George Neal and his beloved DHC-1 Chipmunk, which he still flew regularly. Eric Dumigan Photo
Canadian aviation has lost one of its brightest stars.
George Neal, 97, passed away at his home in Downsview, Ont., on April 4, 2016. Less than a year ago, Neal entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest active licensed pilot in the world.
Neal’s contributions to our national aviation history are well-known. He was an engine mechanic at de Havilland Canada before obtaining his pilot’s licence in 1936, subsequently serving at No. 10 Air Observer School on Canada’s East Coast during the Second World War.
After the conflict he returned to de Havilland in Downsview, where he was promoted to a test pilot role. Neal evaluated several of the manufacturer’s legendary designs—including the Beaver, Otter, Caribou and Vampire—and is considered a pioneer in the development of short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft.
“George Neal was particularly well known for the development, flying and certification of the iconic DHC Beaver and Otter aircraft; he made a huge contribution to Canada’s rich aviation legacy,” said Tom Appleton, chairman of the board for Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. “His life’s work was devoted to multiple achievements in aviation and the preservation of vintage aircraft. He will be greatly missed by his many friends and admirers across the aviation community.”
During his aviation career, Neal logged 15,000 hours in 150 types of aircraft. He also restored and built several vintage aircraft in the workshop adjacent to his home, including two for the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum.
Skies editor Lisa Gordon visited George Neal at his home in 2012. Read her story here.
Editor’s note: A memorial for George Neal is being held May 14, 2016 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Brampton Flying Club, Hangar 3, Main Ramp. All are welcome.