Take your friends or flying club buddies to Florida and go adventuring!
“Would we do it again? Without a doubt we would love to!” Laura, Gareth, Dan and Friends.
Share a large 3 double bedroom house in Sebastian which is just a few minutes drive to Sebastian Municipal airport, where your aircraft is waiting for you at our FBO.
Now we know pilots like to fly so if you don’t want to share an aircraft we can provide up to 3 aircraft (3 x PA28 161 Warriors and a PA28 180 Archer) for your group if you wish. This allows max flexibility and ultimate exploring potential.
Captain Hirams water-side restaurant is just minutes away for great dining along with many other restaurants in the Sebastian area. All the big malls and white sandy beaches are only 20 minutes away in Vero Beach so there really is something for everyone if you have non-flyers in the group. Fly the group to the beaches or split the group for activities to suit all as required.
1 week package example includes:
- 3 bedroom holiday home for up to 6 people.
- 2 x Exclusive PA28 Warrior use for 7 hours dry on each aircraft (Extra hours only $70/hr dry).
- 2 x Pilot Check-out (4 of your 14 hours).
- How to fly in the USA Instructor brief.
- Instructor support.
- Access to our FBO facilities.
- Tie Down Costs.
- Fuel approx. $25-30/hr (paid en-route).
- Insurance $330 (paid before arrival and lasts for 6 months).
- FAA examiner sign-off – $50 cash (if you require a new FAA licence).
- Extra hours $70/hr dry (+ 7% local tax on extra hours outside of original package).
- PA-28 180 Archer upgrade – $15/hr.
- Food – Flights to USA – Hire car.
- Hold an FAA licence (Plastic Card) OR FAA verification letter.
- Be current on a PA-28.
- Be insured.
- Have a check out with our instructor (included).
If you’re interested, here is a video of our week (including our time with Pilot’s Paradise).
Island hopping down the Bahamas and beyond in Harry the PA28 Archer, what a truly amazing holiday adventure Bob and friends had
They clocked up about 26 flying hours, landed at about 12 different airfields and flew about 2200 miles.
Brief details of holiday:
Sunday, loaded aircraft at Vero Beach and flew to Fort Lauderdale Executive. There we completed all paperwork and flew to Treasure Cay on Abaco island. From there we got a taxi and a ferry to Green Turtle Bay where we stayed in the delightful resort of Bluff house for three nights. One day whilst there we hired a small speed boat for the day. We used the boat to visit some lovely beaches and see the stingrays and wild pigs.
Wednesday, We departed Treasure Cay bound for Marsh harbour but bad weather in the airport vicinity forced our return to Treasure Cay. Not wishing to go back to Bluff House we stayed a night at Treasure Cay Marine Resort, a place we knew from last year. The extra night meant that evening we went to the Treasure Sands Club restaurant where last year we had the best meal of the holiday. This year it was just as good with excellent food in a lovely setting.
We returned to the airport and then flew the short 18 mile flight to Marsh Harbour for fuel. We then flew the much longer 2.5 hour flight to Stella Maris on Long Island. There we were staying in the wonderful Cape Santa Maria beach resort with a superb apartment right on the beach. There is another airfield right next to this resort called Santa Maria which we had considered landing at but decided against mainly due to the runway length. On examining the runway from the ground it was in very poor condition so we were thankful we had not tried to land there.
Friday, Still staying at our fab resort we decided to take the plane on a day trip to Pitts Town on Crooked Island.This airfield is right next to the sea and runway literally ends on the beach, hopefully you can see some pictures. Notice the picture of three of us standing in the terminal building! The place is very deserted and we had the beach to ourselves. The flight time was about an hour each way.
Saturday was time to leave our beautiful resort bound for the Turks and Caicos islands. Unfortunately the internet on the whole of Long Island had crashed and could not file flight plans check weather and importantly confirm our accommodation. However we flew for two hours to North Caicos with Stuart doing fantastic work on the radio, filing flight plans etc bearing in mind we were flying to a different country! The Turks and Caicos Islands are made up of many islands, some inhabited some not. We landed at North Caicos one of the quietest islands. The airport is little used, has no fuel and few staff. After landing and completing more paperwork we found that due to our previous internet problems the hotel we thought we had booked could not accept our booking. There is very little accommodation on North Caicos but fortunately we managed to find rooms at the Pelican Beach Hotel. We also managed to hire a rather old Jeep car. This hotel was little more rundown than some of our previous places but it hand a certain charm and was adjacent to the beach.
