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The Kenyon Files

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  • The Kenyon Files

    An opportunity to share anything (and everything) about that living legend of helicopter aviation .. Dennis 'The Menace' Kenyon (aka Denissimo!).

  • #2

    On Wednesday 11th May 2011 at the RAF Club in London, Wing Commander Robert (Bob) Foster presented
    the Venerable Dennis 'The Menace' Kenyon, with the Royal Aero Club's Diploma.

    Dennis Kenyon started flying in the RAF in 1952 and has flown some 85 aircraft types from Tiger Moths to the Gloster Meteor.

    In 1972 he joined Spooner Aviation from where he developed what was to become one of the UK's most successful helicopter
    distributorships making him synonymous with the Enstrom brand he so capably promoted.

    Dennis is a Helicopter ATPL holder, Flying Instructor and Type Rating Examiner.
    He is also an acclaimed display pilot and evaluator. Dennis has flown more than 30 different types of
    rotary-wing aircraft
    and has amassed in excess of 13,000 flying hours.
    He has performed at more than 1,200 airshows and has appeared in several feature films.

    He has represented Great Britain at four World Helicopter Championships, winning the aerobatic freestyle title in 1992.
    In 2005 he set up a flying scholarship to sponsor to helicopter PPL standard those with a passion for rotary-wing flight.
    He continues to convey his experience through writing articles on helicopter test flights, flight theory and flight safety.



    • #3
      Hallo Savoia ... It really is good of you to honour me with such kind words.

      Can I add that as your new venture gathers pace, I'll always be delighted to offer any help and advice for our new pilots as they join this wonderful industry. I suppose my area of expertise has been flying training and the associated technical aspects of each exercise and over the years, I've also been involved in feature film flying, crop spraying and of course my display flying. Just contact me through Aviafora or my website. I'm semi-retired so mostly have plenty of time to respond.

      Congrats to your good self and Phil on a wonderful venture to rival others. I wish you every success.

      Safe flying to all out there.

      Dennis Kenyon.


      • #4
        If any newbies end-up reading this thread, then I do encourage you to contact Denissimo for tips and advice on your flying training - and to complement the advice you get from Dennis you might also get in touch with Phil, Aviafora's administrator, who can supply you with everything needed to get you through your exams!

        Between the two of them there is a wealth of experience!

        Denissimo 'at work' flying Enstrom F-28F G-BYKF at a past Shoreham Airshow:

        * * *


        • #5
          Hey Dennis - welcome to the forum!

          For those who didn't already know, Dennis wrote a book sometime ago called Appointment On Lake Michigan.

          It is now available as a PDF from:



          • #6
            Black Hawk Down

            Over the years, I've been tasked with quite a few major feature films, so far all as story ship, but a few years back I was given the job of flying for Ridley Scott, (now Sir Ridley) and his take on the Mogadishu operation, Black Hawk Down. I flew down with BA and the inimitable Jerry Grayson, he of Anneka Rice 'Treasure Hunt' fame, where we coasted up by car from Casablanca to the location site at Sidi Massou near the Sale airfield where the Black Hawks and Littlebirds were based ... I thought Aviafora men might like to read about a couple of our incidents ... apart from the $1000 US a day on location.

            The number One pilot on the shoot was the highly experienced film man, locally known as Bob Zee. The machine I was scheduled to fly was the MD 500, AH military version ... six blades, 630 SHP engine so performance was a huge given.

            The Morocco location was of course meant to portray the Mogadishu coast line. (apart from the sun arriving from a different direction!) and I'll be posting a few pictures I took on the shoot.

            Many of you will know how expert the set guys are at building solid looking buildings in papier mache. The Olympic Hotel exterior was so realistic, I went through the doors to get myself a drink, only to be surrounded by supporting scaffolding. For one shot, the task was simply to hold a hover at 175 feet above Bob's 500 in the hover 150 feet below, I looked down to see a bunch of school kids heaving rocks up at Bob's machine. They were soon spotted, rounded up and sent on their way. BUT, they were back the next morning armed with an inner tube of a lorry tyre which was promptly made up as a fierce catapult. Almost immediately I spotted the kids below again but before I got a warning out, Bob called on the R/T that he'd been hit. The little darlings had put a rock into his tail rotor and brought him down, but happily a man of Bob's experience got it down safely without further damage.

