Airplane pilot Dale Brooks has spent over 8,700 hours in the sky.
The Michigan native first began flying back in 1989. Over the years he’s worked for FedEx, piloting both single and multi-engine aircrafts. Today Dale is the Pilot in Command for Aviation North, an air charter business that serves Marco Island and Naples approximately nine months out of the year.
“After 18 years flying nightly in the Midwest, it’s a great pleasure flying our clients to their paradise in southern Florida,” Dale said.
Aviation North is owned by Dave Abend and Steve Hensel. The company has been in existence for nearly 40 years. However, prior to the opening of its Southwest Florida location, it served the people of Alpena, Michigan.
So how exactly did a Michigan airplane charter company transplant itself to Southwest Florida? According to Steve and Dave, they both own properties on the island and were tried of the harsh Michigan winters. They decided to make Aviation North a bi-state company, serving both Michigan and Florida.
“The snow and bad Michigan winters really reduces the charter business,” Steve said. “So we moved the airplane charter business down here.”
According to Steve, Aviation North has a perfect 38-year safety record. They serve 129 airports in the state of Florida and are cleared to fly to all of the Caribbean islands, excluding Cuba. They can also pick up or land anywhere in the lower 48 states and Canada.
Currently, the company employs a Cherokee 6 aircraft, piloted by Dale. Though Steve says they do have more planes at their disposal. The Cherokee 6 can carry up to five passengers and has a 1,000-pound weight limit. This includes the luggage. It flies at about 3,000-4,000 feet, at upwards of 140mph. A trip to Key West in this plane would take about an hour.
Aviation North also offers rides to Miami, Orlando, and a ton of other locations around Florida. The company does day trips and overnight trips as well.
“If they want to go to Disney with the grandkids they can sleep at home,” Steve said.
The company also offers sightseeing tours that allow passengers breathtaking aerial views of Marco Island and Naples.
Recently, 76-year-old Vietnam veteran Bob Pitzi visited Aviation North for a special joyride around Marco Island. The trip was a birthday gift from his wife.
“I’d always wanted to and dreamt about flying ever since I was a little kid,” Bob said.
Bob spent a year in Vietnam with the United States Navy Seabees. He says he’s always wanted to fly planes but “something like life always got in the way.”
When Bob was about 50-years-old he decided to finally take the flying courses he’d always wanted. Eventually he got his private license and his instrument rating.
Over the years, Bob worked for the Angel Flight of New England, an organization for people who need medical treatment but don’t have the funds to take commercial airplane rides to major medical centers.
“We’d pick the people up and deliver to the city where the medical treatment was and then they would be transported to the hospital,” Bob said.
Bob stopped flying a few years back but still rocks the quintessential aviator sunglasses.
“Once an aviator you always have to wear these glasses,” Bob joked. “Even if you quit 30 years ago, you have to wear these glasses.”
Aviation North has a little something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a day trip to Key West or a joyride around Marco Island.
“We just want to offer something that’s cool and affordable,” Steve said.
Aviation North is located at 2005 Mainsail Dr. Suite 5, Naples. They can be reached at 747-226-5397. For more information visit their website www.aviationnorth.com.