Birthdate: November 21, 1918
Birth Place: Downsview, Ontario
Death Date: April 4, 2016
Year Inducted: 1995
Awards: The McKee Trophy, The Keith Hopkinson Award (COPA)
"His contribution to the testing, development and promotion of Canadian-designed and built STOL aircraft, has gained world wide recognition and respect for the Canadian aviation industry and all Canadians." - Induction citation, 1995
George Arthur Neal was born in Downsview, Ontario, on November 21, 1918. He learned to fly at the Toronto Flying Club in 1935 and earned his Private Pilot's Licence in 1936. From 1937 to 1941 he was employed at de Havilland Aircraft Canada (DHC). In 1941 he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and was posted on leave to No. 10 Air Observers School in Chatham, New Brunswick, where he became a Flight Commander, Chief Test Pilot and Assistant Maintenance Superintendent.
In 1946 he rejoined DHC where he would be employed for the next 37 years. His first job was in the engine shop, and in 1947 he was transferred to the flying staff as a full time pilot and took over the development testing of the new DHC-1 Chipmunk. He became Chief Test Pilot in 1948 and was involved in several flight test programs which were unique for that time. One was the testing of a twin-engine de Havilland Dove as a float plane. In addition to learning that the floats did not enhance the lateral/directional characteristics of the Dove, it was shown that the aircraft had no positive climb performance on one engine.
In 1948, with the introduction of the British de Havilland Vampire jet into service in the RCAF, Neal became one of the first civilian pilots in Canada to become jet qualified. He did a considerable amount of demonstration and development testing of this aircraft. Once, while testing an emergency engine relight system, the engine failed to re-start. Neal was well north of Toronto at the time, but was able to glide the Vampire back to the airport at Downsview for a successful dead-stick landing.
The flight testing of the Beaver, first flown by Russ Bannock, was completed by Neal in 1948. This included the civilian flight certification required to obtain a Civil Type Rating. His convincing demonstration of the short take-off and landing (STOL) features of the Beaver led to sales throughout the world where it has become one of the most famous of Canadian aircraft.
On December 12, 1951, he piloted the first flight of the DHC-3 Otter. Over the next two years he succeeded in obtaining certification of this aircraft at increased gross weights in the original land-plane configuration, and later in the float and ski-plane versions. The Otter and the Beaver were both acquired by the U.S. Army. The Otter was used widely by the U.S. Army in Viet Nam, the U.S. Navy in the Antarctic, and throughout the world by the RCAF. The Otter was the only light transport to satisfy the low speed flying qualities required by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Category C Standards.
The first flight of the prototype Caribou was flown by Neal on July 30, 1958. His demonstration flights left no doubt as to its STOL capabilities. The Caribou was the first multi-engine aircraft designed and built by DHC, and was the first Civil Aviation Regulation '4b' Transport Category aircraft to be certified by the Department of Transport.
Toward the end of the Caribou program, during high speed trials, a modified version developed flutter. After the loss of part of the tail surface, it became unmanageable, and Neal and the accompanying Department of Transport test pilot were forced to abandon the aircraft. Neal's attention to detail before he bailed out prevented fire following the crash, and enabled a clear study of the cause of the flutter. He was made a member of the Caterpillar Club. (This club was sponsored by the Irvin Parachute Company. Only those who have used a parachute to survive an unserviceable aircraft can become a member.) The Caribou was purchased in quantity by the RCAF, the U.S. Army and many other foreign military services.
In all of the DHC designs mentioned above, Neal was a valued ambassador in demonstrating and promoting these aircraft. Much of their success in the world markets was due to the first hand impressions that he was able to convey to customers.
During the development period of the new DHC aircraft, Neal took part in the testing of many aircraft in repair, overhaul, and modification programs. These included the Canso flying boat, Avro Lancaster, Harvard trainer, Canadair North Star, the Alvis Leonides-powered Beaver, and the DH-built twin engine Grumman Tracker, 100 of which were built for the Canadian Navy. He was involved in the development testing of Twin Otters, Buffalos and Dash-7's. Two experimental programs involved one heavily modified 'Batwing' Otter, which was used to study flap downwash, and another, 'Silent Otter' study for the U.S. Army.
In 1975 Neal was made Director of Flight Operations of de Havilland Canada, where he became responsible for the flight standards and flying discipline. He was also responsible for production testing, flight instruction, flight demonstrations, and aircraft deliveries throughout the world. He retired in 1983 but was called back to assist in the production testing of the Dash-7 and Dash-8.
Neal was Chief Pilot for the National Aviation Museum until 1991, when the program of flying their vintage aircraft ended. He flew the Sopwith Pup, Avro 504K, and Nieuport 17, which are in the museum's collection. He has also rebuilt a Hawker Hind for the museum. He presently owns and flies a DH Hornet Moth and Chipmunk, and a Piper Arrow. He has accumulated over 14,700 hours on over 100 different aircraft.
