Naval clerk, shopkeeper and aviation writer;

Born: July 29, 1938; Died: March 28, 2013.

Jim Ferguson, who has died aged 74, was a former Royal Navy clerk who turned his enthusiasm for military and civil aviation into a career.

Unable to progress in the Navy after an accident affected his eyesight, he initially went into a completely different line of work – selling painting and decorating supplies. But the arrival of the oil industry in his native north-east of Scotland opened up new possibilities. As helicopter firms expanded to offer air support to the energy sector he saw an opportunity to write about the burgeoning aviation activities. He began to cultivate contacts and started contributing articles to a variety of publications.

He eventually gave up his shop to concentrate on freelance writing and became one of the first voices called upon to comment on aviation incidents around the world, from the Lockerbie bombing to the 9/11 attacks and, more recently, the spate of helicopter accidents in the North Sea.

James Duncan Ferguson was born in Tillycorthie House, Udny Station, a mansion reminiscent of a Spanish villa and built for his maternal grandfather, James Duncan, who made his fortune as a tin magnate in Bolivia. His parents were James Ferguson, a civil engineer and Duncan's daughter, Minnie.

During the Second World War, the family moved to Orkney where his father was posted to help with the Churchill Barriers project, the defences built to protect Scapa Flow from the German fleet following the sinking of HMS Royal Oak by a U-boat.

In May 1942 the family returned to Tillycorthie before moving to Aberdeen, where Mr Ferguson's primary school years were spent at Robert Gordon's College. His secondary education was at Gordonstoun School in Moray, where he enjoyed the tough outdoor regime. He had been a member of the Sea Cadets at Robert Gordon's and continued his water-based adventures at Gordonstoun, which he left to join the Royal Navy.

His first posting after training was to the Royal Naval Air Station Lossiemouth, then part of the Fleet Air Arm. That was followed by a spell on Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia and then fisheries protection duties on HMS Duncan off Iceland. His last posting was to the Far East on HMS Bulwark.

His naval career came to an end after he was injured in an accident during a naval exercise. The nerves at the back of one of his eyes were affected and, after spending some time at Rosyth, he was invalided out.

He ended up buying a retail decorators business in Aberdeen's Rosemount, learning the ropes as he went along. However his heart was always in military and civil aviation and, in the late 1960s, as the oil industry gathered pace in the city, he decided it provided an opportunity to start writing about aviation services. He also had a background in search and rescue – he was a crewman on the Aberdeen lifeboat – so it seemed a natural progression.

He initially continued to run the shop while writing specialist articles but finally decided to sell the business to concentrate on being a freelance writer. He contributed to a range of national and international publications including Flight International and Rotor & Wing magazines and wrote a book, The Story of Aberdeen Airport 1934-1984.

He relished keeping his eye on all the helicopter operators as well as the fixed-wing airlines, delighting in being a thorn in their flesh as he persisted in digging out information. Once he moved into broadcast work, he was regularly asked to contribute to BBC television and radio, to STV and local radio and was quoted worldwide by media organisations such as CNN. But he insisted: "Don't call me an expert, just a writer."

Away from his day job he was a long-term supporter of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, serving as lifeboat crew for 15 years until 1984. He was a life governor of the RNLI, had been awarded its gold badge and remained its volunteer Aberdeen press officer up until he died.

In addition, he was a life member of the American Naval Institute and a supporter of the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society and the Royal Naval Museum.

A fan of classical and organ music, he was also an avid reader, enjoyed hillwalking and air-to-air photography, which he often used in his work.

He was said to have turned down requests to become press officer for various companies, citing his preference for remaining an independent freelance. And he had no intention of giving up work: as recently as a week before his death he had been contacted by an Australian organisation seeking his views.

He is survived by his wife Linda, whom he married in 1966, and his brothers David and John.