Fly & Dine: First Flight Airport, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina (KFFA)

Muslims have Mecca, Jews have the Western Wall and Christians have the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The aviator's holy site is First Flight Airport (KFFA) containing the Wright Brothers Memorial. The memorial is a 60-foot granite pylon sculpture sitting on a star-shaped base at the top of a lush green hill. It's the place honoring the Wright Brothers and their 1903 first sustained heavier-than-air flight. Every pilot should take the pilgrimage at least once and what better time to visit than in December, the anniversary month of Orville and Wilbur's historic accomplishment.

The approach to the uncontrolled First Flight Airport takes you down the coast and out over the Outer Banks and Albemarle Sound. Don’t let the gorgeous ocean view and the sun glistening off of the visitor’s center roof mesmerize you into complacency. Be vigilant. Trees flanking the airstrip on downwind and base obscure the runway until turning final. Additionally, banner towing airplanes, unexpected wind shear and an occasional deer hanging out perilously close to the touchdown zone make this 3,000-foot runway dangerous. Judging by the various skid marks it seems a number of aviators needed to call their insurance agents.

Once the wheels touch down, taxi back to transient parking on the south side of the field. Tie-down and head to the AOPA-donated pilot facility. It’s the perfect rest area. The clean, handicapped accessible, 900-square-foot facility is a well-equipped pilot lounge that includes a rest room and all the amenities an aviator needs.

First Flight Airport is a U.S. National Park that encompasses the memorial commemorating the actual first flight. The towering monument looks out over a sprawling field containing the “first flight trail” granite markers – the takeoff and landing spots of each flight. To the west of the markers are the reconstructed camp buildings, workshop and hanger that those two bicycle mechanics from Ohio occupied while conducting their tests. North of the monument, housed in a mission-style architecture building, is the Wright Brothers Visitor Center and Museum. It’s worth the $4 entrance fee to the park to view replicas of the 1903 historic powered airplane (the original is housed in the Smithsonian Institute), the1902 glider along with various tools and machines used by the brothers. The museum is a thought-provoking journey through aviation history that also includes Wilbur’s Kenwood sewing machine and a portion of the engine used in the first flight.

A 20-minute walk from the Wright Brothers Memorial is the Outer Banks Brewing Station. The first thing one notices when approaching the grounds is the 80-foot-tall, 3-blade wind turbine gently capturing nature’s free power source. This is after all America’s first wind powered brewery and brew pub. Enter and it feels as if you just stepped onto the beach. The Brewing Station is a bit of an enigma. It’s comforting and relaxing yet this place rocks out most weekend nights when bands and DJs supply live entertainment.

Peace Corps alumni Aubrey Davis and Eric Reece’s Outer Banks Brewing Station celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2011. As it was in the beginning, the Brewing Station’s food philosophy is to offer “high quality and esoteric menu items, without reaching … stratospheric menu prices.” Chef Pok’s culinary contributions are a bit over sold but he does manage to make standard bar food flavorful. Lunch offers fried okra with a ranch dipping sauce ($4.99), brewer’s chicken wings with blue cheese ($8.99) and skin-on fries ($3.99). All are more than passable and hinted that there might be culinary skill hiding under the uninspired menu items.

North Carolina ranks number two in the United States in raising hog. Hogs mean BBQ and Eastern-NC-BBQ is known for painfully slow cooked whole pork with just a touch of vinegar/pepper based "sauce." Hushpuppies and coleslaw are a must to balance the acid and the slight picante flavor of the moistening agent. The Brewing Station carries on the tradition by offering a North Carolina BBQ pork sandwich (from the local institution of Hardison’s Barbecue in Jamesville, North Carolina) served with hushpuppies, sweet baked beans and coleslaw ($8.99). This melt-in-your-mouth mouthful is worth the price. If BBQ isn’t your thing, forgot the $100 hamburger cliché ($8.99) and choose from the in-depth sandwich list. Selections range from, brats, chicken breast and Blue crab to a decent Reuben and an acceptable vegetarian grilled portabella ($7.99 – $11.99).

Still, this is a brew pub. At its heart and soul the Brewing Station is about the beer ($4.75 pint, $7.50 for a flight of four, 6-ounce tastes). An ever-rotating beer list both comforts and surprises, and includes a fantastic non-alcoholic house-brewed cream soda and root beer. Winter provides thirst quenching brews and refreshing, decadent beverages made to be enjoyed with food and on their own. Aviators will gravitate to the Conquest IPA brewed to commemorate Wilbur and Orville’s accomplishments. This is one “hoppy brew” that lives up to its billing as “not for the faint of heart.” Continuing the trend is the Irie Tropic Stout. This creamy, smooth, rich and chewy jet-black stout is brewed extra strong. Perfect for those Outer Bank chilly nights or for someone who needs a kick start to an adventure packed weekend.

Dessert shows that Chef Pok’s culinary team can shine. A miniature, warm apple galette ($5.99) is tasty on its own but decadent when served with the white chocolate and ginger mousse. Don’t overlook the carrot cake ($5.99). This moist quick bread is accompanied by an insanely rich orange-caramel sauce and sweet and crisp candied pecans. Add a glass of Quady Essensia, Orange Muscat dessert wine ($6.00) and be prepared for a foodgasm.