In 1989 Neal won Canada's most prestigious aviation award, the Trans-Canada (McKee) Trophy. The citation reads, in part, " ...Perhaps no other pilot in Canada has had such a varied and complete career in aviation." On October 18, 1997, Neal was inducted into the de Havilland Aircraft of Canada's Hall of Fame.
George Arthur Neal was inducted as a Member of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame in 1995 at a ceremony held in Edmonton, Alberta.
On June 2, 2015, George piloted his blue and white Chipmunk from his home airport of Brampton to Toronto Pearson. It was scheduled for display at CAHF’s Induction Dinner on June 4th. The flight was recorded, and earned him recognition by Guinness World Records as being the oldest active licenced pilot, flying his own aircraft at the age of 96.
He died at his home in North York, Ontario on April 4, 2016.
“The Chosen Ones - Canadian Test Pilots in Action” - Sean Rossiter (2002)
Birthdate: July 19, 1917
Birth Place: Calgary, Alberta
Death Date: March 24, 1988
Year Inducted: 1984
Awards: D.S.O., D.F.C.,* C.D.**
"His lifetime dedication to aviation in both war and peace, particularly his outstanding effort to preserve and present the human aspects of aviation for the purpose of increasing public knowledge and appreciation for Canada's aviation heritage has been of considerable benefit to Canadian aviation and to the nation." - Induction citation, 1984
William Francis Montgomery (Bill) Newson, D.S.O., D.F.C.*, C.D.**, B. Eng., was born in Calgary, Alberta, on July 19, 1917. He graduated from Edmonton's Garneau High School in 1935, after having received his primary and early secondary education in British Columbia and Ontario. He attended Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, where he graduated in Civil Engineering in June 1939, and immediately joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). He learned to fly at Camp Borden and Trenton, Ontario, and upon graduation was awarded the Sword of Honour. He was posted to No. 11 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where he flew with Z.L. Leigh as a pilot on coastal operations, escorting convoys on Atlantic crossings, often under very difficult weather conditions.
In July 1942, after a tour of instruction at Patricia Bay, British Columbia, Newson was transferred to the United Kingdom, flying an aircraft for Royal Air Force (RAF) Ferry Command en route. On arrival in England, he joined RCAF No. 408 Squadron.
During operations with this squadron his aircraft sustained serious damage on two occasions. For outstanding courage and leadership he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (D.F.C.). In June of 1943 he was posted as Squadron Commander to No. 431 Squadron. Again he demonstrated outstanding courage and leadership in the completion of very long range bomber sorties, for which he was awarded a Bar to his D.F.C.
In October 1944, Group Captain Newson was appointed Commanding Officer of 405 Pathfinder Squadron, where he remained to the end of hostilities in Europe. The London Gazette of September 21, 1945, recorded the citation for Group Captain Newson's Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) as follows: "This officer has a long and varied career of operational duty. After completing a tour of duty with Coastal Command in Canada, he was appointed to command a squadron in this country. He has taken part in many sorties since the award of the D.F.C., many of them in a most important role. The success of a number of sorties against such heavily defended objectives as Chemnitz and Zweibrucken has been due in no small measure to his work as Master Bomber. Group Captain Newson is an outstanding officer who, by his keenness and efficiency, has set a fine example."
Following World War II, General Newson held a number of senior staff and command appointments in Canada and overseas. These included Commandant of RCAF Staff College in Toronto, Ontario, and Commander of No. 36 North American Air Defence Division (NORAD) in Maine, U.S.A. In this latter position he was responsible for the air defence of the northeastern approaches to North America. From 1968 to 1971 he was Assistant Chief of Air Operations, Central Europe. General Newson retired from the Armed Forces on July 19, 1972, and had accumulated nearly 6,000 flying hours.
In 1977 Newson was approached to take on the task of Executive Vice-President of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame from R.A. Munro. He took over control of the Hall when it was still in its embryonic stage in the Edmonton Law Courts building. From 1977 to 1983 he negotiated with Edmonton City Council, architects and designers in order to implement a move to the Edmonton Convention Centre, where the Hall was located until June 1992, when it was moved to its present location at Wetaskiwin, Alberta.
Newson served as President of the Sir Winston Churchill Society in Edmonton in 1984, President of the Wartime Aircrew Association in Edmonton from 1981 to 1983, as a member of the Senate of the University of Alberta for six years, and as Vice-Chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board. He died in Edmonton on March 24, 1988.
William Francis Montgomery (Bill) Newson was inducted as a Member of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame in 1984 at a ceremony held at Edmonton, Alberta.