It is with regret that I have to inform the model flying community of the loss of a lifetime aeromodeller, expert flyer and dear friend, Keith Whiddett, who has died peacefully at his home following cancer.
Within his local Club Keith was revered as the go-to test pilot by many members. He was present at the formation of South Norfolk Model Flying Club on Hethel wartime airfield in Norfolk during the late 60’s and progressed to becoming a long term committee member and trainer, helping to shape the Club as we know it today. When the Club moved to Suton, Keith was always on hand to help with grass and hedge cutting using his own tractor and machinery.
His early modelling experiences started near to home at Eaton Park boating lake in Norwich, where he learned about engines from the boating brigade and quickly used those skills to start control-line flying on the park’s sports pitches, much to the annoyance of the park keeper. It was at these sessions that I was introduced to a thirteen year old Keith as he was the engine starting expert and competent flyer. He taught me to fly control-line aircraft and from there we together joined Norwich Model Flying Club so that we could engage with the big boys on Horsham St Faiths airfield, now Norwich Airport. The schoolboy Keith and myself built models in his garden shed and went on to fly Combat at the National Championships.
The mid 60’s saw Keith temporarily distracted by beer and fast Minis, wheeled and on legs, before becoming an early adopter of transistorised multi channel radio controlled models and from then on never stopped flying and helping to enthuse a host of modelling friends. When model helicopters first emerged, Keith was quickly to become an expert flyer, giving demonstrations at fetes and shows all over Norfolk. He eventually became the Area Chief Flying Examiner (Helicopters).
Keith’s next challenge was getting to master turbine engines and scale model jets at which he excelled, giving demonstrations on the Flight Line at the National Championships on many occasions. It was during this period that Keith joined other clubs in the East Anglian area that had tarmac runways, making more friends along the way. For more than a decade, Keith organised flying displays at the Cromer Carnival, thrilling the crowds with jets, helicopters, gliders and fixed winged aircraft, on a tiny cliff-side flying site.
Later on, Keith became very competitive at sailing model yachts until aircraft called him back to the flying field. After retirement from being a self-employed plasterer, he continued to fly radio models and to build working model engines at home.
I am indebted to Keith for teaching me many things in life, not just about modelling. Like the older brother I never had, he demonstrated how to chat up girls, how to dance, and how to get served in pubs under age. Keith leaves Judy and three grown up sons, Jason, Steven and Lee.
Bill Newson, South Norfolk Model Flying Club and RAFMAA