            The ground guys borrowed my tail rotor assembly to get him Bob's machine airborne again and back to base.

            I've a few more stories to cover next time when a few pictures will be included by Savoia. Take care all you guys out there. Dennis Kenyon.


            • #7
              I did part of the filming for K19, the one about the submarine with some guys called Ford and Neeson . Here's a pic of the machine set up with the camera on the front:


              • #8
                Originally posted by Dennis Kenyon View Post
                I've a few more stories to cover next time when a few pictures will be included by Savoia.
                I am of course very pleased to 'sort out' Denissimo's photos for him .. and here are some of them ..

                Photo's taken in March 2001 during the filming of Black Hawk Down in Morocco:

                Delta Force actor by the Bakara Market bridge

                Bob Zee with Ridley Scott and additional crew

                The Olympic Hotel on Halwadig Boulevard

                Ant racing with Jerry Grayson

                Personal log book depicting photo of the AH-6 'Little Bird'

                The AH-6 Little Birds on set

                All photos from Denissimo's personal collection.


                • #9
                  Good evening Phil,

                  Thanks for the plug ... "Appointment on Lake Michigan" ... I've just completed a re-write and update which I'm calling "Dangerous Appointment" Same base story but the politics now effective 2014. It's also rather more professional having 9 years now in the writing business. I'll e-mail the typescript for your consideration. Is there any way we could get it published in book form without breaking the bank! Dennis Kenyon.


                  • #10
                    OK - will look forward to it! do have a printer in UK now that might be able to help!



                    • #11

                      Great stuff Denissimo!

                      Were these US Army AH-6's you were flying or reconfigured civilian 'D' models? And did you have to wear US Army kit!

                      Originally posted by Phil Croucher View Post
                      I did part of the filming for K19, the one about the submarine with some guys called Ford and Neeson

                      Well done Filippo!

                      K-19 was an enjoyable movie, with Ford and Neeson's accents being part of the entertainment! As it was, they did a pretty good job of it.

                      I don't remember the aerial shots so well but can recall mainaly seeing the conning tower and which made me wonder whether there was any more of the 'boat' which had been 'constructed'! Out of interest, in which location were the aerial shots performed?


                      • #12
                        For Phil please .... Thanks Phil. Is there an e-mail address I can mail the new typescript to: Its ready now. DRK

                        And for Savoia: The film flying for Black Hawk Down used both the military AH-6 machines as my log book photo ... AND three German 500D's which had two crew platforms attached for background shots. And yes, all pilots were kitted out in khaki army fatigues plus matt black Bone Domes! Very kinky! DRK


                        • #13
                          We should of course have enjoyed seeing you 'geared-up' for the occasion!

                          In the meantime .. a couple of shots from the movie:

                          'Little Birds' approaching movie set street

                          Little Birds coming-in to deploy troops

                          And ..

                          Evidently, this is one of the mechanics who worked on the AH-6's


                          • #14
                            Denissimo's Writings!

                            For Avia readers resident in the UK can I encourage you to pick-up a copy of the June issue of 'Flyer' magazine when it comes out.

                            I've had the privilege of perusing an article the Maestro is compiling in which he has been asked to name his 'top four' aircraft of all time. This from someone who has flown 84 types of fixed-wing and 34 types of helicopter!

                            It has all the makings of a great read and .. I guarantee .. you'll be surprised by Denissimo's choice for the number one spot!

                            Flyer Magazine UK


                            • #15

                              Mick Cullen (a former Australian Army helicopter pilot) and who, aside from being a flight instructor also hosts a helicopter radio show, has contacted me to let me know that he recently conducted a radio interview with Denissimo!

                              Click here to listen to Part 1 of the interview.

                              Thanks to Mick for letting me know about this .. and 'wrapped knuckles' to 'The Maestro' for keeping so quiet about it!


                              • #16
                                Denissimo in South Africa

                                Following Mick's heads-up on Dennis's interview in the above post, I've sourced some highlights from the Menace's recent visit to South Africa (mentioned in the above interview and where he flew the Enstrom 480 and MD530) as well as participating in another interview. Enjoy!


