CATHAY Pacific Airways' recently retired director of engineering, Stewart John, returns to Britain on Monday but will have little time for pruning the roses. ''Retirement'' for the man who was credited by Boeing with playing a major role in the development of its ultra long-haul B747-400 in the late 1980s, will mean the following: Joining the Rolls-Royce Aerospace Board as a non-executive director to act as an adviser and consultant. Joining a committee at the British Government's Department of Trade and Industry to identify business opportunities in Asia for British business, particularly in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. Continuing as a director of the Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering Co (TAECO) maintenance joint venture in China in which Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co (HAECO), of which Mr John was deputy chairman, has a 41 per cent stake and Cathay 10 per cent. Remaining as a director - he was chairman last year - of Associated Engineers Ltd in Hong Kong and Zuhai. Mr John, 55, was also recently appointed president of the International Federation of Airworthiness and, he says, will be taking on the occasional freelance advisory role. His schedule will not leave him a great deal of time for golf or polishing his two Bentley Convertible cars, as he speculated a few months ago. Indeed, his schedule is so crowded that he has turned down more jobs than he has taken on. He said: ''I have only worked for two companies in my career: BOAC which became British Airways, and Cathay. I have always been totally focused because I have had only one job. ''My main concern now is how to co-ordinate all my commitments in the future.'' His two major roles will be on the boards of Rolls-Royce and British Aerospace. ''There are going to be quite heavy jobs with lots of travelling. Rolls-Royce want me to get involved with Boeing for them,'' he said. During his 17 years with Cathay, the airline had close ties with both companies. All Cathay's Boeing aircraft have been equipped with Rolls-Royce engines. ''The companies want my expertise as an airline man rather than a marketing man,'' said Mr John. ''They want me, as a former customer, to tell them how I would make their product better.'' But the larger-than-life figure of the Welsh-born engineer will not be absent from Hong Kong for long. He plans to return at least four times a year to attend to his duties at TAECO and Associated Engineers. ''I have many friends here with whom I will be staying in touch,'' said Mr John. Among those is his successor at Cathay, Roland Fairfield. The two men first worked together 25 years ago at BOAC. * * * CATHAY is planning the launch of an exclusive ''cargo club'' next year. Called the Cargo Clan Club and named after its popular cargo magazine, it will be the first club of its kind offering generous perks to its major customers. It will be a Marco Polo-style club for the cargo community. Exact details are still being worked out but Cathay's manager for cargo marketing and sales, Chris Evans, said the idea was to reward its agents worldwide for their business. Cathay's dedicated freighters made money in the past financial year, a rare feat in the current world recession. Its cargo figures in total - 60 per cent of cargo is carried in passenger aircraft - showed almost double-digit growth last year. It is understood club benefits will be in the area of travel but will not be linked in any way to the frequent flyer programme. ''Other airlines like British Airways and KLM have, or have had, some form of club for cargo agents but ours will be the first of its type anywhere,'' said Mr Evans. * * * THOUGHT of the week: One industry wag has speculated that because hijackings between Taiwan and China have become so prevalent, it has meant, in effect, the opening of the first direct air route between the two countries!