Keying mesh in edit mode?

So I am trying to make an engine that has flaps all around it which close in and out depending on how fast the ship is going. It is something like the engines on the armor from the starcraft trailer wings of liberty at 2:41. My first thought was that is easy let’s just make a curve then duplicate the flaps around it and done. That kinda worked except the model warped as it closed. So my second try was to add a bend modifier and array the model. That still warped the mesh. Then I remembered that you can use the instancing feature to make a plane and array it, then instance the model around it. That worked but now to control the closing. After fiddling with it for about 5 mins I realized that I could rotate the model in edit mode around the y-axis which made the effect of the flaps closing in. Great. The question is how do I key the mesh in edit mode. Or how do I control the model by another object so that it rotates it in edit mode? Simple deform only work when the binded object is in edit mode. So that only passes on the problem. Conclusion: What is a different way to make this effect or how do I make my way work with the keying in edit mode problem. Sr if I have bad english I am not native :).

I supplied the example file below

Example File.blend (693.5 KB)

Now, to create the mesh, i’d use an empty and an array modifier. Nothing else.

This is imo the simplest way to set it up.
Only restriction you need to be aware of, is that if you intend to move the whole model, to for instance attach it to an engine, then you need to do it in object mode, and with the Empty also selected. As such:

You cant move any individually, but together, it works just as expected.

Now for the movement,im assuming this is what you wanted. If im wrong, please feel free to correct me.

To achieve this, i’d opt for shape keys. They’re easier to keep track of, as you dont have to animate the actual model. Its also far easier if your end result has many moving parts.

The only downside to this however, is that the flaps actually deform from one state to another, its not actually rotating. However, this should not be an issue, as you cant notice it.

That said, if this is a dealbreaker for you, if it HAS to remain 100% rigid, then let me know, cause i have another alternative method for you, however it is far more tedious to keep track of. So if you can get by with the unnoticeable deformation, then this is how i suggest doing it.

Unfortunately I opt for the second method because I dont want any deforming.

I also forgot to mention I want it to use the bend modifier so it is modular