SWLEworking - by Barnaby Kellaway An eagle-eyed OAP is still working as an official aircraft inspector - at the incredible age of 101.
Former pilot Ernie Horsfall has spent more than 3,000 hours - or four months - in the skies over the years.
He can't get insured to take the controls anymore due to his age but continues to work as an inspector to this day.
Ernie's role with the Light Aicraft Assocation (LAA) sees him run his keen eye over the machines to ensure they have been built properly.
He offers advice to aviators and acts as the last line of defence before planes are signed off.
Widower Ernie then sends his paperwork off to LAA headquarters, where they are reviewed by the chief inspector and filed.
LAA officials say they check in with their oldest inspector every year to ensure he's still fit to work.
Ernie, who is from Preston, Lancs, said: "I've worked with planes for so many years now that I generally know what I'm looking at.
"I'm not too bothered about going up in the air anymore, I've done it so many times that it's just like getting in a car is for someone else."Nowadays I just inspect the planes, which I like to do.
"It's quite easy work for me really, having worked with planes for so many years.
I can usually tell from 20 yards away what I'm going to find."I'm more than happy to help people out and give them advice when they need it."Ernie added: "I've owned lots of planes and most of them are still flying because I took such good care of them.
"No one other than me ever did any work on them, they didn't even give them a lick of paint, only me."But I'm no hero, all those men who never made it back from the war, they're the heroes."Ernie was born on on April 21, 1918 - coincidentally the same day First World War ace The Red Baron was finally shot down and the year the Royal Air Force was formed.
Raised in Bradford, West Yorks., the youngster trained as an engineer and when WWII broke out he was called up to Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
Ernie served as a staff sergeant with the army for six years and it was during this time, on a trip in an RAF flying boat, he was first inspired to take to the skies.
However, it wasn't until 20 years later, at the age of 43 while working as an engineer for Vauxhall Motors, Ernie took his first flying lesson.
In the 58 years since he has owned 56 planes, filled five logbooks, and inspected thousands of aircrafts across the country.
The pensioner, who has no living family, was today (Tues) pictured inspecting a plane belonging to retired aviation consultant Terry Cook at St Michaels Airfield in Preston.
Mr Cook, 67, said: "I got Ernie over to give me a bit of technical advice.
He really is brilliant at what he does, I've always been delighted with his work.
"The advice he gives is really straightforward and practical."He added: "Ernie's a fantastic chap who is very popular in the light aircraft community.
"Everyone knows his name."In his role with the LAA Ernie's name and phone number are on a database which all association members have access to.
If anyone needs work or advice on a plane they own they are able to ring the Preston pensioner up and ask for help.
He has honed his skills over half a century of owning, renovating and selling his own aircrafts.
LAA chief inspector Ken Craigie said: "There is no age limit on being an official inspector, it all comes down to their ability.
"We check that Ernie is still capable every year and he proves himself every time.
"He has an incredible wealth of knowledge to call on and is a valuable asset to us."ENDS
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