KEITH ROGERS (1946 – 2017)
It is with regret that the ALAE has to announce the death of Keith Rogers. Keith joined the ALAE in 1989 and remained an active member until December 2016 when his illness stopped him from continuing as the Associations Treasurer. During his time with the ALAE he was a Ward representative, an Executive Council member, General Secretary, Treasurer and Chairman.
Keith was born in London and the eldest of three children. His father was a maintenance engineer and it was possibly this that led to him being interested in all things mechanical. Keith came into aviation by way of joining the Royal Naval Fleet Air Arm as a boy entrant in 1962. After completing his basic training at HMS Ganges at Ipswich, Suffolk and HMS Condor at Arbroath, Scotland he went as a fresh faced Junior Naval Air Mechanic specialising in Airframes to HMS Fulmar (RNAS, now RAF Lossiemouth) on the Moray coast. There he joined 736 Squadron operating Supermarine Scimitars.
During a visit to Rosyth on Friday 3rd January 1964, a date he remembered well, he went to the local dance in Dunfermline and met his future wife, Marion. Later that year he was posted onto HMS Victorious, joining the carrier in Singapore – having flown out there on a British United Britannia from Gatwick. After cruising round South East Asia for several months he returned to Lossiemouth in late 1965.
A year later he re-joined 736 Squadron, still at Lossiemouth but this time operating Buccaneer Mk1’s and 2’s. Whilst there Keith managed another trip down to Dunfermline to marry Marion on 2nd April, 1966.
In 1968 he was flying out to Singapore again, this time on a RAF VC10, to join 800 Squadron on board HMS Eagle. 800 Squadron operated an all Buccaneer Mk 2 fleet. He returned again to Lossiemouth in 1969 where he joined 764 Squadron operating Hawker Hunter GA11’s (Ground Attack) and TMk8’s (twin seat Trainers) used for training Buccaneer pilots.
Later, in 1969, he carried out Leading Hands training at HMS Condor at Arbroath and Leadership training at HMS Cochrane at Rosyth. In 1971 he left 764 Squadron for HMS Daedalus at Lee-on-Solent to carry out the Petty Officers course there. On completion of the course he hoped for a posting back to Lossiemouth. However, the Royal Navy had a different idea and sent him to HMS Osprey at RNAS Portland in Dorset. Not just content with sending him to a base at the opposite end of the country from where he lived, they were putting him onto a Squadron of “egg beaters”! With years of experience on Buccaneers and other fixed wing Aircraft it was a master stroke of naval administration to send him onto that alien life form commonly known as helicopters.
737 Squadron was the training and holding Squadron for small ships flights and operated Sea Kings and Wessex Mk 3’s. It was the Navy’s intention that he would go onto HMS Glamorgan to look after their Wessex helicopter but it did not work out that way. Despite his original misgivings about working on choppers, he thoroughly enjoyed his time with them.
In 1973 his time in the Royal Navy came to an end and they amicably parted company. Having enjoyed his previous experiences with Aircraft he wanted to continue doing so in Civvy Street. In preparation for this, and before his release from the Royal Navy, he attended Southall College in London to study for an Aeronautical Engineering Certificate. His years of naval training and experience held him in good stead and he completed the course without any problems.
Exams were passed and armed with the Certificate he found employment with Air Service Training (AST) at Perth, Scotland. AST principally maintained the flying school’s aircraft, these being Cessna 150 and 310’s, but they did some private work as well. He was only there for three months but, in that short time, learnt a lot of new skills – especially in skin repair – from his tutor at AST, a very good ex RAF skin repairs man.
In 1974 he joined Lowland Aero Services at Edinburgh Airport, again working on their own school aircraft and some privately owned aircraft. The Aeronautical Certificate allowed him to carry out and sign for many jobs but an Airframe Licence was a large step above the Certificate regarding responsibility. Through working on the Cessna 150/172 at Lowland he gained his Airframe Licence in 1975. Subsequent work on the Cessna 182, 188 and other similar types allowed him to add the group Type Rating 5.2.1. Regrettably he never gained his C (Piston) engine rating there. The job was all consuming as well as raising a young family Janet, David and Kenneth, so study time was non-existent. During his last five years with Lowland he was the Hangar Services Manager in charge of the day to day running of the maintenance work, fuel sales and Aircraft spares supply to other operators. He was with Lowland Aero Services for ten years to the day.
After leaving in 1984, he joined British Caledonian (BCal), also at Edinburgh, as a Line Engineer. There he worked on their BAC 1-11’s and British Midland DC9’s and B737’s that operated and night-stopped there as BCal were contracted to provide the service. British Airways took over BCal and, in 1988, he was made redundant. Fortunately British Midland was setting up their own Line station at Edinburgh and they took him on as a Line Engineer – a painless and fortuitous transition. Six years later his position in Edinburgh was made redundant and he transferred to Glasgow where he remained until illness caused him to retire in 2007. His 19 years with British Midland saw him add a C (Turbines) Licence to go with his A (Airframes) Licence and hold Boeing B737-300/-400/-500, Airbus A319/320/321 and Embraer 135/145 approvals as well as, previously, Saab 340 approval.
Keith’s active involvement with the ALAE began in October 1990 when he was elected onto the Executive Council (EC). British Midland Engineers had never been happy with the Union that represented the negotiating rights for the Engineering side of the Company. During a chance meeting with the Line Maintenance Manager at Edinburgh, the Engineers voiced displeasure as to what the Union was and was not doing for Engineers. This resulted in him saying “Well why don’t you do something about it? Get your Union in the driving seat!” The statement struck a chord with Keith and his thoughts on doing this were taken to the next EC meeting at Ascot. The EC backed the idea and so began a tortuous time of countering all the obstacles that both the other Union and some of British Midland Management & Administration put in the way.
