Paul Derby

He's known as 'the voice of the airshows', and with an involvement which stretches back as far as the 1961 Farnborough show, it's a fitting description of veteran commentator John Blake.

Yet in addition to a wealth of aerospace knowledge, John harbours another less well-documented talent.

As the fighters roar overhead and he prepares to tune up his voice for the day's flying display, he sets his mind to his second love - cartoons.

It should come as no surprise that the main subject of his artistic work is aircraft. His carefully-crafted ink drawings are always accompanied by a pithy comment or two, reminding show-goers that the industry does have a lighter side.

"I started when I was very young," he recalls "and I've just never stopped churning out the cartoons since then. There's always something going on at the airshows so I'm never stuck for subject matter. I'm forever picking up a pen and doodling."

He retired from his duties at Farnborough following the 1994 show but has been to every Dubai showcase since its inception in 1989 and just days after blowing out the candles on his 73rd birthday cake he's back in action once more. He says: "I love the Dubai show and it is getting more and more popular as the years go by. Long may the success continue."

John's own life story is as colourful as the imaginary characters he sets down on paper.

Growing up with a military background as his father served with the Royal Flying Corps in Palestine, he joined the British Army in 1942 as a member of the Irish Guards. His military career was cut short with cruel irony when he was seriously injured while on a training exercise in an accident which robbed him of his right arm.

It took a great deal of persuasion to convince the aviation authorities that he was capable enough to hold a civil licence but perseverance paid off and John got his wings.

Source: Flight Daily News