Since I’m headed off to college next year, my brother and I wanted to something special for mom this Mother’s Day. We decided to take her on a day trip out to Tangier Island, VA – somewhere we had all talked about visiting for awhile. Tangier not only has a pretty cool runway, but is a culturally significant spot as well. Read on to find out why…

Here’s a highlight video of our trip:

When I woke up the morning of our flight, things didn’t look too great. With LIFR conditions surrounding Tangier and the Chesapeake Bay, I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it. But looking at the forecast, I saw that low clouds and fog were expected to burn off over the Chesapeake Bay by noon, so we pushed back our departure from 10:30am to 12:00pm. (In the screenshot below, you can see what the weather looked like that morning – blue dots stand for MVFR, red dots stand for IFR, and a pink dots stand for LIFR) 

Foreflight Weather

Foreflight Weather

The flight from KOFP to KTGI is a 137nm roundtrip, so it was one of the longer ones that I’ve taken in a few months. The route is shown below:

As you might’ve noticed, there are two restricted areas surrounding KTGI: R-4006 which extends from 3,500 feet to FL250, and R-6609 which extends from the surface to FL200. I contacted Patuxent Approach and asked for the status of the restricted areas; they told me that both were cold for the day. In and of itself, that wasn’t a clearance to enter the restricted airspace, since no clearance is required when they’re cold. BUT I should have contacted the controlling agency, Washington Center, directly on 132.55 to receive the most accurate and updated information.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.36.00 AMFlying from KOFP to the coast, we flew at around 2,000 feet, below a MVFR broken layer of clouds at 3,000 feet. It was a pretty bumpy flight initially, being stuck below the clouds. Once we reached the coast, the clouds thinned, and I was able to climb up a few thousand feet to smooth air for our over-water flight to Tangier Island.

The Tangier Island Airport (KTGI) is in a pretty cool spot. Located right next to the water, beach, and town, landing there was a ton of fun. And with a traffic pattern altitude of only 600 feet and a short 2,426 X 75 foot runway, it was a good mix of challenge and fun. Here’s a video of one our Tangier landings:

Here’s a cockpit view:

The runway itself was recently paved and shortened from an original 3,000 feet. There was only one other plane on the ramp when we landed, and only 3 parking spots with tie-downs available… So make sure to bring some wheel chocks with you!

So why is Tangier, VA such a cool spot to visit? Because of its distance from the mainland, Tangier is very isolated, its nearest neighbors being other islands such as Smith Island, Maryland. Residents only gained internet access a few years ago! The only methods of transportation off the island are boats and airplanes. In 2010, the population of Tangier was just 727 people. The majority of the original settlers were from South West England, and the tiny island community has attracted the attention of linguists because its people speak a unique English Restoration-era dialect of American English. Most of Tangier Island is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The first known European explorer of the island was John Smith in 1608. Today, residents largely earn their living from the sea; it’s one of the last little communities in the United States where single fisherman run their own operations, catching crabs, fish, and oysters.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 9.34.37 AMI’d heard from friends and family how strange of a place Tangier would be, how the people were largely unwelcoming of visitors. But in reality, my experience couldn’t have been more different! From the moment we landed, we were greeted by a nice woman who managed the airport; she asked for the $10 parking fee, asked where we were from, and gave us some awesome suggestions for restaurants and sites to visit during our short stay. Throughout our trip, we were greeted nicely by nearly everyone we saw around the island.

DSC_0995We first walked over the bridge into town to get some lunch, heading to the Fisherman’s Corner Restaurant. After that, we rented a golf cart for 2 hours ($40) and drove all around the island. As you might notice, there are essentially no cars on Tangier and residents drive around using golf carts, ATVs, or scooters. When you visit, make sure to stop by the local history museum – There’s an awesome short film about the island and its people. Here are some pictures from the visit:

We spent about 2 and half hours exploring the island before we headed back to the airport for our flight to Richmond. The flight back was smooth; I climbed up to roughly 6,000 feet to stay above broken clouds and some cumulus build-up to keep a smooth ride. Descending through a hole in the clouds, we arrived back into Richmond.

If you ever get the chance, make sure to take a flight out to Tangier Island – I promise you won’t regret it!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
-Swayne and Everett


About The Author

If you want to become a pilot, I want to make your journey just a little easier. I'm a First Officer for Envoy Air, one of the largest regional airlines in the world, and have partnered with industry leaders like the U.S. Air Force to teach about various aviation careers. For a full bio, click the "About" tab above. Use the "Contact" tab to shoot me a message.

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