‘It’s been a good career’

By on October 13, 2023

Charlie Snow, to be honored for his many years in flight, with one of his planes at Outer Banks Airlines (Courtesy of Charlie Snow)
Pilot Charlie Snow flying stars of The Walking Dead, Norman Reedus and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, on a private charter to the Outer Banks. (Courtesy of Charlie Snow)
previous arrow
next arrow

After more than 50 years in the sky, Charlie Snow honored with Wright award

From flying for the Civil Air Patrol at just 14 years old to running private charter flights for celebrities, Charlie Snow been airborne for more than six decades. And for his lifetime in in flight, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is awarding Snow with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for 50 years of accident and violation free flying.

The ceremony will be held at the Dare County Regional Airport on Airport Road on Saturday, Oct. 14 from 4 to 6 p.m. with his son Brian and daughter Jennifer honoring him with a celebration for family and friends in the community.

The award comes with a few requirements, such as having 50 or more years of solo flying experience, and never having received any citations or your airman certificate revoked. And today, at 77 years old, Snow is still flying.

Snow, who grew up in Chesapeake, VA, says his mother was the one who signed him up for flying with the Civil Air Patrol, a congressionally chartered non-profit corporation that serves as the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force.

Before that he had been a Boy Scout. And my Boy Scout troop broke up,” Snow recalled. “So I was sort of out there wandering around.”

Snow’s dad, a deputy sheriff in Wilmington, NC and a private pilot, died he was 10. His mother, raising three children and working as a beautician, tried to provide the advice and guidance his father would have. Then, one of her clients told her about this opportunity.

“My dad had been a pilot, and she knew that impressed me. So, she just came home one day, and she said, ‘Son, I’ve got some news that I think you’re gonna love. You can learn to fly.’”

So at 14, Snow became a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol and got to wear an Air Force uniform, go to encampments and do some things that an adult member of the Air Force would. “And then you get in airplanes and fly with the members,” he said.

But Snow never thought it was in the cards for him to be an actual pilot. The benefit of the program is that it was a way to fly that didn’t cost money. But becoming a professional pilot can be an expensive proposition.

“And then I went off to college at Virginia Tech to get my engineering degree,” he recalled. “And so for the next number of years, I wasn’t flying. We couldn’t afford to fly. I couldn’t afford to fly.”

Once he got his degree, Snow took a job as a civil engineer with the FAA. When the paychecks started rolling in, he was finally able to start the process of becoming a licensed pilot, and eventually, began flying for the FAA as a Collateral Duty Pilot, flying himself to his projects as an engineer and project manager designing and building control towers, radars, and instrument landing systems, among other things.

“And I saved the government hundreds of thousands of dollars,” says Snow, explaining that he had sites he maintained and worked on all over the Southeastern U.S. “So I was able to fly out to all of those myself. And I could hit five or six sites in a day. Whereas, if you’re trying to fly commercially, you might be lucky if you get to one site in a day.”

In return, the government helped pay for him to get other pilot ratings, including becoming a commercial pilot. His first side gig as a commercial pilot was aerial advertising above Atlanta in 1985. According to Snow, he would fly across the city with a computer-generated sign hanging below the plane all around the metropolitan area.

“And it’s at night…So you’re flying at night generating these messages. And back then, you could fly over stadiums, and you could fly over shopping centers and malls and all that,” said Snow. “These days you can’t do that. After 9/11 you’re not allowed.”

In 1988, when he was in his 40s, Snow retired to the Outer Banks. He always knew he wanted to end up here.

“Believe it or not, my first trip to the Outer Banks was in one of those airplanes in the CAP [Civil Air Patrol],” Snow said. “We came down here, and I said, ‘this is where I want to retire.’”

Well, retire didn’t really mean retire. “I’ve retired four times,” Snow noted with a laugh.

He spent a few years working as an engineer for Quible Engineering, which had a contract with the Dare County Commissioners and the Dare County School Board to build schools. Then Snow had the opportunity to go back to work for the government and took a job at Cape Hatteras National Seashore as an engineer for the National Park Service, working on lighthouses and roads.

“I traveled to 55 national parks in 12 years of working with them. And the best part about that was that I got to fly to all those parks,” said Snow, adding that he flew himself to every single one except for Glacier Bay, Alaska.

He even flew down to his office in Ocracoke every day, which could have been as much as a six- hour trip with car and ferry.

“You know how long it takes to fly down there? Eighteen minutes,” said Snow.

He then worked for a few different companies as a charter pilot around Eastern NC until, in 2009, he started Outer Banks Airlines, Outer Banks Air Charters, and Outer Banks Aviation, which he sold in 2021.

During his time as a private charter pilot, Snow flew all kinds of people to and from the Outer Banks from across the Eastern seaboard. Many of them were families with kids who didn’t want to make the trip by car, given the bathroom breaks and hotel stops. Others had an elderly parent who couldn’t handle long travel times.

“That’s how unscheduled air carriers operate. It’s all about convenience,” says Snow.

“So sometimes you’ll fly disabled people, sometimes you fly dogs, cats, animals, all kinds of different animals. We scatter ashes, we fly bodies back home to wherever they came from if they came down here and passed away, so it’s just the whole gamut of things you do in the unscheduled air carrier business.”

And then there’s celebrities. There are celebrities who lived here, like Andy Griffith and his wife Cindi Knight, who flew with him often and once hired him to fly down to Florida to pick up her dog. There were also Saturday Night Live Actors and NASCAR drivers. Snow once received a call from Paramount once asking if he could pick up Glenn Close and fly her to the Outer Banks. She wanted to try kite surfing.

“And she was a very nice, sweet lady. And that’s the cool thing about flying for these people. They’re just ordinary people. You treat them like ordinary people. And they’re happy,” Snow observed.

Snow says he’s flown The Walking Dead stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Norman Reedus a few times, and Morgan had such a great time he posted it on Instagram to millions of followers.

“I was tickled to death. I felt like I was somebody,” Snow joked.

But, without a doubt, he says his favorite memories are those of riding in the plane with his wife and two children on their family trips. He says he feels fortunate to be able to receive this award because the odds are stacked against pilots enjoying that kind of longevity—given both advancing age and health issues.

I’ve known lots of guys who had to stop flying because they couldn’t pass the medical anymore. Some of them as early as their forties,” says Snow, explaining that if you have heart attacks and diabetes and those types of ailments, you can’t fly professionally.

“And so the good Lord was with me, and I had a lot of things going for me—a lot of support, good health, longevity, good genes and a great safety record. It’s been a good career. And I’m fortunate to get the award and I’m really excited about it.”


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).



  • Just a mom

    What a delightful story!
    Thank you for sharing and congratulations to Mr. Snow on such a remarkably lovely life story!
    So glad you were able to live your dream! Very special.

    Friday, Oct 13 @ 12:48 pm
  • Ted R.

    I had the pleasure of working with Charlie at the NPS. Congratulations!!

    Friday, Oct 13 @ 8:06 pm
  • Billy Griggs

    Awesome man -Great Story

    Saturday, Oct 14 @ 6:00 pm
  • Mike M.

    Had the opportunity of working with Charlie thru the N.P.S.–many interesting projects.


    Sunday, Oct 15 @ 11:14 am