Sunday, March 18, 2012

Blue Creek, Belize: Chris Reimer, 23, dies in ultra-light crash

The Mennonite community of Blue Creek in the Orange Walk district is mourning the tragic loss of Christopher Reimer, 23, who died when his ultra-light aircraft crashed near the Blue Creek airstrip around 8:00 Sunday morning, March 11.

Two of his friends on the ground said they witnessed how the wing of his aircraft collapsed in mid-air 100 feet up, and he plummeted to the ground. He suffered severe body injuries and did not survive, even though he was rushed to hospital.

His ultra-light aircraft was of the type that rather resembled a hang-glider with an engine suspended beneath the wing, which turned a pusher propeller behind the pilot’s seat.

Christopher, who flew for fun, took off that morning to fly a few spins around the Blue Creek community and was coming in for a landing when he crashed near the runway.

Christopher was the third eldest of the five sons of Edward and Caroline Reimer, and had only recently learnt to fly after he acquired the ultra-light aircraft earlier this year. He was unmarried, and is survived by his parents and four brothers.

Funeral services were held at the Evangelical Mennonite Missionary Church in Blue Creek at 4:30 Wednesday evening, March 14.

Nigel Carter of the Belize Civil Aviation Department explained that because the ultra-light is not considered an aircraft under international aviation codes of safety, Belize law would not have required Reimer to have a pilot license, such as is required to fly a proper aircraft.

In addition, no license or certificate of airworthiness was necessary for the ultra-light, since it was not considered an aircraft in the eyes of the law.

Carter said the Aviation Department does issue an aeronautical information circular about ultra-lights, which the Mennonite community would have received.

This general information bulletin would have specified certain guidelines for the construction of an ultra-light and stipulated the rules of the air which an ultra-light pilot would be expected to observe, such as flying only in daylight with good visibility, since the pilot would be navigating by sight. The ultra-light pilot would also have to avoid the well-traveled air lanes used by commercial flights.

Reimer’s ultra-light was really little more than a large kite which was big enough to support the weight of a man.

Its small engine gave it enough lift to fly at a very slow speed, and its slow approach speed also meant it needed very little space to land. The lift of its wings would allow an experienced pilot to execute a “dead stick” landing.

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