When he’s not overseeing operations at the region’s space surveillance base, RAF Fylingdales’ new commander is hoping to catch some waves at Sandsend.
Wing commander David Keighley has swapped the concrete streets of London for the Yorkshire coast, and he’s looking forward to taking up surfing once again.
“I’ve dusted off my surfboard the other week in preparation for moving up here,” he said.
The posting to the North York Moors’ ballastic missile-tracking base is the culmination of a career which has seen WC Keighley posted twice previously to RAF Fylingdales, as well as Afghanistan, Colorado and the Outer Hebrides, where his love of surfing began.
“There’s not much to do up there,” explained WC Keighley.
“But there are some fantastic beaches. We bought some second hand boards and just kept falling off until we got it right.”
WC Keighley was first posted to RAF Fylingdales in 1996 and spent the next four years as a crew commander in the radar.
He was also operations training manager and this would start a career in space-related jobs which has culminated in his appointment as base commander at Fylingdales.
He said: “It’s just a series of coincidences that’s led me to this point, rather than a career management strategy.”
Eighteen years later, WC Keighley said that although a lot of the infrastructure has changed at the base, the spirit of the staff has stayed the same.
“It’s always been a close-knit team,” he said. “It has to be because it’s so remote.”
In 2000 he was reposted to to the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force station in Colorado, before returning to RAF Fylingdales on promotion to squadron leader.
While his career has developed to establish him as a prime candidate for commander of the air force base, WC Keighley said when he first worked at Fylingdales, he had no idea he would one day be in charge.
He said: “It’s only in the last five years that I have had designs on the job, so I have tried to put myself in a position where I was a good candidate to come in.”
The experience he gained included a stint at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall and the completion of an advance command and training development scheme which prepares candidates for the higher ranks in the service.
Now, having achieved his goal, WC Keighley faces the difficult task of replacing one of the base’s most successful commanders.
He said: “One of the things I will be doing is looking ahead. What are the major events that are coming up? How can we educate people more about what we do here, or make life better for the people that work here?”
But WC Keighley is also looking forward to living on the Whitby coastline, where he apparently also has distant family connections. A great-great-grandparent named Readshaw ran a bakery on Church Street in the 19th Century.
The posting also gives him the first opportunity he has had in 18 months years to come home to his wife and two children every evening.
The children are excited about their father taking up such an important role.
WC Keighley said: “It will be the first time in a year and a half we have lived together as a family.
“They’ve already been asking me questions, such as ‘how many people are you going to be in charge of Daddy?’”