                                • #17
                                  Hi all Aviaforans!

                                  Apologies for my absence but even at my mature years I seem to be as busy as ever. You know when you pass the big 'Eight 0' you tend to view life from a different perspective .... like I now have to think twice before buying green bananas! Just joking!

                                  But I do want to raise the subject of a new helicopter I saw at the South African AAD air show at AFB Waterkloof. The new type originates in Modena as the FAMA 209M. She's a standard two seat - BUT - is all composite construction, has a retractable gear option and uses a gas turbine engine. Also a neat glass EFIS panel. The type is the brainchild of Antonino Fama (Nino) and sadly at present is only being offered as a kit build. The version I saw at Waterkloof is already CAA cleared on 'an authority to fly' basis for flying training and some specified commercial work such as game capture. You can read more about it at Fama's website here.

                                  Here is a brief video clip of the aircraft:

                                  Does anyone have more information for me on her airborne handling as I have been asked to run an article for a UK magazine. I'm sure Enrico will know tons more! With Avgas running at over ten English pounds a gallon over here, the UK training industry sure needs a new low cost machine running on turbine fuel.

                                  Please either post here or email me at

                                  Bye for now and many thanks.

                                  Dennis Kenyon


                                  • #18
                                    Hello Dennis,

                                    I have no more information on the airborne handling but I do know the following:

                                    This aircraft has no type certificate, this means that you can only use it as an ultra light (French Class 6) or CNSK (kit helicopter). This means that you cannot do any aerial work with it.

                                    In the UK I do not think that there is an importer as it has no permit to fly either. Also the French importer killed himself in Sept 2013. Now there is a new guy importing it.

                                    The engine comes from an APU, nothing wrong with that but its design was not intended to fly with it.

                                    There are some major flaws with this Solar turbine. They can be addressed like some people did it with the JetExec Rotorways and then it is OK (mainly fuel control and governor related problems).

                                    According to the brief accident report (I say brief because it was never investigated like a certified aircraft) the turbine over-revved and blade separation occurred in flight.



                                    • #19
                                      Zishelix has kindly mentioned that Denissimo recently featured on the BBC's 'Close Calls' programme.

                                      Readers in the UK may watch this interview on BBC's iPlayer via the following link:

                                      For those of us outside the UK, I suppose we shall have to wait until this is uploaded on You Tube!


                                      • #20
                                        Good evening Aviafora fans ... I must offer an apology for being AWOL for too long. No excuses other than work! I suppose I now qualify as a fully paid up member of the COF club but somehow keep managing to pass my 'Class One' medical although I know that the medical thingy must catch up with me eventually. My flying work load is reducing although I have completed the PPL training of a couple of guys recently. My current Enstrom man is a super guy named David, although a pretty experienced fixed winger, quite sensibly and unusually, we are still flying together but covering the advanced handling areas. Lots of full stop EOLs of course .... much being carried out at the pretty Welshpool Airfield.

                                        Some of you might know that our HCGB are in the process of bidding to bring the next World Helicopter Championships to the UK. The last UK occasion was the 1992 event at RAF Wroughton ... (I managed to win the freestyle section - he says modestly!) Some of you will also know I'm in my 65th flying year but IF the WHC does arrive here, I'll be having a final go at winning something. Perhaps at 84, the oldest rotary nutcase to participate as a competitor. But I do intend to keep going a little longer if only to log a final 230 hours to hit the magic 20,000. So dear colleagues, especially our newer pilots, if you ever feel I can help your progress in our wonderful industry ... just e-mail. (

                                        Oh and for my dearest friend and flying colleague, Savoia ... I've uncovered a good crop of helicopter pictures from my archives. Lots of lovely old registrations etc. I'll get them through to you to be used in any way that keeps our industry so alive. (even with pics of old!)

                                        And another 'Oh' as the various 'close call' episodes keep appearing on the box ... much to my embarrassment, although I'm always happy to explain how I got things so badly wrong in the Salt Late City incident .... don't like calling that event a 'crash!

                                        Safe flying to all.

