Yesterday, I spent a most enjoyable day helping to celebrate the 90th birthday of Mr. George Neal. I wrote about Mr. Neal a couple of weeks ago and his contribution to Canadian aviation and it was great to see so many people come out to a party at the Toronto Aerospace Museum.
Greetings from the Premier of Ontario, Prime Minister of Canada and Lieutenant Governor of Ontario (on behalf of the Queen) were given. A cake was presented and a general good time was had by all.
I spent a few hours helping set things up and one of my tasks was to work on a Powerpoint presentation that played throughout the festivities. Made up of pictures of Mr. Neal and his aircraft, it also contained transcripts of emails from wellwishers from all around the world. Most poignant were those from ex-military pilots who credited the de Havilland Caribou with saving their lives in Vietnam.
de Havilland Canada built the DHC-4 Caribou for the US Army where it was designated as the CV-2. With the remarkable STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) capabilities developed for the Beaver and Otter, the DHC-4 was ideally suited for operations in jungle conditions where “runways” were hastily hacked out of the fast-growing vegetation. George Neal was the test pilot for the prototype and production models and the pilots credit him with demonstrating the incredible properties that convinced the Army to purchase more than 170 airframes.
A live auction was held for the chance to go flying with George in his vintage Chipmunk. I seriously considering getting myself an early Christmas present but the bidding for this once in a lifetime opportunity quickly outstripped my budget.
The chance to celebrate a living legend does not come very often. It was an honour to be a part of this happy occasion.