An Insider's — "Bird's Eye View" — Guide to the Outer Banks

See the Outer Banks the way the seagulls do. Take a plane ride with one of several tourism aviation outfits operating on the Banks.

Ten or more times per day, I look up from my desk to see planes headed northeast. Living next to the birthplace of flight it seems odd, but I have never seen the Outer banks from above. It is time to get the seagulls’ viewpoint of this beautiful place and go flying.

There are several companies that offer sight-seeing plane rides. (See list below). Cessna single engine planes, biplanes and helicopters fly out of Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo located close to the North Carolina Aquarium on Airport Road. I chose OBX Airplanes, LLC owned and operated by Jenny Hawk. All of the companies have on line booking or will take your reservation over the phone. They operate seven days a week and offer 4-5 different aerial tours at varying fees. My flight was $95 for 30minutes. The advertising you see for $15 airplane rides is per person with three passengers ($45 total).

It was a beautiful flying day and our Cessna 172 headed northeast over Colington Island towards the Wright Brothers National Monument flying at 1,000 feet. Very moving to fly over this tribute to the beginning of flight. At Kitty Hawk we turned south and followed the beach to Wanchese. The ocean was emerald green and teeming with dolphins and birds. Calm waters allowed some ship wrecks to be visible. The Outer Banks is referred to as the Graveyard of the Atlantic with over 5,000 sunken ships since records began in 1526. Wrecks are not always visible from the air depending on ocean currents and wind direction.

Our tour ended with a pass over Roanoke Island where the Lost Colony Theatre, Festival Park and downtown Manteo were easy to view. Our pilot was professional and knowledgeable of the area.

Back on the ground I discovered a big surprise — the Dare County Airport Museum housed in the airport terminal building. I had no idea this was available and free to the public. Authentic artifacts, uniforms, documents and equipment are on display detailing the involvement of the Outer Banks in our countries’ conflicts.

Civil Air Patrol units came from all over North Carolina in 1941 to “Coastal Patrol Base 16” as the airport was called at that time. They flew patrols in single engine two seater planes over supply convoys. The museum is worthwhile and I would suggest on planning a good hour for your visit. Children will enjoy the model replicas on display. Here is a link to the YouTube video showcasing the museum:

Early morning airplane rides are a great way to start your Outer Banks day followed by visiting the Dare County Airport Museum and The North Carolina Aquarium across the street from the airport. Enjoy!


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