I have been living and working as a pilot in Belize for the past 2 years now, and life couldn't be better. After graduating from the Aviation program at Mount Royal College in Calgary, I decided I didn't want to move up to northern Canada to work as a ramp attendant and wait for a flying position. I had been to Belize before on vacation and loved it, so I packed some bags and decided to take a trip here to check out the job situation.
Fortunately I came here at the right time and lucked out with a job at Tropic Air flying a C172. However Belize operates on some old British civil aviation authority, and they required 750 hours total time to be able to fly as a captain. So in order to meet these requirements I had to build up my time as a co-pilot in the cessna caravan. This proved to be a very educational experience for me... Coming straight from Canada with only 250 hours, and only flying into big runways, I had a lot to learn. Belize has only one international airport and one control zone. The rest is all uncontrolled and tiny little airstrips. The airstrip at our main hub is only 1800' long and is surrounded by ocean on 3 sides. It's like an aircraft carrier. To make it worse, we fly the caravans very loaded with 14 passengers. Taking off on a calm day we use up about 1790' of the 1800' runway. One of our other airstrips is 2000' long, but only 18' wide - that gives us only 3' on either wheel. Anyways, it has been wonderful experience and has taught me some great stick & rudder skills.
After I finished building my time as co-pilot, I started my first paying job flying a C172 all over Belize and Guatemala - that was a blast. After a few months I got promoted to flying the C207, and now a year later I am flying as captain on the Cessna Grand Caravan. What an awesome airplane! I have a great schedule of 5 days on, 3 days off and the pay is pretty good. I have a great little apartment right on the beach with a beautiful view of the Caribbean sea. On days off I windsurf, sail, snorkel, scuba dive, suntan, play volleyball and party. Life's a beach.
There are plenty of flying jobs all over the Caribbean, and there are tonnes of Canadians down here. At Tropic Air, we have 5 canucks here! it's easy to get jobs down here because most of these countries are so small that they don't produce many of their own pilots, so companies have to hire foreigners to fill the positions.
Now that I have been down here for so long, I am getting a little anxious to move back to the real world. I am currently sending out resumes all over the place in hopes of getting a job someplace new. Maybe Canada, maybe some other Caribbean country. Who knows what's next. What I do know that this has been a great experience and an amazing time.
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