Travel Corner: Spring Break Trip Follows in the Wright Brothers’ Footsteps

You can’t always expect the unexpected.

When Graham Deters, Manager of Finance and Planning, set out on spring break trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, he was prepared with a ‘Plan B’ and a ‘Plan C’ in the event that weather or flight loads disrupted their travels. From sandy beaches to exploring Kitty Hawk, the vacation went off without a hitch, but when an unexpected storm led to a network-wide IROP, Deters’ flexibility led him to another unexpected experience – one that made for a memorable and meaningful bookend for the trip.

What was your destination and why did you choose it?
Our ultimate destination was the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My wife has long wanted to visit the area. She is a fan of Nicholas Sparks books, several of which are set on “OBX”. I also was intrigued with Cape Hatteras as it is a spot way offshore that can be driven to. Hatteras is frequently in the path of hurricanes and it’s the closest spot in the US to Bermuda.  My 6-year-old son just wanted to go someplace with a beach for spring break. It was before tourist season so we knew it wouldn’t be crowded.

What route did you take to get there?
We flew into DCA and drove from there to OBX. While there were a few other stations closer, the combination of lots of flights home, easy direct flights, and rental car options made DCA fit best. Also, if the weather was bad at the Outer Banks, DCA is a great place to spend vacation time as well.

Getting home was a different story. We got caught up in the spring break IROP when storms hit ATL. I could see that it would be days before we could non-rev out of DCA or anyplace nearby. We couldn’t even buy tickets on any airline until after we needed to be home, so we rented another car and drove home. We drove from far west suburban DC all the way to MSP in one day.

On the way back we drove by Dayton, OH, where the Wright Brothers had their workshop. It was a great lesson for my son to understand the distance involved for the Wright Brothers to move their equipment to Kitty Hawk over 100 years ago.

What was your favorite memory or activity?
My favorite memory is visiting Kitty Hawk with my 6-year-old son, Luke. Kitty Hawk, of course, is the location where the Wright Brothers accomplished man’s first powered flight. I have dreamed about visiting Kitty Hawk ever since I was a boy and learned about it in school.  My 4th grade science fair project was about how airplanes worked and I learned about Kitty Hawk then. I was so excited to bring my son to this historic spot. He started out running at the take-off point and checked out the landing markers for each of the first 3 flights. To make the event even more special to me was that I visited Kitty Hawk 20 years to the day from starting my first job in aviation. What I didn’t expect is that the windy beach outpost where Orville and Wilbur did their work is now surrounded by 4-story beach houses and miles of souvenir shops.

Other memorable activities were watching the storms coming at us at night when we were on Ocracoke Island. Little did we know those storms would be the reason for the spring break IROP. Ocracoke had dozens of miles of beaches with nobody on them. Our family of 3 was swimming only a few feet from dolphins with not another soul around.


Do you have any helpful tips to share?

  1. Check to find out what is open if you visit OBX in off-season. We didn’t get to climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse as it was closed for the season. Many restaurants were still closed or just opened for the season that week.
  2. Ocracoke Island is a great place to visit if you like wild places with few people. My wife said it reminded her of the Florida Keys without th
  3. OBX is really cool, but stay away in summer if you don’t like crowds.
  4. e crowds. You can only get there by plane, boat, or car ferry.