In 2011, when Rob Ceravolo was in the early stages of Tropic Ocean Airways, one of his first seaplane charters aided in an emergency. “We got a call for a medical emergency that was on a yacht in the Bahamas. We picked up a doctor in Miami and flew him directly to the middle of the ocean to board it,” the Fort Lauderdale–based Ceravolo recalls. “It turned out that the owners’ parakeet was having a stroke. It wasn’t quite the emergency we were expecting, but we were happy to help.”
Over the last decade, Tropic Ocean has continued to carve its niche in the private aviation market by transporting clients to hard-to-get places in a hurry, thanks to its ability to take off and land on water. For instance, visitors to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) typically have to land on Saint Thomas or in San Juan, Puerto Rico, take another plane to Tortola, and then board a boat to arrive at their resort destination.
“One of our popular routes now is to the BVI,” says Ceravolo. “We have a VIP service in San Juan and Saint Thomas, which quickly shuttles clients through customs and then drops them directly in front of resorts like Oil Nut Bay, Little Dix Bay, or Necker Island.”
The range for most of Tropic Ocean’s flights is about 250 miles or 90 minutes. “There is no bathroom,” Ceravolo points out. The planes have eight single seats, making them ideal for families or groups to charter. Other common routes include Miami to Bimini or the Southern Exumas; San Juan to Saint Bart’s; and locations in the Northeast like New York City to the Hamptons. “We’ve also been working with real estate developments like Discovery Land Company and Oil Nut Bay, which are known for their remote settings. We can make it much easier to get there,” he says.
Ceravolo also points to the lower impact on the environment that seaplanes have compared to traditional runways. “You don’t have to tear up a reef to put in an airstrip, so we’re also keeping a light tread on these pristine locations,” he says.
Safety, of course, is important too. A navy fighter pilot for 14 years—as well as a Top Gun instructor—Ceravolo operates the company with the navy’s efficiency and standards. “There’s always a two-pilot crew, and we carry the highest liability permits,” he explains. “We’ve developed 90 pilots in the last two years, and we’re very careful about operating in saltwater.” Planes are washed every night and never stay in the water overnight. “We flew more than 45,000 people last year and didn’t have a single incident,” he says.
Pricing varies by destination, with scheduled flights to/from Bimini starting at $250/person and charter flights between San Juan and the BVI priced at $3,000 for the entire eight-seat plane. The price to fly directly to a yacht in the middle of the ocean—for any reason? About $5,000–$12,000, depending on its location. flytropic.com