October 21, 2019
Flying High


Tropic, which employs 30 pilots, carried 20,000 passengers last year.

Southeast Florida Roundup

Flying High

A former fighter pilot's seaplane company is a labor of love.

Mike Vogel | 6/28/2018

Eyeing the end of his military pilot career, fighter jock Rob Ceravolo had a choice. Transitioning to a job as a commercial airline pilot meant a great salary, benefits and predictability. Instead, Ceravolo founded a seaplane airline.

His Fort Lauderdale-based Tropic Ocean Airways flies from Florida to the Bahamas and, seasonally, from New York City’s East River out to Long Island destinations. Tropic carried 20,000 passengers in 2017, employs 30 pilots and 70 others and reaches more than 40 locations.

A Fort Lauderdale native, Ceravolo, 44, graduated from Cardinal Gibbons High School and the University of Florida before joining the Navy. He flew from carriers and graduated from the service’s fighter pilot school. Tropic flew its first revenue- generating flight in 2011. Ceravolo, finishing active duty in the Navy, wasn’t the pilot. He says he misses the Navy “tremendously” and the flying, the camaraderie, challenge and sense of mission. But he gets all of that at Tropic

sans the flying; he’s an executive, rarely a pilot. “If I fly the airplane, I come back with a smile on my face,” he says.

Ceravolo says “seaplanes bring you back a little bit to that romance adventure of the 1940s. I saw the need, and I thought we could do it better. I knew we could build a great company. ”

Some 30% of Tropic’s business is scheduled service and 70% chartered. It’s not a discount ticket. Scheduled service fares, for example, run $400 round trip to Bimini and $300 for one way to Marsh Harbor, both in the Bahamas. But he offers a new fleet of Cessnas, two pilots per plane -- in an industry known for a single pilot flying an aging aircraft -- and the convenience of skipping the big-airport TSA lines, Customs and boarding process in favor of flying from private terminals.

More business news and briefs for Southeast Florida


  • Boca Raton fitness drink company Celsius Holdings appointed interim CEO and CFO John Fieldly as its CEO and interim CFO.
  • The board of taxpayer- supported North Broward Hospital District, operator of the Broward Health complex of health care facilities, chose lawyer Andrew Klein as its chairman. Gov. Rick Scott appointed Klein to the board last August.
  • The board of the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County chose as its chair Amy Brunjes, Florida Power & Light’s regional manager of external affairs.
  • Fort Lauderdale- based home protection, maintenance and management company Cross Country Home Services hired Adam Aharonoff as vice president of technology to lead its digital growth.



  • Modernizing Medicine co-founder Daniel Cane and his wife, Debra, donated $1 million to Florida Atlantic University’s pre-K-12 Henderson University School and Florida Atlantic University High School to create the Cane Institute for Advanced Technologies, the schools’ center for research, education and tech transfer.
  • Timeshare company Bluegreen Vacations paid $34.3 million to buy Eilan Hotel & Spa in San Antonio, Texas, with plans to convert it into a vacation ownership property.


  • Cavache Properties secured a $17-million construction loan from Trez Forman Capital Group in Boynton Beach and a $6-million equity investment from New York-based Roberts Equities to fund construction and development of 30 Thirty North Ocean, a 24-unit condo project in the Lauderdale Beach neighborhood. Units are priced from $1.2 million to $1.5 million.
  • Developers broke ground on the Four Seasons Private Residences Fort Lauderdale.


  • KSL affiliate KSL Capital Partners paid $190 million to buy the 349-room Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort from developer Lon Tabatchnick and Starwood Capital Group.


  • Max Planck Florida says it will increase its 140 staff by about 15%.


  • Local developer Frisbie Group paid $26 million to buy the 1.2-acre Charley’s Crab restaurant site overlooking the beach and plans to build up to five townhouses on it.

Tags: Southeast

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