|Andy Keech was born in Australia’s Outback. As far back as he can remember, Andy has been interested in aircraft. By the age of 7, he was building balsa, rubber-band-propelled model aircraft and reading all the books a young person could find on flying.
When he was 8, he had his first flight in a barnstorming itinerant aircraft, and from then on he had a passionate interest in aviation. He clipped articles and pictures from newspapers and magazines to be pasted into scrapbooks, and he was able to recognize any aircraft that existed at that time.
At 17, he earned his first full-time employment check; it was quickly invested in his first flying lesson. He soloed that year, but moved to a town with no flying club. However, that did not hold him back. He segued into sport parachuting at 19, and developed a passion for the sport which lasted for the next 20 years.
During that time he became one of Australia’s pioneer skydivers. He was, with his jump partner, the first Australian to successfully make contact in freefall (relative work). He became a senior as well as chief instructor, national champion parachutist and held the first two expert parachutist licenses issued to an Australian (E1 and F1). He competed at a world competition in Germany and was the top scorer on his team.
Andy came to the U.S. around this time and continued skydiving, and resumed flying. He became one of the world’s top freefall photographers, produced 3 books on skydiving, had assignments with Sports Illustrated, TIME magazine, the London Times and other publications, which took him to Africa, Europe and the Pacific as well as all over the U.S.
Andy built and jumped his own parachute, and was the first freefall photographer to transition on to the modern, high performance ram air parachutes. He was one of the small handful of skydivers to dive off El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley. He organized the visit to, and jumped in China as still photographer on the U.S. Skydiving team in 1980. His work hung in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and he was honored with the Master of Sport award by the Australian Parachute Association in recognition of his international achievements.
While accomplishing the above, he also earned the following licenses and ratings: senior parachute rigger, commercial pilot, single and multiengine airplane, instrument, rotorcraft, helicopter and gyroplane. He also flew jump aircraft, gliders and tow planes, helicopters and autogyros.
However, it was the world of autogyros that began to fascinate him and eventually Andy decided to build a new design gyroplane (Little Wing Autogyro). He worked with Ron Herron, an airframe and powerplant mechanic, instructor, and designer to build a light, high-performance, safe aircraft, which he nicknamed ‘Woodstock.’ The collaboration took 5 years.
In October 2003, Andy flew 'Woodstock' across the U.S. and back, resetting three trans-continental speed records. Then, in February 2004, he set a new world distance record of 617 miles, and in May, a new altitude (26,408’) and time to climb world records. In February 2005 he broke the 500 km. world speed record. The LW5 is unique. It is rare for an aircraft to ever hold records in all parameters of performance... speed, distance, climb and altitude. The LW5 is one of only two aircraft to ever do so. Between February 9 and 14, 2005, Keech made flights from North Little Rock municipal airport. On February 16th, the NAA (National Aeronautics Association), the organization responsible for certifying records, assessed the data from the flight recorder and preliminary results show the following record-breaking performances:
Most of the above records have been superseded. For current status, see "World Records."
Andy now looks forward to setting further world records. Recognition of his flying achievements include some of aviation’s most prestigious awards:
Additional distinctions include “Andy Keech Day” in Oklahoma (February 28, 2005), Honorary Oklahoma Aviator, and EAA’s “Timeless Voices of Aviation.”
Andy has always maintained a strong interest in physical fitness. He was a long distance runner for 15 years (10 marathons) and has remained an enthusiastic bicycle rider to this day.
Senior Parachute Rigger