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Flying High

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

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

PLAYERS

  • 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.

BUSINESS Briefs

BOCA RATON

  • 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.

FORT LAUDERDALE

  • 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.

HOLLYWOOD

  • 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.

JUPITER

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

PALM BEACH

  • 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.

PALM BEACH GARDENS

  • United Technologies said it will hire 100 more employees as it opened its 224,000-sq.- ft. UTC Center for Intelligent Buildings, a 500-employee innovation and technology center. Another UTC division, jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, plans a $100-million expansion of its north county campus and to add 215 engineering jobs by 2020. Pratt already employs 1,300 near Jupiter.

WELLINGTON

  • Coral Gablesbased Mercantil Bank opened in Wellington its first “Bank of the Future” branch, featuring an open concept lobby, a product-discovery area and meeting rooms where customers meet with specialized bankers.

INNOVATION: Water Maps

This summer, Southeast Florida will be part of a first for Google as the initial Google Waterway View becomes available online and on mobiles. Think of it as Google streetview on water. Since March, Places Mobile, a Google content provider, has worked with the Marine Industries Association of South Florida to photograph the view from the water on the Intracoastal and connected waterways from Jupiter Inlet south to Ocean Reef. Boaters will be able to preview their routes and plan stops at restaurants, marinas or other sites.

Boat retailer MarineMax and Steve Baum, president and CEO of Boat Owners Warehouse, provided boats for Places Mobile’s work.

“Waterway View has the potential to be the most exciting new resource for the boating lifestyle, connecting boaters with restaurants, marinas, fuel docks, service and sales centers, and all the other resources they may need,” says association CEO Phil Purcell.

 

See other stories from Florida Trend's July issue.

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