damaged, and this one is the first jet - and it was left intact - after the crew tried to burn it and failed.

Today we asked Minister of State in Ministry of National Security Elodio Aragon for his view on the flurry of drug planes - and if there is a plan to stop them:

Reporter: "We've had 7 drug planes since November. We just had another one. What can you tell us about this? Obviously it seems we're trafficking a lot in terms of drugs."

Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr., Minister of State in Ministry of National Security: "That has always been a part of our history of Belize, if you look way back in the 1980's Belize ranked in the 4th biggest drug trafficking country in terms of marijuana. In the area, cocaine, we've had all of these incidences still here and it will always continue to be an issue. We at the ministry of national security have to be concerned about these things so it is a concern to us for national security reasons. The ministry is definitely looking into the situation."

Reporter: "Is this the most you've ever heard of in this small timeframe? Seven different planes landing in various parts of Belize?"

Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr: "I've highlighted anytime we've had these aircraft incidents so of course it is a concern to us and we would like to know that they are not using Belize as a transshipment country. The reality is that people are using Belize as a transshipment country. It is more work now for the security forces to double up, put it the security strategies to ensure that we are able to deter that."

Reporter: "What kind of strategies will be used to help avoid this in the future?"

Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr: "Those things cannot be discussed to the public because if we do that then it won't help, but they're definitely looking at that and we're going to see how we can curb that situation. We're asking the community out there, if you hear or you're out there in your community, especially those rural communities, and you hear a low flying aircraft, you can call that in. That will assist us and that information is channeled so we can have a better response. This is all about timing, in dealing with these situations."

Reporter: "I know you can't really comment on who it is, where they're from but you guys kind of have an idea of this or you're still trying to figure it out?"

Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr: "This is an old profession in terms of people using this country as a transshipment area, this has been with us from a long time. As a matter of fact we're seeing an increase so it's definitely something that is a concern to us and definitely we have to do a response in terms of how to best curb the situation. I am confident that now we're under the ministry of national security, where there's a more cohesive coherent communication between the military, the coast guard and the police, I think we're now best able to do better as one ministry to deal with this problem."

And today, The Ministry of National Security sent out a statement on the rash of drug planes dropping in Belize. It says, quote, "The local law enforcement response is based primarily on initial tracking information and intelligence provided by regional partners. In the case of illegally flown airplanes, that information changes by the time the plane enters Belize's airspace. These aircraft actively avoid radar detection, therefore, Belizean authorities must rely principally on actual sightings and the most recent intelligence received locally, or from our regional partners, to try to anticipate the landing areas for the planes. Although law enforcement authorities try to cover multiple possible landing sites, the pilots also have several landing options and are therefore able to elude authorities." End quote. The Ministry encourages the public to immediately report suspicious aircraft sightings to law enforcement.

The San Estevan Road in the Orange Walk District is currently being monitored by police officers and BDF personnel who are on the scene of another suspected drug plane landing.

The discovery was made just after 5:00 a.m. on April 24th on a feeder road leading from San Estevan Village to Progresso. In an amateur video, the aircraft was abandoned on the side of the feeder road and appears to be intact, without any cargo.

Police have not issued any details or confirmation on this latest find, which is now recorded as the fifth incident since the beginning of the year.

A week ago, residents of Hattieville, Belize District also reported a low flying aircraft in their area, and according to reports, the aircraft landed and unloaded unidentified cargo. When asked about the incident, the police department was stumped and said they did not have information on that incident.

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