                                        Dennis Kenyon


                                        • Zishelix
                                          Zishelix commented
                                          Editing a comment
                                          Hello Dennis, so glad to see you're still 'airworthy'! It's been a while since your last visit here but I'm sure you had a good reason.

                                          By the way, I wonder how many log books are required to mark almost 20K flying hours inside?
                                          A remarkable accomplishment. Bravo!

                                      • #21
                                        Hi Dennis. Here's hoping you hit the 20,000 mark this year. Will you get to fly the Enstrom TH180 before you wrap things up? It looks like a machine you would enjoy.

                                        500 Fan.


                                        • #22
                                          For the 'Dalai Lama' of Aviafora, (Savoia), plus Zish-X and 500 fan, ... a couple of answers. Log books? I'm about two thirds through number 8. Interesting for me, as the opening page of book 7, says ... "My last ever log book!" No crystal ball though as in 2009, I was asked by a dear mate, Ross McFadyen if I would train him on Enstrom Shark, G-SHRK. I did say I'd need another log before we could fly together. Ross promptly presented me with a spanking new Log Book number 8, with a lovely note on the first page ... "Dennis - Thank you for your superb instruction and experience ... let's hope you will fill this log book too!"

                                          As of yesterday and another three hours of advanced FX EOL handling with David Tinsley at Welshpool, (G-MHCM) I'm now on page 83 out of 145 and a grand total (rotary & fixed wing) of 19,797 hours. So I can't stop just yet if I am to make the magic 20,000! Maybe another year will do it.

                                          As many will know, EHC have flown their new 180 dedicated two seat trainer. As a long term type supporter, I sincerely hope I'm wrong, but it's a tough nut to crack the G2 Cabri's 21st century features and design. Wasn't it time to go turbine? The innovative FAMA from Modena is already there and training in South Africa. But yes, if I am offered the opportunity to do a magazine flight test, I won't need to be asked twice.

                                          Safe & happy flying to all Aviafora men. Dennis Kenyon.


                                          • Zishelix
                                            Zishelix commented
                                            Editing a comment
                                            Dennis, it looks amazing you've spent over 2 years airborne! Few more hours and we can consider you an angel

                                            Once again - a heck of an achievement! Keep my fingers crossed for your wish to make flight test of the new FAMA's bird for a magazine.

                                        • #23
                                          Ciao Denissimo!

                                          It is wonderful to see you back, and yes, it has been long, too long .. for your absence is felt, but this also makes your return the more joyous!

                                          Now it seems that I must once again remind you that we do not recognise (or even mention) the 'COF Club' on Aviafora but have instead admitted you into the Association of Highly Esteemed Gentleman Flyers, of which you are both a distinguished and venerable member! So, for the sake of our forum rules, please, no more mention of this COF Club!

                                          That you continue to pass Class One medicals is wonderful, but also seems par for course in the life of one who has soldiered-on with remarkable resilience in the practice of professional aviation. I should love to see you executing your training autos, such as you have been doing recently, and am sure you continue to perform these with the master’s touch!

                                          Regarding the WHC, if these come to Blighty, then okay, have a final bash at the championships but .. on condition that you fly within your means (don’t try and do what doesn’t come easily to you) and that your repertoire is 'vetted' not only by a professional, but by a good friend who is in a position to determine whether or not you are pushing the boundaries. I write this with humble respect as an 'aviator son' of yours (having been formally trained at one of your establishments) and expressing my desire to ensure your continued well-being, for we all want to see you enjoy a gentle and peaceable retirement pottering about the garden, reviewing exotic stamps from places near and far and tinkering with bits and pieces from grandfather clocks!

                                          If the WHC does come to the UK, then I shall propose a special award simply for you competing in the event!

                                          Regarding the big '20', please order a great big cake for this occasion, and then make sure to send me a photo so that we may all celebrate with you as you achieve this remarkable accomplishment .. 20,000 hours .. fantastic!

                                          Denissimo, Salt Lake City showed us that rather than being a 'rotary god', you are in fact like the rest of us, flesh and blood and, just as with us all, vulnerable to the occasional slip-up. It makes you human, approachable, 'real' if you will. When you first presented what is now your trademark display routine in the 1970’s (and I was among the first to see this) you introduced us to a new form of display flying. It was engaging, thrilling, and a wonderful demonstration of skill.

