FLYING Magazine

While there are hundreds of airparks in the U.S., the concept of living adjacent to a runway is less commonplace internationally. 

FLYING has previously showcased some of the countries where the concept exists, from Sweden to South Africa and Australia to Costa Rica.

Another Central American nation can be added to the list with the introduction of Belize Air Ranch. The in-development community was created by Darla Zirbes and George Romine, two U.S. citizens who have been living and working in Belize for nearly six years.  

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“…We have been here in Belize for about five and a half years, full time,” Zirbes said. “My dad bought the ranch, which is about 620 acres, in 2010. We have about 250 cattle here and have been developing the property [into an airpark].”

One of the hangar homes at Belize Air Ranch. [Courtesy: Belize Air Ranch]

In the past few years, the land has changed a lot visually.

“The property was near and dear to Darla’s dad, but unfortunately, he got sick and could no longer take care of it,” Romine said. “At the time, I was working as an aircraft mechanic and in construction, which I had been doing for quite some time. We came down here and started building. We put in the roads, all of the fencing, cleared what needed to be cleared, and got the property and airstrip to where it is today.”

The 2,700-foot-long compacted limestone runway has an identifier of “LAF” and can be found at 17°11’49″N, 88°53’46″W. The initial plan was to build the airstrip for personal use only.

“I’ve been flying since 2000 and am also an A&P mechanic and builder,” Romine said. “We had an airplane here in Belize, and we kept it at another airport with a hangar. Then I thought, ‘Well, let’s just do it right here.’ So, we developed an airstrip in what was once a huge cornfield. It didn’t take long for us to build the runway. We used limestone taken from our property and had excellent heavy equipment operators to assist us. It was completed and approved by the Belize Department of Civil Aviation within a few months.” 

The idea to sell lots came naturally over time, and the current site plan calls for 20 hangar home residences. 

Site plan for the fly-in community, where two lots have been sold so far. [Courtesy: Belize Air Ranch]

“There are a lot of pilots that come in and out of this area, and I didn’t really put a whole lot of thought into developing it as an aviation community for some time,” he said. “But after talking to some other local pilots and our family, we decided that we wanted to bring like-minded people here that like aviation and the freedom to fly.”

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The community will emphasize aviation amenities, as well as the laid-back lifestyle afforded in the Central American country. Its picturesque location in the foothills of the Mayan Mountains ensures noteworthy views throughout the community, according to the couple.

The airpark is also completely off the grid at present, with utilities provided by solar systems with lithium-ion batteries for storage and backup generators, and water collection systems. High-speed internet is also accessible through a local  company. This all provides self-sufficient and sustainable living conditions for the airpark residents.

The couple’s Cessna parked at Belize Air Ranch. [Courtesy: Belize Air Ranch]

“We are trying to build a high-end airpark,” Romine said. “The home that we have just completed has 8,000 square feet…. It’s very large, with 3,000 square feet upstairs of living space with an air-conditioned hangar and a 2,000-square-foot veranda. It’s a very nice custom-built home, and those are the kind of houses [we will have] to try to keep it upscale. The idea is, as we sell more lots, to improve the community and airstrip by adding lighting to our runway and to pave it after there are enough people in the community.” 

Belize is a beautiful country along the Caribbean with a diverse natural landscape, from white sand beaches to dense forests. The couple expects that there will be a mix of full- and part-time residents at Belize Air Ranch and points out there are many reasons why it is an alluring place for retirees and others.

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“What is attractive to Americans and Europeans is that Belize is an English-speaking country, the only one in Central America,” Zirbes said. “You can also own your own property as a foreigner. Also, property taxes are very low. For example, we pay about $1,800 a year for our 620-acre ranch.” 

The first two individuals to purchase lots at the fly-in community are both from outside of Belize—one from Saint Martin and the other from Wisconsin. The couple also believes that the airpark will attract economic development to the region. 

There are many places within a two-hour flight of the airpark. One highlight is Flores, Guatemala, which is a colonial city situated beside a huge lake. Some of the world’s most renowned beaches are also a short trip away, including those in Cozumel, Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum in Mexico.

Pizza on the patio at the couple’s home. [Courtesy: Belize Air Ranch]

“And here in Belize, there are a lot of small airports that are affiliated with world-class hotels,” Romine said. “There are lots of places in the area that are exciting places to visit and you can fly your plane into. Just a few examples are Blackbird Caye, the pristine lodges in Mountain Pine Ridge, Chan Chich at Gallon Jug Estate, and Lamani. The islands of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are about 30 minutes from Belize Air Ranch as well. They have many lodging options, excellent restaurants, and lots to see and do.”

For those considering moving to an airpark in Belize, or just visiting the country, the couple has several options to stay on-site. La Familia Farms Lodge presently has five units with a large pool. Zirbes and Romine said that they can provide detailed information to guests about  Belize to include customs and immigration protocols, whether arriving by the airlines or in a private plane. 

Watch: Landing at Belize Air Ranch:

Beautiful evening landing at Belize Air Ranch!

Posted by Belize Air Ranch on Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The post Belize Air Ranch: Selling a Slice of Paradise appeared first on FLYING Magazine.

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