Tropic Ocean Airways Returns Scheduled Seaplane Service to Bimini

Bimini, Bahamas to see regular seaplane flights thanks to a U.S. Navy Fighter Pilot.

Fort Lauderdale, FL (PRWEB) March 28, 2012

Tropic Ocean Airways, the airline that reinvented seaplane travel in Florida and the Bahamas, once again leads the industry by offering scheduled seaplane service to Bimini from Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL).

Operated by U.S. military pilots and seaplane instructors and known for outstanding guest service, Tropic is the only U.S. based seaplane airline that is authorized by the Bahamian government to service the North Bimini Seaplane Base.

Beginning Friday March 30, 2012, Tropic will offer the twice-weekly flights which will originate from Sheltair at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport. Sheltair is a luxurious private terminal with free parking which offers a convenient alternative to the long security lines in the main terminal. Passengers arriving from locations outside of Florida via a major airline can connect to a Tropic flight via a shuttle to Sheltair’s terminal where they will board their seaplane to Bimini. The return trip to the U.S. is just as convenient since Tropic is located adjacent to Customs and Immigration.

The flights are approximately 35 minutes and will land in the harbor on North Bimini, allowing passengers to disembark at the seaplane ramp just blocks away from Guy Harvey’s Big Game Club and Bimini Bay, avoiding the long taxi and ferry boat ride required if arriving at the South Bimini airport. The airline also has discount rates for members of the military and is adding a “locals” fare which will be in effect this summer.

“Bimini needs a scheduled seaplane service,” said Tropic Ocean Airways CEO Rob Ceravolo. “The regular flights to our closest neighbor add a convenient option for both frequent visitors to North Bimini and the locals.” Tropic is teaming up with the Big Game Club and Bimini Watersports to offer guests an adventure travel package including airfare, accommodations, and water sports activities. “Big Game is a fantastic destination,” Rob added, “and we’re very excited to offer travelers a weekend of fun flying seaplanes, fishing, diving, and enjoying the islands.”

Tropic has been serving Bimini since early 2011 when the airline reintroduced seaplane flights to the island. In the year since it began operations the airline has had some notable flights, including donating two flights to transport Christmas gifts to the children of Bimini as well as bringing John Hemingway, grandson of Ernest Hemingway, back to the island.

Although the scheduled service is limited to flights originating from Fort Lauderdale on Fridays and Sundays, Tropic will add more flights and destinations throughout the summer based on demand. “We are working with the Miami Seaplane Base on Watson Island to create the infrastructure to support regular flights to Bimini,” Rob said. “We would love to see regular service throughout the week from both Miami and Palm Beach in addition to the Fort Lauderdale service and are working diligently to make this a reality.”

The scheduled service allows Tropic to offer its great flights at competitive rates while still maintaining a unique blend of one-of-a-kind experiences and quality service. “We launched our airline because we believe passengers deserve better choices in air travel and we are very excited to offer our flights on a per-seat basis,” Rob said. “At a time when vacations begin with the slow form of torture called airline check-ins, long security lines and cattle-car aircraft, we provide a convenient and exciting alternative to mundane airline travel. When you fly Tropic your vacation starts when you board your aircraft!” Please visit http://www.flytropic.com to learn more.

About Tropic Ocean Airways Inc

Founded by a U.S. Navy TOPGUN in 2009, Tropic Ocean Airways continues to differentiate itself from other airlines. The first to bring back seaplane service to Bimini since 2005, Tropic Ocean Airways, a carbon-neutral company, continues to outpace its competitors in the Bahamas and the Florida Keys by offering superior customer service, safety, and professionalism.

Rob Ceravolo
Tropic Ocean Airways Inc
800-767-0897 101

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A Hemingway Returns to Bimini on Tropic Ocean Airways

John Hemingway, grandson of the legendary Ernest (John’s dad was Ernest’s youngest son), touched down in Bimini yesterday via Tropic Ocean Airways‘ new seaplane service (www.flytropic.com), which is due to takeoff at the end of this month. While on island to research and write an article for Showboats International magazine, John will be hosted by the Bimini Big Game Club, a favorite haunt of his famous grandfather. John’s planned activities for the week include a snorkeling excursion on Dive Bimini‘s M/V Bimini Blue, a backcountry fishing trip with guide and boat-builder Ansil Saunders, and a tour of Doc Gruber’s Sharklab. Also on the schedule, a visit to the site of the Compleat Angler, Papa Hemingway’s home away from home during his years in Bimini (the hotel/bar tragically burned to the ground in 2006) .

Upon touchdown yesterday, John was greeted by BBGC GM Mike Weber. John was asked about his previous trips to Bimini and whether or not he has his grandfather’s passion for fishing and boating:

There have been A LOT in my life. The last one was about 2 years ago, before that in 2005. Most of my visits were in the 60s and 70s. I go fishing whenever I can, mostly saltwater, but I’ve also fished on lakes and fly-fished. I love sailing, and honestly wish I had a boat. When I was a teenager in Miami I had a Laser and would go sailing just about every day after school. I lived on San Marino Island with my grandfather’s brother Leicester Hemingway.

www.flytropic.com

 

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Tropic featured in the Miami Herald

Making a splash

By Cammy Clark

During a chase scene in Fool’s Gold, Kate Hudson asked Matthew McConaughey how he knew what to do to fly the getaway seaplane. McConaughey replied: “PlayStation.”

One of the bright yellow Cessna seaplanes used in that Hollywood adventure comedy — “the one that didn’t crash,” he says — was purchased by pilot Rob Ceravolo. He painted it white with blue waves and used it to found his dream company, Tropic Ocean Airways.   The Key West-based, eco-friendly seaplane outfit got off the ground earlier this year, zipping passengers around on sightseeing tours and adventure flings throughout mainland South Florida, the Florida Keys and now the Bahamas.