Sunday, We spent the day exploring North Caicos in our hired Jeep visiting some interesting huge caves and deserted beaches. Unfortunately in the afternoon we got a puncture which should not have been a problem with three fit mechanical minded men on board! Alas the spare wheel could not be removed from the back of the vehicle due to the wheels bolts having rusted through. Hence we had to wait for four hours for the owner to come and sort it out, no AA here but every passing motorist stopped to help and they all knew the car owner!
We returned to the deserted North Caicos airport where we saw no other landing aircraft and completed more paperwork and handed over more cash. Stuart then flew the 15 minute flight to “Providenciales” or “Provo” island. This airfield is a very busy international airport, you are really mixing it withe big boys! After landing in a ridiculous crosswind we spent more time at a hold than we did on the flight. Eventually we managed to taxi to Provo Air, our FBO facility. Provo island is totally different from North Caicos, more like going to a busy Mediterranean resort and we were staying at the famous Grace Bay Beach. Our Hotel this time was The Royal West Indies a fabulous hotel which had two swimming pools surrounded by lovely gardens and its own entrance to Grace Bay Beach.
Tuesday we were loving our accommodation so we decided to stay another day spending time on the beach and the in the hotel pools.
Wednesday, back to the airport and after lots of paperwork we were off again! After a flight of about 2.5 hours during which we got to 10,000 feet we landed at Exuma, another busy international airport. From the airport we headed in another hired car to Grand Isle Resorts. This turned out to be a five star luxury resort where we were staying in a huge apartment. We each had our own bedrooms with ensuites and the property must have been worth millions! Loving our new resort we immediately decided to stay another night. This complex had its own pool and direct beach access, just an amazing place probably the most upmarket place of our holiday.
Thursday, we headed off in our hire car to find the isolated Tropic Of Cancer Beach. This turned out to difficult to find but another deserted beautiful beach.
Friday We left our fantastic resort and flew to to San Andros on Andos Island. This turned out to be a very run down airfield with few facilities and lots of flies! Our only reason for landing there was to clear customs and file a flight plan. We could not get out of there fast enough and soon took off bound for Florida. After another 1.5 hour flight we were landing back at Fort Lauderdale Executive airport. We cleared USA customs and refuelled before heading off for Vero Beach, landing there about an hour later. This should have been the end of our flying but as the aircraft was not being used the next day and we were not leaving until Sunday evening…. we hired the plane for another day.
Saturday We took off from Vero Beach bound for Cedar Key on the West coast of the Florida. Due to strong head winds the rather bumpy flight took two hours. This airfield is right by the sea and the runway fairly short, luckily we were not burdened with heavy luggage. A local taxi driver who listens to the airfield frequency met us and took us to the nearby town. This turned out to be rather charming with an old America feel about it. Returning to the airfield we did our last flight of the holiday back to Vero beach Stuart making the final safe landing.
Hopefully this has given you a brief summary of our flying holiday and might inspire you to visit Florida, the Bahamas or even The Turks and Caicos Islands.
Flight to Everglades City was a great intro to Florida flying, especially the bit where you land on Florida’s answer to Kai Tak – the FBO at Everglades Airpark, the airboat company in town and the restaurant owners, all of who gave us lifts, were fantastic.
New Smyrnah Beach was a lovely place to visit for the day – Lewis and Sal liked it so much they stayed for the night too. The FBO even gave us a car free of charge!
Highlights were definitely flying down the Shuttle Landing Facility at 100’ and the trip down the Keys to Key West. That really was the flight of a lifetime.
I met Gareth back in 2007 at Deeside gliding club in Aboyne, during the week of the mountain soaring championships. I think that it is fair to say that I am an incredibly lucky lady that my husband loves flying almost as much as I do. Not only that, but it was his idea to have a flying honeymoon. Needless to say, no persuasion was needed on my part. To make the most of it we decided to take 5 weeks away, after all, your honeymoon is supposed to be a once in a lifetime break away.
