April 23, 2012
By Elizabeth Bell
After a helicopter “crash” landed on a local houses in the historical center in Antigua last week, residents are concerned about the lack of enforced air restrictions in Antigua. While the Mayor is in charge of the streets and urban aspects of Antigua and the National Council for the Protection of La Antigua Guatemala has made great efforts to preserve the city, Aeronaútica Civll does not pay much attention to the air space. Low flying helicopters have increased with air tourism and – the crash landing of the helicopter on the roofs of houses on 1a Avenida Norte on Sunday, April 15th , it seems, was inevitable.
Concerned residents have voiced their concern this week meeting with Oscar Flores, our representative through the Sociedad Civil and José María Magaña Juárez with Salvemos Antigua. Denise Weikard has been working on this for nine years. In February 2007, she met again with the Director of the Dirección General de Aeronaútica Civil on behalf of the Consejo Cívico de Vecinos de La Antigua Guatemala presenting a petition – signed by many groups in Antigua – requesting that through the special regulations that apply to La Antigua Guatemala, “we understand that it is prohibited to fly over the city” and requesting that this be enforced. Five years later, we have the same problem still today.
Indeed, in meeting with groups with week and researching to write this article for Hablaguate, most pilots were not aware of any restrictions at all about flying over La Antigua Guatemala – one later thought it might be 500 feet but wasn’t sure. Another pilot said, there is a minimum so that, if there is a mechanical failure, they can land elsewhere. We also checked the legislation for Aeronautica Civil and there is no special mention about the Antigua Guatemala.
Luckily the owners of the historical houses were not hurt; luckily the helicopter did not crash into one of the monuments; luckily the fire department responded in record time so the entire block did not go up in flames; luckily Antigua survived this one.
While the helicopter passengers were filming a documentary, we have suggested that passengers use better lenses so they do not have to fly right over the city – it is noisy and now there is a sense of fear when we hear low flying helicopters. Residents are outraged.
This is a great eye-opener for the Private Sector (Sociedad Civil) to request a no fly zone – or – at least – a minimum no fly zone over the city. Stayed tuned.