Aviation Ambassador

Adventures with G-AKDN - Chapter 9

We met a living legend. George Neal was the original test pilot of KDN, while he was de Havilland Canada’s Chief Pilot. George was retired and living near the original Downsview factory where KDN was built. He was keeping himself busy building a full size replica of a Hawker Hart Biplane in a small second house on his property. He was also still flying his own personal Chipmunk as well as his Hornet Moth.

We contacted George to discuss specific features and details about Chipmunks and KDN specifically. He was very generous with his time and deep knowledge of the airplane. He spent hours visiting with us on the phone as well as at his home. This was to become one of the best features of KDN. It was the vehicle that opened so many doors for us. We have been able to meet so many very interesting people and visit many interesting places that we could ever dream of doing had it not been for KDN. The circle of friends we developed circled the globe.

Through George we met the fine people at the Bombardier Aircraft factory that stands on the same site as the original de Havilland Canada factory. We also met many nice people at the museum that was in the actual building where KDN was built. There is a photo of the factory floor showing a very early airframe under construction.  We were able to visit and stand on the exact spot where KDN came to life.

The work continued on KDN through the winter. With the fuselage and metal parts cleaned and inspected we started the process of recovering the wings, ailerons, flaps, rudder and elevator with fabric. I had some previous experience covering a Pitts Special Biplane, but KDN is much larger and the parts needed some very specialized techniques to do a proper job. We studied and followed the de Havilland manuals closely. Many dark winter nights were spent in my warm hangar cutting, gluing, ironing and stitching. It seemed to take forever, but come spring we had a hangar full of parts ready to paint.

to be continued…

George Neal a great friend and exceptional pilot. 1918-2016. We miss him.

The spot on the factory floor where KDN was born.

deHavilland Chipmunk manual illustrations we followed to the letter.

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