After a lot of internet searching, we came across Pilots’ paradise based in Florida, a fledgling business at the time (October/November 2010) that offered accommodation, transfer from the airport and aircraft hire all at a very reasonable cost. The creator of the company, Oliver Fisher, who is a Royal Air Force and GA pilot himself, is based in the UK. Being a fairly green PPL holder at the time I found having someone you could phone who knows about flying, the differences with flying in the USA and the local area where you are based was a real advantage. Oli’s dad Stephen was our contact in Florida, a very experienced instructor and pilot himself.
Our base was to be ‘Indian River Aerodrome’, a residential airpark with a 792m grass strip that lays approximately 6nm south west of Vero Beach. The accommodation is in the form of a studio apartment which is only a few metres from the hanger that faces straight on to the runway. Having such immediate access to your aircraft and living next to the runway was certainly our idea of a pilot’s dream.
The deal at the time was $54 per hour, dry. A minimum of 10hrs flying a week, or in our case 50 hours over the 5 week period, which in Florida is not a hard task. At the time the fuel cost was between $3.56 and $6 a US gallon. The aircraft was a very nicely kept piper warrior, and the best part for me was that the aircraft was exclusively ours for the duration of our honeymoon.
As you can imagine with the trip being abroad there was a little pre honeymoon planning required before our adventure was to get under way. We required the CAA to verify my flying licence to the FAA. We arranged an appointment slot in the FAA office in Orlando, that followed my flight check out with Stephen to get the temporary FAA certificate that would allow me to fly in the USA. You also require a visa to get into the USA – because we were going as part of a holiday package we managed to do this part online in a matter of minutes.
What drew us to Florida was the plethora of airfields and places of interest to visit both within and outside of the state, the airfields having no landing fees, and its proximity to the Bahamas. By not having to pay landing fees, it allowed us to keep the costs down during our trip, or my way of looking at it … more pennies for actually flying.
We chose to go for the last week in October and for the whole of November, a time of year that would reduce the risk of our encountering hurricanes. There are so many places we could talk about but I will highlight a few of our favourites.
Our first trips were fairly local and we soon discovered the airport Tiki at Okeechobee which would be a frequent haunt for breakfast during our time there. Only about 15-20 minutes flight from the apartment, it is a municipal airfield, essentially maintained by the council that lies just north of Lake Okeechobee. It was a very popular place for pilots to go to, especially at the weekend and it was always worth the wait for a table. There was always an interesting mix of aircraft that would fly in, even including a few experimental types. Although it has to be said that it was very surreal to see people flying in for breakfast in a citation jet, or a gulfstream. It is definitely a place that made you feel like you were a part of a small community and it made me realise that a lot of people in the U.S not only fly for fun, but as a form of commuter transport.
What struck us in the early days of flying in Florida was how GA friendly it was. Not only was there no any landing fees, you had self-service, pay by card fuel pumps so you could top up the tanks at any time. At most FBOs (fixed base operators) you could borrow a car for an hour or so to pop into the town for a browse around the area or they would arrange a car hire for you. It felt like there was a lot of freedom for us to pick up the map and start exploring. Flying in the morning tended to be less thermic and we were always aware of the triggers for CBs. As my confidence grew, we went a little further afield.
The everglades offered a new airfield and the chance to get up close with the alligators. I don’t think that we were convinced it was a good idea for the guide to hit the alligator on the nose as he was telling us that it can jump 3 times its own body length without touching the ground. But I am happy to say we all escaped harm.
Pahokee was a small town on the east side of the Okeechobee lake that we stayed at to see the sunset, our accommodation was a small log cabin called the tadpole. It was amazing when you stood and looked out over the lake; it is so big you would think that you are looking at the sea. I have to say the sunset did not disappoint.
On the days that we did not fly we still had plenty to do, we shot handguns for the first time, visited Ormond Beach, went to the cinema, spent Veterans Day at Stuart airshow, looked at the TICO aviation museum, and took tours at Cape Canaveral with NASA amongst other things. Unfortunately although both the rocket and the shuttle were due to launch whilst we were in Florida, both got delayed due to technical issues. It was still spectacular to see it set up for launch day.
