, 2014

Take flight with Richard Kenski:
See the Northern Neck from above

by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi

Ever wanted to glide low along the grasses at Dameron Marsh, or hover just above the treetops to watch a mother deer at play with her fawn, or sail through the sky at eye level with an eagle?

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Richard Kenski often glides through the sky over the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, filming and shooting photos for his website, CtheView.com.

Richard Kenski makes all that possible and more, and his followers on CtheView.com don’t even have to leave the ground. 

Kenski says he’s been called a nut, crazy, out of his mind, and admits he’s probably most of those things. In reality, he’s a man with a passion for flying and for showcasing the landscape he says is “among the most beautiful he’s ever seen.”

Kenski lives in Northumberland County near Claraville. He’s been visiting the Northern Neck since the 1970s as a teen and moved here permanently in 2005. He said he was “desperate to get into the air” as soon as he moved here. 

So he bought a motor and fashioned his own ultralight of sorts. 

“I could be flying a plane but what I’m actually flying is a paragliding wing. It could be considered an ultralight but it’s actually a microlight. An ultralight is a very generalized term,” he said.

The craft can fly for about three hours at an average of 25 miles per hour, so Kenski’s typical range is 20 miles round trip from his departure spot. Depending on the wind speed, his runway can be as short as 10 or 15 yards. And it’s literally a runway: Kenski has to steady the wing, all the equipment strapped to his back and run to take flight. If the wind is light and the air hot, he may have to “run as far as a football field to get off the ground.” 

The landing is quick and simple, except on a rare occasion when his engine cut off midflight and he had to make an emergency landing in someone’s yard. 

“Landing isn’t going to kill me, it’s drowning,” said Kenski, who said the real danger in his hobby is having an engine cut out over water and being dragged under before he can cut away the engine, ropes and wing.

“I don’t have to have wind to take off,” he said, “but if there’s no wind, I look like that kid in the school yard trying to get his kite to stay up and struggling.”

Kenski says the shame to living in a beautiful area like the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula is not being able to really see it. 

“All these years, you drive around here and you pass by a creek, but you don’t really see it,” he said. “You don’t know there’s water on a farm, way back in the field, or the marsh goes that far in or, hey I didn’t know there were horses back there.” 

Kenski decided he could be the eyes for all the folks who didn’t get to see the expanse of Hughlett Point or the lush farmland hidden down side roads. And so, in late 2006 he started his website, CtheView.com, and by 2007 he had over 3,000 aerial photographs on it. The task of cataloging and organizing that many pictures was overwhelming and now CtheView is strictly a video site, offering virtual tours of the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. 

“You can’t buy anything on the site. It’s not about selling anything,” said Kenski. “I’m not for hire. I’m a sport pilot. You cannot hire me. But the good news is I fly in the spring, summer, winter and fall and if it looks good I take a picture of it, so I probably have your house or property somewhere.”

When he’s in the air, Kenski can be equipped with all kinds of cameras, including a helmet camera, handheld camera, one strapped to his knee, one on a pole and even a chase cam he developed. The camera trails along behind him about 20 feet at a 45-degree angle so he can actually film himself flying. 

“I’m a photographer who learned how to fly,” said Kenski, who has a pilot’s license. “I’m not a pilot who bought a digital camera.

“What we have is an incredible place here and a great place for photography,” he added. 

The CtheView website includes a video map of the area that allows visitors to click on a location and “fly over.” Kenski wrote the computer program. 

“And now I’m trying to figure out how to make really cool videos of the different areas to show off what a fantastic place we have here.”

Kenski says he even has a Bluetooth connected so if someone sees him flying over they can go to his website and give him a call. He’ll answer. 

“You may want to say, hey we are enjoying a glass of wine while watching the sunset and you’re making too much noise, or it can be grandparents saying, hey the grandkids are coming out. Can you give us an air show,” said Kenski.

Odds are, he’ll do it. 

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