Keith Flies the Model Flag
When a television production company wanted to film
low flying aircraft for the coming series of Kingdom they turned to the
skills of a Norfolk man and his faithfully reproduced model aircraft.
Kingdom Productions produce the Norfolk based drama
series Kingdom which is mainly shot around the Norfolk market town of
Swaffham and stars Stephen Fry as a country solicitor.
For a coming episode in the new series due to be
shown next year, the company wanted to show low flying aircraft proving a
menace to one of the local residents. Using real aircraft would have been
too dangerous, so they turned to Keith Whiddett who is a member of both
the Norwich and Bury St Edmunds Model Aero Clubs. He is also a founder
member of the Hethel Model Flying Club that is now the South Norfolk club.
The result was a six hour shoot for Keith and a
friend at Little Snoring Airfield featuring two model F15s. Keith had to
use all his “piloting” skills to make the radio controlled models bank
and dip to look as if they were “buzzing” property.
The footage will be mixed with a town scene to give
the impression of low flying aircraft over houses.
“The production company approached a Norwich model
shop and they put them on to me. Originally they wanted Tornadoes but they
aren’t made as flying models. I had a pair of F15s available and they
agreed to use them,” said Keith who lives in the Three Score area of
The filming involved some highly skilful precision
shooting with the massive models which are one-tenth the scale of the real
thing and are two metres long and 1.7 metres wide.
“They wanted me to fly directly at the camera at
head height before pulling up and shooting over it. We got as close as we
could, but it was a tricky manoeuvre. The models are large and weigh 22 lb
each. We couldn’t afford to make any mistakes,” Keith added.
Keith is convinced that when the final editing has
been completed you will not be able to tell the models from the real
“Model aircraft have been used in similar
situations many times in the past and certainly in the likes of the James
Keith and his wife Judy, who is a special needs
assistant at Hethersett Woodside Infants’ School, admit that they have
never seen an episode of Kingdom, but they will be watching the new series
keenly: “We were filming for six hours, but I expect the models will
only be featured for a few seconds. We might have to record the programme
and freeze frame the relevant bits,” Keith laughed.
As well as his F15, Keith has a model Mirage, an F86
and two sports aerobatic planes. He is currently building a Red Arrows
Hawk and a Tristar. He admits that “flying” the models gives him a
huge “adrenalin buzz.”
“I have flown model planes from a child when I
moved on from paper ones to balsa wood models. When I started working and
earning money I moved onto radio controlled models. It is the closest I
will probably get to being in the real thing. The sound, the power, the
smell is great. The models are powered by real jet engines and they burn
jet fuel and can reach speeds of up to 220 mph. It is just the thrill of
having all that speed and power under your control” Keith said.
Even with model planes there are inherent dangers:
“In the past 10 years I have had three really bad crashes due to
component failure with models hitting the ground at 150 mph and virtually
Over the years Keith has seen technology improve beyond all recognition: “Ten years ago I had to build my own gas turbine engine. Today unless you are a real enthusiast for making engines, you just buy them. Today’s models are capable of flying close to the ground and then shooting upwards and disappearing in the clouds.” He said.