Keith Miller FSMAE 1926-2014

Keith Miller, FSMAE, who died on Nov. 21st, had been a model flyer since well before the War and a member of the major free flight club, Croydon & DMAC, from its founding in 1936. He was South-East Area treasurer for many years, and also at various times its vice-chairman, education co-ordinator and Council delegate, in fact for almost 30 years the public face of the Areaand of his RC club, Tonbridge Radio Flyers. He was always polite and helpful, the sort of chap the BMFA relies on to make model flying happen for us all andalways willing to go the extra mile to make sure things ran smoothly, - the person everyone went to if they wanted something done properly and reliably.

He was a key link in establishing excellent relations with landowners so model flying still takes place at Ashdown Forest and his club enjoys one of the best flat field thermal soaring sites in the country. Keith was an active competitor in thermal events until fairly recently and being a traditional flyer, he flew wooden structure, tissue covered models to great effect. Keith’s body language especially when landing was always worth watching, the closer the model got to the ground the lower Keith stooped willing the model to a safe precision landing. More recently he built a large scale Airspeed Horsa which is now in the Museum of Army Flying at Middle Wallop. However, in the 1990s he returned to his first love, free flight, and concentrated on Vintage and indoor flying.

For the past ten years or so he has been involved with some of the Dart-building days in local schools, trying to pass on to children the thrill of seeing something they build themselves actually performing well. His dedication over many years resulted in 2006 in a well-deserved election as a Fellow.

Keith (everyone knew him, inevitably, as Dusty) grew up near Sanderstead in Surrey, not far from a field used by Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus, and that’s what got him hooked on aviation. Having Croydon Airport on the doorstep helped too. He was at school at Whitgift in Croydon, which had a flourishing Aeromodelling & Spotting Club and had Hunts model shop nearby. When he left school Dusty worked for Aeromodeller magazine in 1943 but in 1944 was called up to fly Horsa assault gliders - luckily qualifying just too late to see combat at Arnhem, where glider pilot casualties were around 90%. After that he flew as a Dakota co-pilot. He was a regular attendee at meetings of the Glider Pilot Regiment Association and it was after one of their recent dinners that he passed away.

He was an active member of the Croydon club it its heyday in the 1940s and ‘50s and was also a talented photographer, using his Leica to document free flight contest flying during that period, particularly at Fairlop and Chobham. More recently he used some of these pictures to illustrate a fascinating and thoroughly researched 42-page booklet on the Croydon club’s history and his involvement in the sport. More of his pictures are featured in the BMFA book Flying North, and many more are in the BMFA’s heritage archive.

Personal memories include many journeys to free-flight contests, first riding pillion on Dusty’s 350 Douglas flat-twin motorbike, with a large model box strapped to my back, and later, with suitable flat caps on our heads, in his sporty Riley Imp with a rear luggage rack to hold the model boxes. On the road, as in his career, he was a safe pair of hands and a true gentleman from a very special generation. He will be very much missed

Our deepest sympathies go to his wife Rita and to his sons, Richard and John.

 

Martin Dilly FSMAE, Vice President

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