A 'LEGEND' of local aircraft engineering has retired after nearly half a decade at Leeds Bradford Airport.

Colleagues at Multiflight have bid a fond farewell to 75 year old Gerry Athorne after his 48 years with the private aviation company.

Mr Athorne, who lives on Otley Chevin, started off as an aircraft engine fitter for Yorkshire Light Aircraft, on the south side of the airport, on April 9, 1969.

He became the firm's Chief Engineer in 1998 and then, when Multiflight acquired the business in 2000, took charge of the Engine Shop.

His love of aircraft engines had begun much earlier, though, and when he left school aged 16 he joined the Royal Air Force.

Mr Athorne ended up spending 12 years with the RAF as an aircraft engineer, working on all types of aircraft with 617 Squadron at Scampton, 38 Squadron on Malta and 543 Squadron at Wyton.

Multiflight’s Managing Director, Steve Borrowdale, praised hin for his contribution to the industry and the company.

He said: "Gerry is a real one-off, a legend and a tremendous aircraft engine knowledge-bank.

"We have been extremely blessed to have him working with us for so many years and value the huge contribution he has made, the example he has set, and the knowledge he has shared.

"We wish him all the very best for his retirement."

Mr Athorne says he is sad to be leaving Multiflight but has that his wife, two daughters and two grandchildren have plenty of plans to keep him busy.

He said: "I have always loved engines and when I joined the RAF as a boy entrant, at 16, it was the natural choice for me.

"During my time at Leeds Bradford Airport I have seen tremendous changes with the expansion of the airport, the runway, Multiflight and its private aviation facilities."

A presentation was made on his final day with the company last week when Director Miles Beecham thanked him for his 'amazing contribution'.

Mr Beecham pointed out that during his time with the business Mr Athorne had worked 100,000 man hours, on 7,000 different workpacks.

He also noted that since Mr Athorne had started with the firm the world population had doubled, 42 new countries had come into existence, and there had been nine UK Prime Ministers.

Mr Athorne, meanwhile, hasn't ruled out popping back in.

His parting words were: "See you all Monday."