George Astley, MBE: RAF Swanton Morley warrant officer pioneered maintenance strategy

George R. Astley MBE. Photo: Supplied

George R. Astley MBE. Photo: Supplied - Credit: Supplied

A retired Royal Air Force warrant officer, George Astley, who has died suddenly aged 76, spent the final decade of his 40-year career at Swanton Morley.

The engineering officer, who also twice received the Air Officer Commanding commendation, was made an MBE in the 1992 new year's honours shortly after retiring.

When he moved to RAF Swanton Morley in 1979, he became chief editor responsible for the entire RAF aircraft maintenance schedules. Four years later, he introduced reliability centred maintenance to all three services, applying his philosophy: 'If it's not broken, don't mend it.'

In retirement, he took a lead in the restoration of a DC3 Dakota at the Yorkshire Air Museum, which arrived as a wreck in December 2000. It was rebuilt and earlier this year was in engine running condition – much to the delight of visitors.

George Raymond Astley, who was born on August 23, 1936 in Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Wales, won a place to a local grammar school.


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His first choice of career was in agriculture but he was persuaded to join the Royal Air Force on his 16th birthday.

He started as an apprentice at RAF Halton in the 73rd intake, and in 1956 was posted to St Athan in south Wales, to work on Vampire and Venom aircraft.

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Married in 1959, he was posted to Cyprus and Malta, briefly, before returning to Britain and RAF Marham. There, partly because of a shortage of married quarters and with more than 300 on the housing list, he was sent back to St Athan.

After a posting to Aden, he was promoted to chief technician and then served at St Mawgan, Chivenor, where his daughter Siân was born – and finally RAF Valley on Anglesey.

In 1977, reluctantly giving up his helicopters, he became a flight sergeant and received his first AOC commendation, and moved to RAF Brawdy, Pembroke, where he managed more than 80 Hawker Hunters.

In 1987, he received a second AOC Commendation and was promoted to warrant officer. After almost 40 years' service, he retired in August 1991.

In retirement, he moved to Sherburn-in-Elmet, Yorkshire, where he was a volunteer at the Merton Farm Museum, near York, and also at the Yorkshire Air Museum, where he helped to maintain and restore aircraft from the first gliders to jets.

He leaves a daughter, Sian, who lives at Scarning, Dereham.

A memorial service was held at the Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington, near York, on Tuesday, July 30.

Michael Pollitt

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