Ex-Navy fighter pilot built $15 million seaplane business, thanks to military skills

Rob Ceravolo and his dog

Tropic Ocean Airways

As I prepared to leave the Navy after years of active duty as a fighter pilot, most of my friends were becoming airline pilots, but that life wasn’t for me. There was only one thing I wanted to do: start a business.

Using the money I’d earned in the service and raised by selling my house, car, boat, motorcycle and kayak, I bought a 1976 Cessna 206 four-passenger airplane to get started on building my own airline in 2009. I worked on it nights and weekends as I served my last two years of active duty, riding a bicycle instead of driving a car to save money.

It took two years to get my license to operate. Meanwhile, I had to cover expenses like insurance and the note on the plane, without any revenue coming

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