It was with great sadness that the HeliHub.com office heard of the passing of Dennis Kenyon. Many people across the UK helicopter industry have been touched by Dennis’ enthusiasm over many years, and rotary wing aviation is the poorer after his death today in Herefordshire after a short illness. As we have exchanged anecdotes with friends, we all recall how positive and encouraging he was to people of all ages who showed any level of interest in helicopters. We would go so far as to say that HeliHub.com is unlikely to have been started had it not been for a meeting I had with Dennis in his office at Shoreham in 1983. Our obituary here is based on a blend of personal experiences and articles written on him over the years.
Dennis learned to fly in the RAF and left in 1957 as a fixed wing pilot. Around 1970 he joined Spooner Aviation at Fairoaks as a salesman, moving with the company shortly after to Shoreham – and added his rotary wing ticket around this time. Owner Roy Spooner obtained the Enstrom distributorship and was so impressed with the aircraft that he placed an initial order for 12 to be delivered at the rate of one per month. Dennis sold them. Roy ordered another 12. Dennis sold those just as quickly. He always used to say that he sold every new piston Enstrom ever delivered to the UK – and most of the pre-owned imports too. That led to selling the 280 Shark when it was produced, and Dennis’ sales success continued and expanded into JetRangers, and both the Hughes 300 and 500 series.
Dennis’ visits to the Enstrom factory in Michigan gave him the chance to meet chief pilot Mike Meger and see him flying an aerobatic display with an F28A, and a new fire was lit. Some people knew Dennis primarily for his aerobatics, but with over 400 displays to his name it is clear that he had an affinity for it – particularly in Enstroms, but other times in both Hughes models. He represented Great Britain in four World Helicopter Championships, winning the aerobatic freestyle title in 1992. His last display was in July 2018, aged 85 in an Enstrom Shark.
In 1984 Dennis started Skyline Helicopters at Wycombe Air Park, building the first part of the facility now known as Heli Air on that airfield. Circumstances then led him to start Starline Helicopters at Biggin Hill in 1988, then Redhill Helicopter Centre in 1990. In 1994 he taught his son Dennis Jnr to fly and dad was justifiably proud and gradually easing towards one of his many “retirements” to hand over to his son. Tragically, Dennis Jnr died aged 18 in a Hughes 300 accident in March 2000 and dad was a broken man. In typical style, he used it to his advantage, setting up a scholarship fund for young aspiring helicopter pilots.
Dennis will also be remembered for his E-Type Jaguar which he bought new in 1970, his novel “Dangerous Appointment”, his Bond Girl stories, his contributions to the short-lived Blades magazine, his collection of antique clocks, and many other things.
The UK has lost an infectiously enthusiastic supporter of helicopters who gave so many people his time. As result, many of the British helicopter industry will have their own anecdotes of DRK.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
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