                                          Clearly to deliver such a routine requires precision, which in turn means that if the parameters which 'contain' this routine are amended, there will doubtless be an affect on the display. Now we know from tragedies such as that which befell Günter Zimmer in his Hughes 500C at Minsk in 2010, that pulling-out from a vertical descent (such as those encountered after a loop, wing-over or bunt) demand that the craft’s momentum be abated, and we also know that this requires time and space (the two being inextricably linked during such manoeuvers).

                                          In your desire (and the desire it must be said of many display pilots) to keep the display 'in front' of the crowd, this means fine-tuning your recovery from such manoeuvers with absolute precision and, as mentioned, anything affecting this is bound to have consequences. The fact that you literally walked away from the Salt Lake incident is truly remarkable .. and that you have lived to narrate your experience is something incredibly valuable, for it enables others to learn from this event. Alas, at age 74, Günter didn't make it and never had this opportunity.

                                          So, we thank God that Salt Lake City became a remarkable encounter in your already remarkable journey of flight, whereby many can learn about the fine balance necessary to execute the performance you deliver; and we thank God too that this encounter was merely a comma in your life’s story and not a full stop!

                                          Regarding your photos, grazie maestro! I shall ensure that these are well kept and made publicly available and regarding which we shall discuss further.

                                          Great to see you back; I am hoping this means we may see a little more of you here – we can certainly hope!

                                          Cari saluti amcio mio


                                          Portraits of Denissimo

                                          The Maestro as seen with Rotorway Exec G-KEVL at Rochester Airport


                                          • #24
                                            Hallo Enrico .... I really don't know how to respond to your generous and warm words on my general flying and my long career, plus your obvious concern for future display flying. Your words of wisdom are welcomed and accepted absolutely. You have hit the nail squarely on the head. The point being that rotary display manoeuvres for we piston and fully articulated M/R hubs guys ... is akin to motoring in the first few years of the 20th century. The truth of the matter is after some 1200 displays, I still don't understand the ever-changing air flow rotor disc patterns and associated control responses developing in the more advanced manoeuvres. (witness my Salt Lake City adventure!) but even today with my display numbers nudging 1500, I still spend considerable time studying them. The odd thing is ... I don't know why! Before I hang up my helmet for good, I might have to fly another forty or fifty displays with that area of research incomplete.

                                            Contrary to what, on one occasion, has been said about display flying, I don't just chuck the airframe at the sky and sort out the handling in the recovery. In the 1970s I carried out more than a few practice displays with tell-tale markings on the M/R & T/R hubs and dampers. Ditto some 8 inch Balsa wood extensions to the Dorsal fin in an effort to determine rotor blade travel in the flapping planes. I even approached the Cranfield University Aerodynamic research guys and no lesser ETPS test pilot than the massively experienced Ken Reid. Apart from some valuable words of wisdom such as offered by Savoia in his previous post, the general consensus was ... "We don't know for sure!" So ... over the years, I simply inched my display forward flight by flight.

                                            I have to say that in the case of the Enstrom 28/280/FX marques, one necessary airframe modification did emerge. At the 1986 WHC Cranfield event, the up-going T/R blade severed the left hand T/R cable control. The same failure occurred at Noel Edmond's 1993 event at 'Crinkley Bottom' in Somerset. At the 1999 Biggin Hill Air Fair, I suffered the failure for a third time, but following this occurrence and having experienced a similar failure in America, the cable control bulkhead exit point was repositioned further inboard. Apparently now nicknamed by the Menominee factory ... 'The Kenyon Hole!' Oh and just to say, no airframe damage was caused in any of the above emergency landings.

                                            So where do we go from here? As I write, there are around a dozen CAA approved display pilots in the UK ... perhaps three or four actively flying displays. With me gone, I feel the industry needs to continue the discipline. The turbine guys with their solid heads, (no pun intended) B105 - Westland Lynx etc) have little to concern them but I have little experience at the heavy end of the industry to offer advice. Over the years, I have forwarded a dozen or so pilot 'Display Authority' recommendations' to the CAA, but, if rotary display flying in light helicopters is to survive, we really need a couple of youngsters with the appropriate level of experience to take on the display mantle.

