Fascinated by flight

Fascinated by flight

Dave Odom warmly welcomes passenger aboard his R44 Raven II, better known to his passengers as an “aerial BMW.”

Island Hoppers a valuable Keys attraction

With the unveiling this week of Jetpack adventures in Key West is the continued proof that man’s fascination with flight is timeless.

For Dave Odom, he became hooked at the age of 10 cruising along the shores of Panama City Beach with a perfect bird’s eye view from the open doors of a Bell 47. (If the tune to 70s hit medical drama series M*A*S*H* starts playing in your head, you’re picturing the correct model.)

“No, I wasn’t trained in the military but learned how to fly the hard way…by writing checks,” Odom chuckled.

Pilot Dave Odom explained the helicopter’s subtle operations to passenger Lesley Aaron.

Just a year after expanding his operation from the Marco Island airport to include aerial sightseeing tours and private charters from the Florida Keys Marathon airport, Odom admitted he’s welcoming repeat customers to his Raven Air enterprise.

“Debbie doesn’t mind when I say I’m going to the airport anymore,” he chuckled once more, reminiscing that for years during his career as a real estate developer, the training for his hobby became quite expensive.

“Now when I say I’m going to the airport, it means I’m making money!”

Odom offers convenient service to Little Palm Island as well as private charters in and out of Cheeca Lodge. Charter flights to airports in Key West, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale are not only so incredibly convenient, but they are the most scenic tour as he flies right along the highway…no stop and go traffic here!

But for penny-pinching families looking for a unique way to experience the island’s beauty from an aerial perspective, Island Hoppers offers a Keys Discovery Tour for only $59 per person.

Sombrero Beach looked peaceful and serene from this perspective.

“It’s pretty when you’re driving over the bridges, but when the lights are just the right angle, I’m telling you it looks like a kaleidescope of colors out on the water,” Odom explained.

Before boarding the “aerial BMW,” he’s more than willing to answer questions about the chopper, his experience or what his clients would like to experience.

Leather-trimmed bucket seats, air conditioning on full blast and your own personal headset that enable you to ask the pilot questions are all part of the experience.

As his analogy indicates, this tour is truly one of the most luxurious, yet affordable ways to see the islands from above.

“The number of turtles I see out here every time is pretty impressive,” he added. “There are still plenty of tarpon, and you’re always guaranteed to see nurse sharks.”

Island Hopper tours not only offer a comfortable and appealing way to view the Keys – several tours are available, and Odom is more than willing to customize a flight for your viewing pleasure – but the experience is all the more exciting because this guys loves what a does. Odom’s been flying for years and still admits to an excited rush each time his helicopter’s skids lift off the tarmac.

Following closely behind the bi-plane tour as we prepared for landing, the experience was missing only one thing – the nervous anticipation of a rough landing. Take off was equally as seamless.

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