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John W. Saull

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John W. Saull   1935-2021

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of our colleague, John Saull.

“John was an outstanding Executive Director of IFA throughout my involvement until he retired in 2015. His knowledge and enthusiasm for all aspects of aviation were incredible, which earned him the respect of the industry. He will be missed by all of the people who had the pleasure of working with him.”
Frank Turner, IFA President

“I first encountered John Saull when I arrived at UK CAA in early 1991. He was Head of Operating Standards Division at a time when Ronald Ashford was the Group Director of Safety Regulation.  John took pride in introducing new surveyors to the regulatory world. He was responsible for the regulation of aircraft operations in the UK.  At that time the CAA’s Operating Standards Division was roughly 280 staff. Despite being fresh out of industry as a new surveyor, I remember John’s welcome to Gatwick.  His depth of knowledge, generous spirit and enthusiasm for aviation were there for all to see.  He saw a great number of changes but he always approached them with a calm professionalism and serious dedication to aviation safety.  His leadership of IFA steered the federation with constancy and a resolute focus on improving airworthiness.”
John Vincent, IFA CEO

“John held the position of IFA Executive Director for 20 years from December 1995 to 2015.  His enthusiasm for Continuing Airworthiness was limitless.  He travelled extensively on IFA’s behalf to meetings and seminars.  Spoke at numerous conferences and always came back have signed up a new member. He was an active correspondent, as well as writing articles and white papers and never threw anything away which became apparent with his computer at home needing more and more storage.    During the IFA Annual conferences for several years held jointly with FSF  he was a key part of the agenda setting and paper selection committee making sure the key issues were highlighted.   He was proud of the IFA Training film ‘Every Day’ having been instrumental in preparing the script and production and a testament to its quality is that it is still being used today and is still relevant.  Meeting the IFA Scholarship and Whittle Award winners to present certificates and medals was always a highlight for him.  He was thrilled in 2006 when Sir Frank Whittle’s son was able to attend the award ceremony.   He gave a huge service to IFA and it was a pleasure to have worked with him.”
Linda Hare, IFA Secretary

John Saull was a stalwart in our industry and made many contributions during his long career. He was also a personal friend and will be missed.
Robert Davis, IFA Past President

John was always such a cheery face at the Royal Aeronautical Society events and had so much expertise to share. I learnt a lot from him when I first started my involvement with IFA so I know he’ll be greatly missed.
Emma Bossom

I worked with John for many years in his role within the UKCAA and IFA and I had a lot of respect for his dedication and enthusiasm and I recall many happy times shared with John and Silvina whilst on the IFA committee. Our sincere best wishes to his family.
Mel and Carol Payne

John and Silvina at the opening ceremony of IASS Paris Conference 2006



John was born in Hale, Cheshire in 1935, and educated at Altrincham Grammar school. He took an early interest in civil aviation, working for a small aerial photography and charter company at Ringway (Manchester) airport, where he spent his leisure hours working on the aeroplanes and flying in them whenever to opportunity arose.

After leaving school, he took an Aeronautical Engineering Apprenticeship at A.V.Roe, Manchester, which he completed in 1958. During this period he worked on Vulcan bomber production including some flight testing, and space projects. He subsequently became the first technical representative on the AVRO 748 commuter aircraft and went to Argentina in 1961 on board the first aircraft for the national airline, based in Buenos Aires.

The ferry flight took eight days which gave him the opportunity to see “the whole wonderful country” at close hand, during what he describes as “a fascinating, but testing assignment”.

John married Silvina, who worked as a stewardess for an opposition airline, before coming home at the end of 1963. By this time, he had been invited to join the Air Registration Board (ARB), the UK airworthiness regulator, and the couple moved to London and then to Redhill, close to the ARB headquarters.
Cranfield College of Aeronautics was John’s next venue where he obtained an Air Transport Engineering degree, and took the “unmissable” opportunity to obtain his Private Pilots Licence flying Auster aircraft, one of which he has co-owned for some 30 years.

In 1966, John, and Silvina moved to Bristol with their daughter Annabelle, where John was responsible for the oversight of the construction standards of the supersonic airliner, Concorde.  Daughter Vanessa and son Charles, were born during the family’s seven years in Bristol.

John found the work on Concorde fascinating, it took him to all the UK manufacturing plants and to the French assembly line in Toulouse, on regular liaison visits.  He was involved with the development of the aircraft from initial build of the prototypes through to airline route proving and made several flights during this time.

His next assignment was in Trinidad, West Indies, where he took up the management of a team of UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) airworthiness advisors to the Directors of Civil Aviation in many of the Caribbean islands, effectively from Guyana to Belize, which followed UK regulation standards.
This was a “fulfilling and pleasurable experience” professionally and socially, and on Sundays John used to fly the family to Tobago for lunch and a swim.

On their return from the Caribbean in 1980 the family moved to Ashurst Wood, East Sussex.

John took up several senior positions with the CAA, finally retiring as head of operating standards in late November 1995, after 32 years as a safety regulator.At his retirement he was able to say “there was hardly a day I didn’t enjoy or find stimulating, working with a such a group of aviation professionals”.

He served as a member of the Council of the Royal Aeronautical Society and was a Liveryman of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. He continued his flying and aviation technical safety work as Executive Director of The International Federation of Airworthiness for 20 years.   John also co-authored two published technical books on the safety record of technological industries.

John was elected town councillor in 2011 and served as Mayor of East Grinstead in 2011-2012.

2 Responses
  1. John was a wonderful man and I know that the whole Cranfield family took enormous pride in him being one of our alumni. He supported the College and University is many ways over the years, especially through the College of Aeronautics Alumni Association. We will miss his kindness, support and wisdom.

  2. Christine Keeble

    So so sad, what a legacy. I enjoyed being his PA so much. Working life was so different in those days.

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