                                            I take the view that display flying is a big plus for our industry. In the 1970s, the reputation of the new Enstrom simply boomed following my display flying at Farnborough and the major air shows. My company sold 138 Enstrom models in a ten-year period. The air show world attracts the country's second highest spectator attendance, second only to Football. The crowds love to see helicopters perform extreme manoeuvres other than a simple hover. Let's keep that situation going. Safety? In the UK, I know of only one major rotary display accident ... a manufacturer's test ship attempting a low level roll at Farnborough in the 1970s. Civvy displays? None. I'll always be doing and teaching my utmost to keep it that way. Let's have your comments guys. Dennis Kenyon.

                                            PS. Hoping to have an Enstrom loop video on here soon.


                                            • #25
                                              Great stuff Denissimo!

                                              Out of interest, if the WHC comes to Blighty, which would be your first choice of aircraft?

                                              The dynamics associated with rotary-wing aerobatics is a mighty interesting topic and something one would love to hear more about. Perhaps one day someone will dig a little deeper into this and kit-out a display helicopter with a sophisticated array of sensors and present us with the facts. These dynamics are of course much more interesting with non-rigid rotors. Take a look here to see an S-56 (better known as the CH-37 Mojave) main rotor in flight. Now imagine this while undergoing a roll for example! Not sure if the CH-37 would have managed a roll mind you, although her big sister the CH-53 managed to pull it off without too much struggle!

                                              Your recoveries from these tail rotor failures during your displays are testament to fine skills Denissimo and we are very proud of you, well done! See here for someone else who had to contend with a tail rotor failure, in this case a 280FX.

                                              Regarding the future of light helicopters in display flying, specifically pistons, I wonder about the suitability of the Cabri given that this is equipped with three main blades?

                                              Your Enstrom sales in the 70's-80's were a fine achievement indeed and there is no doubt that the aircraft you sold brought much enjoyable to many aviators across Britain.

                                              And here for our readers, Denissimo looping an F-28 ..

                                              Also .. Denissimo displaying a 280 Shark ..


                                              • #26
                                                Denissimo and ‘The Sheene’

                                                Some memories from the Maestro’s days with ‘The Sheene’.

                                                Enstrom 280C Shark G-BGMX (cn.1173) as seen at Donington Park race track on 18th April 1982

                                                Barry seen here with wife Stephanie McLean. Denissimo sold this Enstrom to Barry in October 1980.

                                                Agusta-Bell 206B G-AWJW (cn.8052) at Barry’s home in Surrey c.1981

                                                Seen here is former Ferranti JetRanger G-AWJW which Denissimo bought in 1980. By the time this photo was taken Barry would already have taken delivery of his Enstrom so I’m not entirely sure what ‘JW’ was doing here. Perhaps a charter when he needed to travel with more people?

                                                Later in 1981 Denissimo sold ‘JW’ to Flair Soft Drinks whereupon she became G-FSDA.

                                                Then in November 1983 the Maestro sold Barry a Hughes 500C and which Barry named after his wife (see below):

                                                Hughes 500C G-STEF as seen at Shoreham Airport c.1984


                                                • #27
                                                  Denissimo's 'Retirement' Party, Denham Airfield, 7th July 2018

                                                  The Maestro recently clocked the 20,000 hour mark (flying time that is ) and celebrated the event with friends at a hangar bash at Denham. The event was also reportedly a celebration of retirement, but those who know Denissimo will also know that he will keep flying until the angels take over! For example, 'the Menace' is due to perform a display this coming weekend at the 'Chopper Chums' event at Abergavenny Airfield in Wales!

                                                  Herewith some snapshots from the event on 7th courtesy of Denissimo as well as a video courtesy of Robert Turner showing the Maestro's display in Enstrom 280FX G-MHCM.
                                                  Needless to say, our love, congratulations, goodwill and enduring best wishes are extended to Denissimo!


                                                  • Zishelix
                                                    Zishelix commented
                                                    Editing a comment
                                                    What a remarkable achievement! Congratulations and many more safe flight hours ahead Mr. Kenyon!!