One of the greatest highlights of our honeymoon was getting the chance to fly down to Turks and the Bahamas. Our initial plan had been to have a Caribbean check flight with Stephen, however Oli had received a phone call from 2 pilots, Dan Arlett and Adam Dobson who were looking for an aircraft to hire to take to the Bahamas. Both of them had a lot of flying experience, Adam was a PPL with IMC and Dan was an RAF CFS QFI on Hawk and Tornado F3. They also had been to the Bahamas multiple times before. It was proposed that we get in touch with each other to possibly do the trip together if both parties agreed. This is how we came to spend one week of our honeymoon with Dan and Adam.
We couldn’t have been more relieved to say that we all hit it off straight away, 7 hours flying together could have been a really awkward otherwise.
The first time we met was the night before our trip in order to do the flight planning, mass and balance, fuel calculation, submitting our flight plan and e-APIS which is the passenger manifest that you do online. Our luggage was very scant in order to stay within the limits, slimmed down from the initial packing. I had already picked up the import/export paperwork and general declaration forms that would be required by the aircraft for leaving the USA, entering the Bahamas, leaving the Bahamas and entering Turks as you essentially have to export the aircraft from where you are and import it to where you are going. Dan and Adam had advised us to take a supply of small dollar bills to pay the fees along the way, not all places took card payments. It is a good idea to double check that the airfields you intend to land at have the appropriate fuel – the Bahamas and Caribbean pilots guide is very useful to have when planning and it is generally updated yearly. Safety equipment was hired from Fort Pierce airfield and picked up the day before and with it also being a customs airfield I managed to pick up the paperwork we would be required to use. It is important to note that your initial landing point in the Bahamas must also be at a customs airfield.
The initial plan was to fly to North Eluthera, then on to Exuma followed by Providenciales in Turks.
We decided that Dan would be in the right hand seat with Gareth and Adam in the back and I would be taking point as P1. I found it quite comforting to have someone with so much experience up front with me and I was looking forward to seeing what I would learn from the trip. Before departure we discussed what each person’s role would be in the event of an emergency or ditching so that there would be no ambiguity should the worst occur. With butterflies in my stomach and the weather on our side we set off first thing in the morning.
The first leg did not quite go according to plan unfortunately with a call of nature needed. A quick look at the chart and plates and an alternative customs airport that was closer to us was chosen. An embarrassing call to air traffic asking to divert for a comfort stop and a request that they close our active flight plan saw us landing at Freeport international in Grand Bahama. Our baggage was unloaded and checked, the aircraft left open for customs to look at, fees paid, documents checked, fuel topped up, a new flight plan filed and we were once again ready to depart. Feeling a little more relaxed we headed for Exuma International. What strikes you when flying in the Bahamas is the number of islands that make it up and after the initial water crossing you can follow a route that will keep you close to the islands, many of which have runways. We chose to fly past Nassau to keep us on a direct route, this leg taking 2.5 hours, gave us plenty of time to appreciate the beauty and colours around us. We even had our own soundtrack playing courtesy of Adam playing music through his headset and it was one of those days where you wonder why everyone doesn’t go flying and you can’t help but have a grin on your face. Even to this day when I hear certain tunes on the radio it takes me back to those very happy days cruising over the Bahamas. Our final leg that day took us to Providenciales in Turks, and with a total flight time of 7 hours, a well-deserved rest.
We stayed at Club Med and opted for all inclusive. It was nice to have a few days down-time, enjoying the sunshine, sailing hobby cats, dancing the night away, and there was even a little circus action by the boys in the form of a trapeze lesson. A few days later, whilst keeping an eye on the weather for the flight back it became apparent that the return flight was going to be postponed. Despite our best efforts to miss the hurricane season, hurricane Tomas was heading our way via Haiti. The airport was to be shut and the hotel on lock down. When we first contacted the airport to see if we could get hanger space for the aircraft we were told that there was no room, however thanks to some smooth talking by Adam and a $100 bribe, we managed to secure a spot – one less thing to give us concern. Dan suggested that we change rooms to the first floor in case of a storm surge, a request that the hotel obliged with. The hurricane was due to arrive early morning, dinner finished early and every person was given a white box containing food and water for breakfast and a torch. Curfew was set for everyone to be in their room. Luckily for us the path of the hurricane changed slightly so there was a lot of rain and an increase in wind strength but no real damage to the Island. Haiti was not so fortunate and bore the brunt of it. We were glad that we had been spared the destruction.
