Jay Smith: How did you get involved with model aviation?
Keith Shaw: I grew up in the Cleveland area, which is steeped
in aviation history. My first memories in life were at the 1949
National Air Races. My family was invited to watch the races
from a friend’s house in Berea, Ohio. I remember the awe and
excitement of the big racers flying right over our heads and the
sound of the magnificent engines.
Unfortunately, I also remember Bill Odom’s highly modified
Mustang crashing into a house only two blocks from where
we were sitting. But soon afterward, I started to build rubber-powered models, beginning a lifelong fascination with flight.
JS: How has model aviation impacted your life and/or career?
KS: Model aviation made me what I am. I spent endless hours
in the Cleveland Public Library, studying electronics (to design
my own RC systems), mechanics (spar structures and stress
distribution), aerodynamics (to design better airplanes), and
engine/fuel chemistry (to get better performance). You
get the idea. My desire to design, build, and fly airplanes
guided me into a life of science, and ultimately to a career
as a research physicist at the University of Michigan.
JS: What disciplines of modeling do you currently
KS: I fly in many air shows and occasionally participate
in RC Scale, Pattern, or just sport flying. I have always
encouraged designing and building one’s own models,
and I mentor many local modelers toward that goal.
JS: What are your other hobbies?
KS: I enjoy reading science/
technology, science fiction,
history and, of course,
anything aviation related.
Music also fills my life,
fueled by a rock ’n’ roll
collection of 1,000 vinyl
records and 800 CDs, along with
regular visits to local, small-venue
When I do go on vacations,
they are always extensive hiking/
sightseeing treks to our wonderful
JS: Who (or what) has
influenced you most?
KS: I was fortunate to know
many model aviation greats in
Cleveland, and I treasure all that I learned from
them. Chet Lanzo, Ted Blase, Al Seidowski,
George Landreth, and Warren Plohr were
mentors and friends.
JS: Having been an advocate of electric-powered RC model
aircraft for many years, what do you think the future holds for this
KS: At this point, electrics have won, providing a clean, quiet,
and safe way to enjoy modeling, and help obtain and keep
flying sites. It is rare to see even one glow model at the many
dozens of club fields I visit.
There will be some small improvements in motor and
controller technologies, better and safer cell technologies, and
advances in stabilization systems. My only regret is that electric
power played a major role in the popularization of ARFs and
“checkbook modeling.” I will continue to promote and support
the hobby of model aviation.
160 Model Aviation SEPTEMBER2016
Keith Shaw Retirred research physicist and consultant
by Jay Smith