Florida-based Tropic Ocean Airways announced the start of operations in Puerto Rico, where it will be offering chartered amphibious seaplane services from the Jet Aviation terminal at the Luis Muñoz Marín Airport to the rest of the island and beyond.
During a roundtable discussion with members of the media — and Puerto Rico Tourism Company representatives — Rob Ceravolo, CEO of Tropic Ocean Airways, explained that to launch its first Caribbean operation, it has assigned a $3.2 million Cessna Grand Caravan EX aircraft full-time to provide service. The aircraft has the ability to take off from a runway and land on the water and vice versa.
“Modern amphibious seaplane service has been proven to improve connectivity in hard-to-reach areas with less environmental impact,” said Ceravolo, a former U.S. Navy Top Gun fighter pilot.
“Our entire team of more than 100 aviation professionals is committed to our investment in the Puerto Rico tourism and aviation industries, and we’re very grateful for the opportunity to bring our luxury service to the island. We’re excited to call Puerto Rico our second home and look forward to growing in the region,” Ceravolo said.
The airline, specializing in luxury airlift solutions for elevated travel experiences, offering private charter flights, scheduled trips, dock-to-yacht and cargo services, will be chartering domestic flights to all Puerto Rico airports and safe water landing areas, including the islands of Vieques and Culebra, and neighboring international destinations.
Charter itineraries are tailored to meet the needs of each guests and are anticipated to include flights to the British Virgin Islands, such as Necker Island, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Antigua, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Anguilla. In addition, the airline will offer charter flights, sightseeing and day trip excursions from San Juan.
Bryan Winters, president of Tropic Ocean Airways’ Caribbean Division, said a regular trip between San Juan and Vieques takes about 15 minutes, 10 minutes to Culebra, 35 to 40 minutes to the British Virgin Islands, 30 minutes to St. Thomas and about 20 to 25 minutes to Aguadilla.
The plane currently assigned to Puerto Rico has capacity for eight passengers, who may, for example, rent the aircraft for $8,000 a day, Ceravolo said.
Puerto Rico Tourism Co. Executive Director Carla Campos said talks to bring Tropic Ocean Airways to the island began about six months ago, during a trade show in Florida.
“They expressed an interest in coming here, to reinforce air connectivity from Puerto Rico to the entire Caribbean region. Our luxury hotel guests, and cruise ship visitors will have access to this service, which they can use to visit and enjoy other parts of the island by plane,” she said.
The aircraft operating range is 300 miles, Winters said.
“In addition to expanding our air access, the establishment of San Juan as the second base of operations for Tropic Ocean Airways strengthens the positioning of our Island as the connector of the Caribbean region and has the potential to increase passenger movement and creation of new jobs in the short and long term,” she said.
To start its operation, Tropic Ocean Airways has hired three full-time employees, a pilot and is contracting mechanics to provide maintenance. It is also looking to partner with local flying schools to offer training programs to operate amphibious aircraft, Ceravolo said.
Tropic Ocean Airways has a fleet of 13 amphibious aircraft, offering service in Florida, The Bahamas and New York, connecting the city with areas such as the Hamptons.
This is not the company’s first experience with the Puerto Rico market, as Campos said Tropic Ocean Airways played a role in Puerto Rico’s post-Hurricane María recovery efforts in 2017.
Most recently, the company put its aircraft and Florida facilities at the disposal of emergency and relief personnel working to assist The Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian’s devastating blow last month, the executives confirmed.