Photo Credit: Lusia "Lu" Donovan, Co-owner, Aviate Inn
Inside Black-Owned Aviate Inn Coming To Orlando Apopka Airport In March
Lusia “Lu” Donovan and her husband are the owners of the Black-owned Aviate Inn, a unique new accommodation experience that will be coming to the Orlando Apopka Airport March 1.
Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky and St. Georges, Grenada respectively, the couple met in the Detroit Metropolitan Airport and soon discovered their shared love for travel.
An Army brat, Lu is always seeking unique experiences and adventures, while her better half is a captain at a major airline and Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) who loves road trips to venture off the beaten path and discover small hidden gems.
Lu and her husband were inspired to create the inn based on the volunteer work he has done with the Black Pilots of America (BPA) Bronze Eagles chapter in Houston for well over 15 years, and the desire to further help Black youth advance in aviation.
The BPA Bronze Eagles chapter provides scholarships to kids from underserved communities, with an opportunity to learn how to fly during their Bronze Eagles Summer Flight Academy, which is held every year. Pilots donate their planes, and Certified Flight Instructors donate their time to guide each student through ground school materials and give them time in the air to apply their knowledge.
The youth, many of whom may have otherwise never had the opportunity to participate in such an experience, leave knowing that flying is something that is attainable no matter what their circumstances are.
“There are not many of us (Black hospitality accommodation owners) and uniquely, we own the land and the building it sits on, plus the land next to Aviate Inn that functions as our plane tie down and parking for visitors,” said Lu. “When we were purchasing the hangar, we thought about the Bronze Eagles and the work they do there and how we could build something where we are today. Once we launch and stabilize, we have goals of creating aviation scholarships using profits made from our events and stays to help kids fulfill their dreams of becoming aviators.”
“We want to partner with charities who support the furtherance of aviation exposure to our communities of color, and eventually collaborate and work with organizations within the Central Florida region offering similar learning opportunities to kids in underserved communities comparable to our experience with the BPA Bronze Eagles Chapter.”
Lu describes the process of preparing for the inn’s launch as long but very rewarding. Although the couple was seasoned in other types of real estate investments, this was their first commercial property and first project of this renovation scale. Sharing progress and updates on their Instagram page, they have taken the public along on the journey with them.
“Over the past nine months, our Aviate Inn family has seen the highs and lows of this process, and we have made it a point to share what we have learned along the way. I honestly don’t know where we would be without our amazing design and project execution team Be.Long.Here Interiors. They handled and led everything from communications between myself and the vendors, vetted and sourced our structural engineers and architects, general contractors, sub-contractors, designed the look and feel of the space, and much, much more!”
Among the many things that make the Aviate Inn so unique is the fact that Lu and her husband have personally curated local and diverse vendors and suppliers to partner with and support their operations. With one of their core values being ‘Rising tides raise all ships,’ the couple has prioritized finding and highlighting vendors that provide unique experiences.
Located on the property of the Orlando Apopka Airport, the stay itself is quite a unique experience that is sure to appeal to aviation geeks, bucket list chasers, travel enthusiasts, and plane spotters alike. It is also an ideal stay for anyone simply seeking a new and different experience, or for aviators with or without their own planes. (For those without, there are three flight schools on property to rent from.)
“Our aircraft hangar has two levels. The first level is the aircraft hangar, which has a full bathroom and shower room, and also hosts our laundry facility. Our large aircraft hangar door can be opened and closed either manually or with a remote. There is a separate entrance (front door) to access the second level, where we will host our guests and small events.”
The second level is where you’ll find a huge living room, and two securable rooms with en suite bathrooms to accommodate double room and single room accommodations. There is a full gourmet kitchen, fully stocked coffee bar and snack drawer, and a large spacious balcony overlooking the runway, taxi way, and green space.
The Aviate Inn has partnered with local Apopka businesses to provide add-on amenities, for a fee, to have waiting for you prior to arrival or to enjoy during your stay. These include options for booking a brunch or dinner with one of their preferred chefs during your visit.
However, there are also several free guest amenities offered, such as coffee from their various preferred suppliers (e.g., Axxum, Cannon Coffee of Apopka, JetFuel, Hangar 22, Rugged Pilot Coffee), a fully stocked snack drawer, individually packaged organic body soap, lotion, shower steamers, body scrub, and cream, and Wi-Fi, to name a few.
There are plenty of nearby attractions for outdoor enthusiast guests to enjoy, including Wekiwa Springs State Park, Rock Spring Run, and Lake Apopka Wildlife Trails, all of which are in close proximity. The Aviate Inn is also just a 20-30 minute drive from places like Universal Studios, Walt Disney World, Sea World, Disney Springs, and International Drive.
“Apopka, FL and the surrounding areas offer so many great options for our guests, which we detail in the Guide Book section of our website. On the airport property, you can schedule a discovery flight with one of our active flight schools, or, if you are a licensed pilot, rent a plane to fly around Central Florida.”
For the holiday season, Aviate Inn has released various deeply discounted packages that Lu guarantees won’t beat any planned promotion that will run in 2022. The packages are non-refundable, however, guests have two years from opening day to use them.
“We also do not charge per person, so you can easily split, for double room occupancy package purchases, between eight people for shared accommodations or four people for individual accommodations, and for single room occupancy two-person shared accommodations. All packages cover taxes, cleaning fees, and a breakfast add-on. We also are offering a small event package, as well.”
Double Room Occupancy Stay Packages
Week Stay: 6 Night, 7 Day; also includes mid-stay refresh of amenities, and access to laundry facilities | Price: $1,950.00
Weekend Stay: 2 Night, 3 Day | Price: $950.00
Weekday Stay: 2 Night, 3 Day | Price: $750.00
Single Room Occupancy Stay Packages
Weekend Stay: 2 Night, 3 Day | Price: $500.00
Weekday Stay: 2 Night, 3 Day | Price: $400.00
Small Event Package
3-Day Access | Price: $1,500.00
Price includes all taxes, venue access, day prior for set-up, day after to accommodate take down activities, and cleaning fees.
“We are excited and can’t wait for folks to experience Aviate Inn when we open our doors on March 1, 2022!”