“I love the freedom of the seaplane,” said Ceravolo, whose pilot credentials stem from a much better source than PlayStation.

The Fort Lauderdale native is a U.S. Navy fighter pilot who flew 41 missions and earned two Air Medals in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He flew the last F-14 flyby for the Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show, graduated from TOPGUN in 2009 and remains on active Navy duty in Tampa.   Flying has fascinated Ceravolo for as long as he can remember. His father, also a pilot, used to take him for rides on a four-seater Rallye plane. At age 6, Ceravolo sat on a cushion in the cockpit and got to take turns at the controls.

“My father used to love to tell the story that when I was flying over a freighter off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, I rolled the plane over in a dive, like I was bombing it,” he said.

After graduating from the University of Florida and spending two years flying commuter planes, Ceravolo entered the Navy. In his nearly 10-year military career, he said, he has flown “just about every jet in the Navy’s inventory.”   But while he loves the rush of piloting a multimillion-dollar machine traveling 1.8 times the speed of sound and the power of catapulting off an aircraft carrier, Ceravolo said he always has been enamored with laid-back seaplanes and their ability to fly low and slow over the ocean.

Getting his feet wet

In 2008, he began seriously thinking about starting his own seaplane business. The next year he went to the world acclaimed Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base in Winter Haven to get his seaplane pilot rating.   His instructor was Nick Veltre, who was hit with the aviation bug while flying missions as a crew chief on CH-53E helicopters during his six years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps. Those missions included humanitarian relief efforts to East Timor in Indonesia.

Veltre, 33, said it was a “little intimidating” instructing a TOPGUN pilot.

Ceravolo chimed in: “Nick’s the best. He still blows me away on the water.”

Veltre taught Ceravolo the intricacies of reading water, wind, waves and tides like a sailor for water takeoffs and landings.   “We are flying around, and he’s like, ‘Yeah, take your shoes off and put them in the back of the plane’,” Ceravolo said. “So we’re flying around barefoot with the door open from 500 feet, at about 65 mph, checking out the alligators around Central Florida.

“That just sold me right there.”

In 2009, Ceravolo incorporated Tropic Ocean Airways. Veltre became a partner and vice president. The two navigated the time-consuming process of getting the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval to operate a charter airline in the United States. In June, they got approval to operate in the Bahamas.

Tropic Ocean Airways became the third seaplane company to now operate out of the Southernmost City. Key West Seaplane Adventure, whose parent company operates in Alaska, has the only National Park Service seaplane permit to provide service to the Dry Tortugas, 70 miles west of Key West.

Key West Seaplanes, owned by two longtime Key West residents, provides charters around the state. But earlier this month, its Cessna amphibian crashed in Arcadia with five people aboard. All escaped without major injury.

On the mainland, Miami Seaplane Tours has filled some of the nostalgic void felt when Chalk’s Ocean Airways, which in 1985 had an all-amphibian fleet of 13 planes, ceased operations in 2007 following a crash two years earlier in which all 20 aboard a flight to Bimini died.

Ceravolo and Veltre both say they spare no expense when it comes to safety.

So far, Veltre has been doing all the piloting while Ceravolo completes his 10 years of active Navy duty. On Dec. 1, Ceravolo goes into the reserves, serving out of Naval Air Station Key West.   They plan to add a nine-passenger Cessna Caravan to Tropic Ocean, which now includes only the 1976 four-passenger Cessna that Ceravolo flew cross country and through a snowstorm over the Grand Canyon.

“Nick and I have been putting blood, sweat and tears into this,” Ceravolo said. “We’ve been working for no money to get this thing going. Slowly, we’re becoming profitable.”

The company offers adventure sight-seeing excursions, with trips to explore the reef or private islands in the Keys. The plane will land on the water to allow passengers to snorkel, dive or picnic.   The seaplane draws just 20 inches of water and can safely land in three feet of water. It turned heads recently when it landed near the Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar in Islamorada and tied up to a mooring ball. Veltre said he makes sure to avoid landing in ecologically restricted areas and bird sanctuaries.

One for the birds

Veltre even has responded to a medical emergency. A man aboard a yacht that was anchored by the Abacos Islands in the northern Bahamas recently called requesting immediate transportation for his doctor in Miami.   Veltre arrived at the Miami Seaplane Base on Key Biscayne to pick up the doctor, a veterinarian. The patient: a 30-year-old parakeet who apparently had a stroke.

The bird “is doing fine and now enjoying his life in the Bahamas,” Veltre said.

The plane was featured this month in an Eddie Bauer photo shoot near Pigeon Key. On Labor Day, the plane will fly a bachelorette party to Bimini. For upcoming Fantasy Fest in October, Ceravolo is working on a “Get off the Rock” special for Conchs who want to avoid the 10-day debauchery.

Ceravolo said he has turned down potential investors because he and Veltre don’t want the bottom line to chart the company’s course. They want to offer discounted or free trips to causes and people dear to their hearts, including wounded warriors and those doing conservation work, especially for sharks. They also want to be as eco-friendly as possible.

“We’re 100 percent carbon neutral at no cost to our customers,” Ceravolo said.

Tropic Ocean Airways purchases carbon offsets through TerraPass, a company that funds projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Green lubricants and cleaners are used. The company also has invested in a high-tech engine monitor that eliminates unnecessary fuel burn.

“We’re not looking to make millions off this and sell the company someday,” Ceravolo said. “We really love what we do. We’d love to hand this off to our kids.”

www.flytropic.com

© 2011 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

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