Many of Wade's customers fly into St. Simons for corporate retreats at the island's resorts. Others like being able to escape to what Wade calls "a small and simple spot, an out-of-the-fray place where people can come and not be recognized by the outside world."
The laid-back, island lifestyle of St. Simons has lured several professional golfers to live there full time. Matt Kuchar, Davis Love III, Chris Kirk, Lucas Glover, Zach Johnson and Jonathon Byrd have made St. Simons their residential 19th hole. With access to a full-featured FBO – and a PGA TOUR course at Sea Island golf club – the pros have found St. Simons a place to raise a family and relax while off the tour.
While the 15th century Scottish game is big on the island, so is local dining, says Wade. Golden Isles Aviation keeps five courtesy cars ready to take customers for some wild-caught Georgia shrimp (with grits, of course) or other low country specialties.
"Pilots will fly in just to do lunch or dinner," says Wade. "Everything here is locally owned, with only a few chains on the island. And 95 percent of our restaurants are within two miles of the FBO."
With mild weather, St. Simons also has no problem satisfying a hunger for recreation. There's a host of outdoor activities on the island, from fishing salt marshes and boating along the coast, to riding horseback on beaches and pedaling bicycles across a 27-mile trail system.
The 14 barrier islands that make up the Golden Isles of Georgia teem with wildlife, forests and coastal habitat that's home to many endangered birds. There are pristine beaches with dolphins playing offshore, sprawling wetlands sprinkled with Roseate Spoonbills, Sandpipers and Painted Buntings, and tunnels of stately oak trees dripping with Spanish moss.
In fact, the trees here played a role in the American Revolution. Rock-hard timber harvested from two thousand Southern Live Oaks helped build five Navy frigates and the USS Constitution. Cannonballs bounced off that hard St. Simon lumber. Old Ironsides is now the oldest commissioned warship afloat.
History buffs that fly into Golden Isles Aviation get their first taste of the past from the air when a meticulously restored 1872 lighthouse comes into view near the FBO. Its Fresnel lens is rare, from 19th Century Paris, but it still beams across St. Simons Sound. The rest of the island has historic Indian burial mounds, strategically important Colonial and Civil War sites, and a church where the British founder of Methodist Christianity, John Wesley, preached.
All of those things – the golf, outdoor activities, history and upscale dining – make St. Simons gold to Wade. But it's the aviation bug that's got him most.
"I love this industry and the business," he says. "We really love being able to serve the folks that fly in here. Whether they're in a 150 or a G5, it doesn't matter. We just want to be that excellent, well-done, courtesy-driven FBO that's pre-thought our customers' needs."
Just don't ask Wade to lower your handicap.
For more information on Golden Isles Aviation, call 912-638-8617, or visit www.goldenislesaviation.com.
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