Six nautical miles south of First Flight (a mere 18 statute miles by car) is Dare County Regional Airport (KMQI). Call the airport ahead of time (252-475-5570) to reserve the courtesy car and head down US 64 to Brine and Bottle. Chef Andrew Donovan and co-owner Ashley Whitfield offer a limited yet innovative, local, seasonal, small-plate menu and an eclectic, handpicked tiny beverage list. Brine and Bottle may seem pricey compared to the mediocre, fast-service restaurants found all over the Outer Banks. Not so much when you take in consideration the quality of ingredients, their passion and the support Andrew provides to local purveyors.

This chef-and-sommelier-driven barely one-year-old restaurant is the perfect establishment for that relaxing adult night out. They have fashioned a casually elegant haven overlooking the waves. Water comes to the table in wide-mouth mason jars while Ashley’s wine selections are served in polished crystal wine glasses. The 200 strong LP record collection rotates throughout the night, giving the intimate, contemporary, casual space an urban metropolis feel.

The food is reminiscent of the Carolina Low Country. Chef Donovan’s offerings aren’t exactly a lighter version of southern cuisine but during the winter months, the body and soul crave more substantial fare. When a restaurant is named Brine and Bottle, the fried house-made pickles with buttermilk-chive dressing ($8.00) matched with a glass of Dibon Cava NV sparkling wine from Spain ($8.50) is a must. The greaseless, thin and amazingly crisp, sour wafers are the perfect balance to the creamy dipping sauce and the light-bodied, tiny little bubbles. The Falls Mill grit cakes with tomato-chutney ($5.00) are a vegetarian delight. They’re crisp and moist and the perfect foil for the sweet and sour tomatoes. Even carnivores who are hominy challenged will be converted.

The fried Chesapeake oysters with a roasted and pickled pepper salad ($9.00) are a deconstructed New Orleans oyster po’ boy. It’s spicy, buttery and salty with plump fresh oysters that taste of the sea. A braised bone-in pork shank with white bean cassoulet and pork jus ($22.00) pays homage to the classic from Languedoc, France. The farmer’s’ plate ($15.00) is a mélange of Allan Benton’s Smoky Mountain Tennessee country hams with a Sweet Grass Dairy Tomme, a grass-fed cow's milk cheese from in Thomasville, Georgia. The entrée is served with an assortment of pickles, a deviled egg and saltines. This dish shows how Chef Donovan makes something mouthwatering by balancing all five tastes.

Brine and Bottle is small and just getting noticed but put it on your lunch or dinner to-do list for the Outer Banks. Make sure you leave room in your flight bag for a jar of their pickled veggies or bacon jam.

First Flight Airport, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina (KFFA)
Elevation: 13 ft. / 4.0 m (surveyed)
Variation: 09W
Time zone: UTC -5 (UTC -4 during Daylight Saving Time)
Sectional chart: Washington
Control tower: no
ARTCC: Washington Center
FSS: Raleigh FSS
Pattern altitude: 813 ft. MSL with right hand traffic for runway 20
Runway: 2/20, 3,000 ft. x 60 ft.
Wind indicator: lighted
Segmented circle: yes
CTAF: 122.9
WX AWOS-3: 118.075 (252-449-0698)

Note: Watch for wildlife, especially deer on the runway. Maximum of 24-hour parking permitted with no more than two overnight stays per month. There are no published instrument procedures and no aviation services on the field, so plan your fuel requirements appropriately.

Dare County Regional Airport (KMQI)
Elevation: 13 ft. / 4.0 m (surveyed)
Time zone: UTC -5 (UTC -4 during Daylight Saving Time)
Sectional chart: Charlotte
ARTCC: Washington Center
FSS: Raleigh FSS
Pattern altitude: 1,100 ft. MSL
Runway: 5/28, 4,305 ft. x 100 ft. and 17/35, 3,301 ft. x 74 ft.
Wind indicator: lighted
Segmented circle: yes
WX AWOS-3: 128.275 (252-473-2826)

Wright Brothers National Memorial
Mile post 7.5 on U.S. Highway 158
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
Phone: (252) 441-7430
9:00 am to 6:00 pm daily during summer months
9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily September through May
Closed Christmas Day
Entrance Fees:
$4 per person - valid for 7 days
Free - 16 and under
$10 - Annual Park Pass
Free - Golden Age, Golden Access, or National Parks Pass

Outer Banks Brewing Station
600 S. Croatan Hwy MP 8.5
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
Phone: (252) 449-2739
Hours: Monday – Thursday at 3 p.m.; Friday – Sunday at 11:30 a.m.;
Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Brine and Bottle
Located at the Caribbean Professional Center on the Causeway in Nags Head
7531 S. Virginia Dare Trail
Nags Head, NC 27959
Phone: (252) 715-1818
Hours: Monday – Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Closed Sunday

The above airport information is not for navigational purposes. Please obtain up-to-date airport information from the FAA before flight.


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