Aviation Biography: Dennis Neville
Dennis first became interested in aviation growing up within the circuit of Leavesden aerodrome. Whilst on holiday in 1960 and at the age of 14 his father paid for his first flight in an Auster at Christchurch airfield near Bournemouth. The flight concluded with such a bad landing that he was convinced he could do better and decided there and then that he wanted to learn to fly. He joined the Air Cadets later that year and attained his first solo in a glider in 1962 at Swanton Morely.
On leaving school he joined de Havilland as an apprentice fitter and tester on aero engines. After a five year apprenticeship he then joined the Army as an Aircraft Technician/ Airframes and Engines. Whilst serving at Middle Wallop he was given the option to either take part in sport or gliding, and so he went on to go solo again with the RAFGSA Moonrakers Club at Upavon. A posting to Malaysia saw his first powered solo on a Chipmunk at RAF Seletar in 1970. Later his bond with the Chipmunk would develop from owning a share at Booker for 29 years before he bought the ex DH Company demonstrator G-ALWB in 2000.
On leaving the Army he became a tug pilot at Lasham then a gliding instructor at Booker, amassing a total of 1100 hours on 46 types. His powered aviation career then took off starting with four years crop spraying, followed by air taxi, then five years single crew night freight and a stint with F.R.Aviation on military contracts before eventually flying the Ford Motor Company corporate jet.
Dennis's first air display was in a Bocian glider at Wycombe Air Park in 1973, and he has taken part in a display every year since in a variety of different aircraft. Dennis learned the art of barnstorming with the Sywell based Barnstormers Flying Circus. Wanting to keep the barnstorming tradition alive he has formed his own "Circus" around a group of like minded owners and pilots based at RAF Henlow. He has now flown over 90 types of powered aircraft, from a rotary engine Sopwith to the Hawker Hunter and accumulated over 14500 hours whilst doing so.
Dennis lists his most memorable aviation moments as:
- Performing a 'falling leaf' in an Avro 504 at Farnborough, 30 years after seeing Alan Wheeler perform the same.
- Getting a green light to 'land on' an aircraft carrier flying low in a Falcon 20 on exercise with the Military.
- Three air displays in one day flying Lysander G-BCWL/V9281 in formation with the Blenheim.
- Obtaining a commercial seaplane rating on a DH Beaver.
There are others and hopefully lots more to come.
Copyright © John Dibbs