PO Box 248
May 03, 2004
Powered, controlled flight and the Outer Banks, especially Kitty Hawk, NC,
will be forever linked in our minds.
The Wright Brothers never set foot on Ocracoke Island, but airplanes have been landing
here for many years, at first using the
flat, hard-packed beach sand as a natural landing strip. Although
difficult to imagine today, in the early years before the barrier dunes were
erected and vegetation took hold, planes would often taxi almost to the front
door of the "Wahab Village Hotel" (better known today as "Blackbeard's
Older Ocracokers also tell the story of the day in the late 1930's or early
1940's when Charles Lindberg himself touched down on the north end of the island
and visited with the crew of the Hatteras Inlet Coast Guard Station.
On October 12, 1937, Mr. Thomas Wallace Howard, Ocracoke's Postmaster, had
the honor of sending the first airmail to, among other places, Kitty Hawk, NC, the birthplace of
First airmail to Kitty Hawk, NC (from Ocracoke):
My grandfather, Homer Howard, mailed a letter to my father on that day.
The imprint on the envelope reads:
"FIRST ALL NORTH CAROLINA AIR MAIL FLIGHTS
OCT. 11-16, 1937
Wright Memorial, Kitty Hawk, NC
Ocracoke, 'The Fisherman's Paradise'"
The letter reads,
October 10th 1937
Will rite you just a few lines to let [you] no we are all well but mama['s]
hand[s] are worse again. Would very much [like] to see [you] all to day.
Give our best regards to the old folks. Now listen [I] am Sending you this
letter in order that you get one of the[m] that ever went by air
mail. Take care of the envelop Keep it as a Souvenir Hand it down to your
child & his chind [children]. So you will all ways no when the first
air mail left Ocracok NC
good luck & much Love to all
write soon your Loving Father, Homer"
In the 1950's Bill Cochran, a retired Air Force colonel and pilot, moved to
Ocracoke with his wife, Ruth. Together they operated Stanley Wahab's
"Silver Lake Inn," now called the "Island Inn." During
this time Bill, who earlier had run a flying service from Buxton to Ocracoke,
also served as mail carrier for Ocracoke during inclement weather. Ruth
remembers, "When it was windy and the mail boat couldn't go, he'd fly the
mail in. One time the wind was so strong that I had to go out and hold
down the wing while he was warming up; the engine."
Bill Cochran's "Airlift to Ocracoke:"
Bill Cochran loading mail into his plane:
After 1957 pilots used the newly paved and straight stretch of highway 12 between the
village and the National Park Service campground as an airstrip. It wasn't until the
early 1960's, however, that an official,
though unmanned, airstrip was built...thanks in large measure to eccentric,
resident, Sam Jones.
Airplane landing on Highway 12 in the 1950's:
Sam, originally from mainland Hyde County, married Ocracoke native, Ruth
Kelly. Sam was a prominent businessman/industrialist and owner of Berkeley
Iron & Machine Works in Norfolk, Virginia. He enjoyed spending time on
Ocracoke, but preferred to travel to the island in his medium-sized twin engine
aircraft. In the 1940's and 1950's the daily mail boat trip from Atlantic,
NC took four hours, far too long to suit Mr. Jones.
Sam wanted a paved landing strip. Although an improved landing surface would
certainly benefit him, Sam accurately promoted the idea as a service to the
local community in times of emergency.
With the help of Albert W. Cowper, Resident Superior Court Judge of Lenoir
County, and an avid sailor who frequently visited Ocracoke, Sam made contact
with Kinston attorney, Thomas J. White, chairman of the NC Advisory Budget
Commission and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. White,
incidentally, was an avid fisherman and hunter who loved Ocracoke Island and the
As the result of considerable lobbying by Judge Cowper, Mr. Jones, and
others, appropriation for the 3000 foot paved airstrip was approved, and it was
built in the early 1960's. The airstrip is about one mile from the village
and little more than 100 yards from the ocean, at an elevation of 5 feet above
sea level. The FAA identifier is W95.
In 1964, Sam Jones, newly enthusiastic about easier air travel to the island,
commissioned a sign to be placed at the airport. It read, "White-Cowper
Sam is reported to have remarked, "I named the Ocracoke airstrip 'White-Cowper
Airport' because Senator Tom White got the money appropriated, and I named it
for Judge Albert Cowper for getting Tom White to do it."
The sign has been gone many years, and few people remember the earlier
history of our tiny airstrip. Since then, however, it has been used countless times
enthusiasts, visitors, emergency medical personnel, and even delivery
companies...especially last year after hurricane Isabel cut off major delivery routes
to the island.
Today there is a new service being offered by Ocracoke resident, Phil Platt, of Pelican
Airways.....scheduled flights from Norfolk, VA & Beaufort, NC to Ocracoke
Island and back again.
Pelican Airways' Britten-Norman Islander Aircraft:
||Norfolk: 3:20 pm
||Ocracoke: 4:40 pm
||Beaufort: 7:25 pm
||Ocracoke: 7:50 pm
||Norfolk: 12:20 pm
||Ocracoke: 1:40 pm
||Beaufort: 4:30 pm
||Ocracoke: 5:00 pm
||Ocracoke: 1:30 pm
||Norfolk: 2:50 pm
||Ocracoke: 5:30 pm
||Beaufort: 5:55 pm
||Ocracoke: 10:30 am
||Norfolk: 11:50 am
||Ocracoke: 2:30 pm
||Beaufort: 2:55 pm
Pelican Airways will also be serving the North Carolina towns of
Manteo, Hatteras and New Bern, per request. Call for schedules, fares and
special family rates (1-888-7 Pelican [1-888-773-5422], or 1-252-928-1661).
Now, instead of
driving for 31/2 hours from Norfolk to get to the ferry where you may have to
wait in line, you can be delivered from one airport to the next in about an hour.
The flight from Beaufort to Ocracoke takes less than 30 minutes........Plus, you get a great view!
In addition to these regular scheduled services, Pelican Airways has also scheduled flight-seeing tours every day of the week.
The fare is $40.00 per person. Be sure to bring your camera!
||9:00 am & 7:00 pm
|Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday
||12:00 pm & 5:00 pm
||9:00 am & 7:00 pm
For reservations or more information call 1-888-7 Pelican (1-888-773-5422), or
For the real ambitious, you can also take flying lessons.
Until next month,
Philip and the entire crew at Village Craftsmen
(Special thanks to Thomas J. White, III for information about the White-Cowper