Here is one of Keith’s
own designs, the
biplane from 1995.
JG: Electric has a linear throttle and
no power surges like we had on glow-powered aircraft.
KS: Electric is clean and quiet, but
my favorite part is the reliability and
reproducibility. Every flight can be
the same. If you do a 21-maneuver
sequence with electric, you know your
motor won’t quit in the middle of
the outside loop or low inverted pass,
whether it is the first flight or the 100th.
It instills confidence in the pilot, and a
hidden advantage is no trim change like
there is due to fuel consumption with
JG: The whole RC industry has pretty
much turned to electric flight.
KS: It’s strange if you think about it.
There are a lot of airplanes I see at
events that people have made electric
and I think, “Why?” I see planes and
think that I would have made that a
gas-powered plane. Trying to electrify
50-plus-pound planes is interesting, but
We did some pretty extreme projects
back in the day to prove a point. Back
in the 1980s, I had 1/4-scale racers that
could do 120 mph on Ni-Cds and
brushed motors. With many of the
present-day extreme projects, it’s just
a matter of writing a big enough check
for the power system and batteries.
But I guess in the end, I’m happy that
people have a wide range of power
systems to use.
I use to fly 30 days of air shows each
summer. The goal was to go to these air
shows and show that electric flight was
possible. I put in 15,000 miles a season.
I don’t have to do that anymore. Now
I attend a few select shows that I want
to go to.
Instead of always being a leading
promoter of electric, I have been able
to step back and become one of the
pilots. I like going to a field and being
just another pilot—knowing that I was
one of a group of guys who pushed
electric to the place it is today. It
makes me feel great to see pilots out
there enjoying RC with electric power
systems that don’t make them want
to go home and kick [something].
I’m happy I got to be a part of that
JG: My first airplane had a Torpedo . 40
on it. I remember flipping that propeller
in 101° weather, on an asphalt runway
for an hour, and finally going home upset.
KS: Exactly. Now, with electric power,
you simply go fly and enjoy the hobby.
JG: You have built some amazing
aircraft. Is there anything you are
KS: The airplane I just finished for the
Toledo Show this year. Many years ago,
I decided that the world has enough
Mustangs and Cubs, so I look for
obscure airplanes that no one has ever
I have built a 1950s British racer that
is wood and fabric. It’s a tail-dragger
with wheel pants and spats. It’s also a
twin [engine] and a jet Probably the
only airplane like it in the world. It’s
called the [Miles] Sparrowjet.
Keith Shaw’s autobiography
85 Model Aviation SEP TEMBER 2015 www.ModelAviation.com