Club Spotlight: Flying with a Wingnut to Ocracoke and Other Island Adventures

One of the best things about being a pilot is that you can hop in a plane and in an hour or two you can be transported to somewhere completely different, somewhere that you couldn’t get to easily.

Wingnuts Flying Club member Brent Sinnet didn’t have to think long about where he and his wife Amy wanted to go. “When I was working on my license, which was only two years ago, we knew we were going to come to Ocracoke,” he said. “It’s a super neat community, it’s very historic. It feels like you’re going back in time.”

If you’re not familiar with Ocracoke Island, it is one of the southern-most islands of the outer banks of North Carolina. Founded in the early 1700s, it became an important port of entry during the Revolutionary War and Civil War because larger ships could not navigate the Pamlico Sound to get to the mainland. As a hub for trade, it attracted pirates and may be best known as the location where Blackbeard was killed in 1718.

Today, there are three ferries that go there – one that comes up from Cedar Island to the south, one that comes from Swan Quarter to the northwest, and one from Cape Hatteras just to the north. Or you could fly to the airfield, W95, which is right on the beach and about a mile or so from town.

The Wingnuts Flying Club is based at Richmond Executive Chesterfield County Airport (KFCI) and Ocracoke is about an hour flight in the club’s Cirrus SR20. If you drove from the airport and took the Hatteras Ferry, the trip would take almost six hours.

Besides the Cirrus, the club’s fleet includes a Tecnam P2010 and a Cessna Columbia 350. There about 50 flying members, seven or eight Class A members who are working on their pilot’s certificate, and 10 social members.

Encouraging Trips

“Travel is heavily encouraged,” Brent said. “We’re an East Coast club and you’re looking for places on the coast to fly. If you’re not going out to the coast, you’re going to the mountains and Shenandoah Valley.”

At the club’s general membership meeting each month, they typically go over the status of the aircraft and have a safety presentation or a guest speaker, and then members often talk about where they have flown. Recent flights and destinations are also a common topic at the monthly cookouts held during the summer. It’s just part of the club culture.

Brent posted photos of his trip to Ocracoke, which the club shared on its Facebook page. “I had four or five people that saw it on the Wingnuts page who called and asked where we stayed and what restaurants we went to,” Brent said. “Whenever a pilot goes off and does something like that, there are two or three that follow up and say, ‘Hey tell me about it.’”

Members often fly to places like Tangier Island, which is in the Chesapeake Bay (see this month’s Event Spotlight), First Flight in North Carolina, or they make the Ocracoke run, which is very common amongst the club members, Brent said.

First Flight Airport (KFFI) in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina is where the Wright Brothers made their historic flight. It was Brent’s first cross country after getting his license. “It’s such an easy flight for people from Richmond,” he said. “It’s almost like a rite of passage if you’re on the East Coast. It just felt like something you had to do.”

Heading the other direction, Luray Caverns (KLUA) is a popular destination in the Shenandoah Valley. It is the largest cavern in the eastern United States and there is a quaint downtown to visit, along with a car and carriage museum, and hiking trails with stunning views. 

When flying to these small town airports, check to see if there is a courtesy car you can use or let the hotel or a local business know you are flying in. Often times they may send someone to pick you up.

“From what I understand, if you fly up there and you let Luray know that you’re coming, they’ll help get you there,” Brent said. “In Ocracoke, if you stay at a hotel around the Sliver Lake harbor, they’re happy to come get you.”

Another option is to rent a golf cart or bicycle to get around the island, which is something most people do. Looking at the comments on ForeFlight, someone mentioned the golf cart rental company will pick you up and bring you back to the airport.

Brent and Amy decided to bring their own transportation. “We took our scooters. We folded down the back seats, put them under the cargo nets, and took off,” he said. Their electric scooters have a range of 40 miles and can support a person weighing up to 265 pounds.

Tips for Flying to Ocracoke and Other Destinations

If you plan to take a club plane for several days to go somewhere, it’s best to plan ahead. There are 53 members in the Wingnuts and about half the pilots prefer to fly the Cirrus. Brent usually schedules the plane about a month in advance if he wants to take it for a few days to go on a trip.

Besides reserving the plane in advance, it’s important to spend some time doing your flight plan. Review the charts to look for special airspace, and make sure you check out the airport information and remarks using AOPA’s online Airport Directory.

In addition to airport information, the AOPA Travel web page has links for travel discounts, a flight planner, weather, pilot guides for flying to the Bahamas or the Caribbean, and a search engine that is part of the Airport Directory where you can also find nearby activities, lodging, restaurants, and events.

If you plan to fly into Ocracoke, a review of the airport information will show that there are no services or fuel at the field, but there is a building that has wi-fi so you can check weather or do any flight planning before departure. There is no landing fee.

The 3,000-foot runway has no taxiway and there are no runway lights, so airport operations are limited to 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. The ramp has about 20 tiedowns. Another comment on ForeFlight recommended bringing your own tie down ropes and chocks.

More importantly, the remarks show the airport is withing the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, so you are supposed to maintain a 2,000 foot vertical and horizontal separation from the beaches on the ocean side of the island, and there are high-speed, low-level military operations in the area.

Ocracoke is within the Pamlico B MOA, and there are several other MOAs and Restricted Areas nearby by, including Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station.

“It’s definitely best if you’re a VFR pilot to use Flight Following,” Brent said. “As we were heading down, they let us know the two Restricted Areas to the north and the south were active. You’ll see the jets coming in and they’re 200 feet off the ground in the restricted area. You just need to be careful.”

Ocracoke Island is just one of many out of the way destinations that are easily accessible to flying club members.

“It’s just this little magic place that you fly into. It really is like going into the past,” Brent said. “You’re in a town that was here hundreds of years ago. You feel like you’re escaping to what was the Outer Banks.”

Being a pilot and having affordable access to an aircraft opens up a world of destinations and possibilities to make memories. With the start of summer upon us, there is no time like the present to find a destination, reserve your club’s plane, and go on a trip.

“That is the purpose of the Wingnuts Flying Club – do something unique that you can’t really do otherwise,” Brent said.



Wingnuts Flying Club


Richmond Executive Chesterfield County Airport (FCI)

Chesterfield, VA




[email protected]

Year formed



2006 Cessna Columbia 350 ($281/hr - Hobbs)

2013 Cirrus SR20 ($225/hr)

2017 Tecnam P2010 ($141/hr)

Rates are Tach time, wet unless noted

Joining fee

$1,500 per share – Regular Member

$150 initiation fee – Regular Member

$500 per year – Student Member (no initiation fee)


$404 per month – Regular Members (includes $190 assessment that will end in October 2024)

$144 per month – Student Members

$25 per year – Social Members


53 Regular Members (Capped at 60)

7 Student Members

10 Social Members



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