Visit to Pilot’s Paradise, Florida

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During my holiday and flying tour of Southern Florida, I popped in to visit Pilots Paradise – a flight school/FBO based in Sebastian run by British ex-pats. Carole and Tony work full time there and have expanded the business considerably in recent years. They have a fleet of six PA28s and two other aircraft, several instructors, maintenance and fuel facilities. The organisation is dual approved for FAA flight training (under Part 141, the accelerated FAA commercial scheme as well as Part 91 aimed at recreational pilots) and EASA flight training (ab-initio PPL, IMC and the occasional CB-IR).

Fresh coffee brewing

Carole showed me around their spacious accommodation which includes several briefing rooms, offices and a small coffee/kitchen area. There’s a popular SkyDiving school next door with a cafe/bar available to all. Outside on the apron there’s plenty of parking area for their fleet as well as a hangar for engineering work.

Inhouse maintenance

The company has ambitious plans to expand, acquiring more hangar space and is soon to take over some larger office space in the main terminal area.

Nice benches outside to watch the airport activity from

Perhaps best known for offering flying holidays/touring to UK recreational pilots, the school is busy with UK hour-builders on the commercial training route. They can easily accumulate 25 hours a week or more flying in good weather conditions available throughout the year. Tony himself is very busy with commercial and instrument flight instruction, the majority towards FAA certificates. There’s also a stream of European visitors for EASA PPL and IMC ratings.

Their advantage is familiarity with the American system from a visiting European viewpoint – they can streamline the paperwork and formalities, and highlight the differences that you can expect. TSA fingerprinting is typically processed within 24 hours, and temporary airman certificates based on a European/UK PPL can be issued by a local Examiner without needing to visit a FSDO office.

Sebastian airport can be quite busy at times – it has several training organisations based there, plus the skydiving. The much larger aviation training organisations nearby at Vero beach often come for circuit practice, but the local rule limits three in the circuit at any one time.

It’s good to see a UK oriented business thriving here and we wish them well.

Vero Beach is much busier than Sebastian, both the town and the airport, and I’m glad we chose to stay there. It’s about 30 minutes drive away.

Vero Beach airport is the home of Piper Aircraft, and you can join an organised factory tour if you plan in advance. Many street names are related to Piper aircraft names. There’s also a busy airfield restaurant (C J Cannons) and a couple of very large pilot training academies, each with fleets of more than 50 aircraft. The radio was very busy, with a mix of students (many foreign, not native English speakers), executive jets and other traffic which kept the tower controller very busy.

Vero Beach with hardly a cloud in the sky

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