The Overview

Pilot gets a bird’s-eye view of an ever-changing county.

Justin Hoffman has witnessed Kent’s
metamorphosis from the sky.

Amelia Earhart once said, “You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky.”

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Crop duster Justin Hoffman has seen a lot of Delaware trees since moving here from West Virginia 10 years ago. He is awed by the beauty of Kent’s natural lands. “When you venture into aviation, the world really becomes a smaller place,” he says. “The one thing that I don’t see anywhere else in the Northeast is the diversity of the landscape.”

Within a few miles, Kent County melds a working coastline and rich wetlands into farmland and thriving communities.

Though his livelihood depends on the agriculture, and fields sometimes give way to new subdivisions, Hoffman recognizes that much of the new construction he sees represents the realization of the American Dream. Hoffman was able to fulfill his own dream by buying a beautifully restored 1942 Boeing Stearman Model 75. One of less than 1,000 airworthy examples in existence, the Stearman served proudly as a pilot trainer during World War II. It was eventually sold as surplus and used as a crop duster. Hoffman’s grandfather, a World War II veteran, once owned a 1943 Stearman.

For a fee Hoffman will take people for a plane ride and the view of a lifetime. He started Aerial Adventures almost two years ago to offer everything from slow, low rides along the bay coastline for nature lovers to acrobatic thrill rides for daredevils. “Having someone in the aircraft, sharing that excitement, that enjoyment—it really puts you in the mindset of the pioneering era of aviation,” he says.

Flying every day never gets old and, says Hoffman, the view never gets boring. “I don’t hunt. I don’t fish. I don’t have any other hobbies,” he says. “It’s all I do.” His biggest thrill is the biannual arrival of migratory birds to the county. “Twice a year I get to see them firsthand and fly with them,” says Hoffman.

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Hoffman wishes more people could share his perspective on Kent. He thinks it might help to plan growth with greater care for the surroundings of the area.

“You can really get an appreciation for how the whole ecosystem works, how one interruption in the flow has effects miles away,” he says. “Looking at how the tidal creeks tie together, it’s just a fragile ecosystem.”

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