Once the airport was opened again we started the journey back to the mainland, the weather not as bright in the aftermath. We were bound for Exuma International as our airport of entry and then on to Staniel Cay, a favourite of both sailors and aviators, for lunch at the yacht club. This is the Island that James Bond was filmed and you can see the thunderball cave easily from the air. If you have time to stop you can hire a boat and swim in the cave. Following lunch we headed for Nassau. It is a busy airfield and we were vectored in for an approach and asked to keep up the speed and land long for the jet that was approaching behind us. We chose to stay at the Atlantis hotel. An impressive and imposing complex with the largest aquarium I have ever seen, holding all sorts of aquatic animals from the small, to rays and sharks. The hotel also has a large casino and several restaurants. Our final leg of the trip was to fly back to the USA and into Fort Pierce. It’s the same drill with customs, you leave the aircraft open, have all your documentation ready and unload your bags for them to check. In all we did around 14 hours of flying and had a week to remember but we barely scratched the surface of the Bahamas.
Towards the end of our honeymoon we took the trip down to the Florida Keys. We decided to pop into the everglades on the way down to get fuel and say hi as they had been so welcoming during our previous visit. We had been told about another Tiki near Marathon airport with a great reputation for good food and a nice view of the water, so another stop off was in order to fuel the pilots. On the way down you pass a local legend, Fat Albert, a tethered aerostat radar system with a danger area around it as the cable can extend up to 14000ft. Co-ordinating with key west navy after departure we were requested to remain 2 miles off the coast and remain at our altitude and just as we were being told about departing traffic, a jet passed right under us – not your everyday view.
Key West is quite a colourful place. We were picked up from the airport by our taxi which included Mango the parrot, who sat out during the ride, often hanging upside down from the driver’s hand. At our bed and breakfast, Knowles house, we met another young honeymoon couple, Jarred and Lauren from Louisiana whom we became friends with. I undertook my first ever Jet Ski ride, and when the guide gave us 10 minutes to “ride it like you stole it” Gareth took it to heart and despite my best efforts to hold on tight we ended up off the machine and soaked to the bone. It was also the first time I had ridden a bike with a back pedal brake, as we had hired them to take a tour of the island. Gareth suggested that we take Jarred and Lauren up in the warrior as they had never been in a light aircraft before and I was happy to oblige. We took a short trip around the island and over to Marathon to the Tikki for lunch. I really enjoyed being able to do something a little different for them that maybe added to their honeymoon memories.
Taking Oli’s advice for our routing back to Indian River we went up the coast past Miami, with our clearance of not above 500ft and remain over the water. It is definitely a spectacular route home, all be it a very busy one. You have to keep your eyes peeled for all the other low level traffic and the occasional banner tower, but it will be a view of Miami that you won’t forget in a hurry, and every time that you see the opening sequence of CSI Miami it will take you back to it.
Our final day seemed to come around really quickly. We settled our bill at Vero beach for the times we parked overnight and took fuel, and the very kind people there only charged us fuel as we were the ‘lovely honeymoon couple from the UK’. We took a final flight to Okeechobee for breakfast and to top up to tabs before having to get packed up and on the road for Orlando and our return home. 5 weeks away, 57.5 hours flying, a truck load of fantastic memories, and some new friends meant that our honeymoon was everything that we had set out to achieve – something that we will never forget. Would we do it again? Without a doubt we would love to, although now that I have more experience and a CPL IR I would challenge myself to go a little further. I highly recommend you to give it a go, whether it is for a week or a month, the above is just a small snippet of the things we did and you will have plenty to keep you occupied if flying or having some down time; staying local or going further afield.