It was a difficult and sometimes frustrating time as all concerned went through a steep learning curve on how to replace an established representative Union within a Company. Every day seemed to be a school day as Union law was absorbed to counter or query problems thrown up. TULR(C)A [Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidated) Act 1992] was bedside reading for all concerned.
In October 1991, after the final vote saw 90% voting for the ALAE being the representative Union, the ALAE had succeeded.
The ALAE now had the rights to negotiate for the Licensed Aircraft Engineers (LAE) within British Midland. Keith freely admitted that he did not do it on his own, there was help from all on the EC and others within British Midland, but he was the one that spear-headed it, drove it forward and was the face that British Midland Management and the opposing Union saw on the other side of the table.
Keith was the Chairman of the Company negotiating committee for the first three years and then handed it over to another member when, in 1995, he became General Secretary of the Association. This position also entailed being both the Editor and producer of TECH LOG which, at that time, was produced monthly. As Mike Newman, a fellow stalwart and long serving member, memorably said to Keith “It is not an onerous task.” A phrase Keith would often repeat as he was swamped with ever more letters to be answered, problems to be solved, legislation to be complied with, finding content for the magazine and then dealing with the publishing and posting of TECHLOG.
After three years he had to retire from this position. The position of General Secretary leaves little time for family and he was also studying for his CAA Engine Licence. He returned to the committee after two years and played a very active role thereafter. He became the Associations Chairman in 2000, returned to the position of General Secretary in 2003 and Treasurer in 2011.
It was during the period immediately following his retirement from British Midland in 2007 (and despite his illness) that ALAE enjoyed considerable success. Keith played a huge role in ALAE gaining recognition agreements with EasyTech and Flybe. They joined BMI where ALAE had been the recognised union of choice for the past 18 years and Keith was very proud to have been involved with every one of the agreements.
Keith also had extraordinary vision. Despite resistance from some quarters (usually on cost grounds) Keith was a passionate supporter of AEI (Aircraft Engineers International) and consistently advocated close cooperation. Indeed he played a major role in bringing two very successful AEI congresses to the UK, Edinburgh in 1998 and London in 2007. The 1998 Edinburgh congress is still talked about today within AEI circles as a memorable event.
Yet more seriously he reasoned that with any negotiation or discussion, particularly those relating to the aircraft engineer’s licence and even more so those discussions originating from the European Aviation Safety Agency, one has to be at the table to influence events. It cannot be overstated how much this approach has paid dividends to the licensing community and more importantly, aviation safety in general, over the past 5 or 6 years. The cost argument evaporates immediately. Keith was well aware that it isn’t just about waiting for changes to occur, much of what ALAE does is about preventing those changes that undermine safety.
During his time as an Executive Councillor and holding positions of responsibility within the Association he always endeavoured to raise the profile of the Association and – internally – bring modernisation, accountability and transparency to its way of operating. He achieved these endeavours by producing brochures and posters etc as well as introducing various policies & procedures. The Rule book was re-written twice and membership categories changed. All with their attendant problems as everything was questioned. Keith drove communication improvements which contributed to the successes of that decade.
As the fax machine evolved into the Internet, which was agonisingly slow at the time and prone to losing connections on a regular basis, it was the General Secretary who had to deal with these issues. There were always problems with BACS that was introduced to make membership payments easier. The Accounting program SAGE was always being updated which required courses for the Secretary and Treasurer alike. Even something as simple (nowadays) as putting up our own website was a minefield with people promising more than they could deliver and giving poor service before we tired of them and looked elsewhere. Everything however came good but so much personal time was spent in the Office at Ascot or Bagshot it was almost a second home as Marion, Keith’s wife, would probably say!
Technology advanced so quickly during the 90’s we were always playing catch-up. With information at our fingertips today it is hard to think that only 25 or so years ago the contents of TECHLOG were initially hand-written or faxed letters and articles that had to then be typed before being printed off in dot-matrix form on a Gestetner. These sheets then assembled and stapled before manually putting them into address envelopes and stamping with our own franking machine. We did have a couple of permanent staff in the office but on printing day it was all hands to the pumps with Keith, as the General secretary, foremost.
Like all those on the EC he believed in what the Association stands for and what it is able to achieve but he was always concerned for the future. In his editorials he often cited the need for more members, the need for volunteers to go onto the Executive Council so that the ALAE could do even more for members and the Aviation Industry alike. Disappointingly his call largely went unanswered. There are still too many people who are more than willing to let the few do everything.
As Keith departed the office of General Secretary in 2010 he did so with his head held high knowing that he had done more than his bit for the Licensed Engineer, member and non-member alike. Selflessly as always, Keith’s actions were always for the benefit of the members. With nobody coming forward to take on the role of Treasurer, Keith continued to be involved until December 2016. Much as he was happy to carry out this duty he often made it known that he would happily give up the position if anyone else wanted to volunteer for it. No-one ever did.
Aside from the ALAE, Keith’s time was well spent in his shed turning wood on his lathe, making dishes etc. that he would give away with his ‘Happy Pear’ logo stuck to it. Walking the dogs was always a pleasure but trying to clean them after they had been running through the dirtiest puddles they could find was not so much fun. He took a serious interest in genealogy and traced his roots back several generations.
A complete change from the big grey ships he served on were the riverboat cruises that he and Marion enjoyed throughout Europe. Also, and unsurprisingly for those who knew him, he helped others in the community with little jobs that needed doing.
Sadly another of the few has flown off into the sunset and, for those who knew him; our lives will be the poorer for it.
Keith Rogers – Husband, Father, Grand-Father, friend – farewell.
Keith’s funeral will be on Friday 20th January at 10 a.m. at the North Parish Church, Dunfermline.