Emotional flypast for Duncraig resident and war pilot

Denis MacNeall (above, seated in front), in the Nanchang CJ-6A.
Denis MacNeall (above, seated in front), in the Nanchang CJ-6A.

A WARPLANE carried significant purpose as it soared over Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park recently.

The Nanchang CJ-6A belonged to Duncraig resident and Vietnam veteran Denis MacNeall (above, seated in front), who died suddenly on July 12 at the age of 72.

He was well known for his Warbirds WA ex-military scenic flight business, which he co-founded with friend of nearly 50 years Ian Gonsal.

Mr Gonsal piloted Mr MacNeall’s aircraft in an emotional flyover at the former RAAF instrument fitter’s funeral service at Pinnaroo on July 21.

He said Mr MacNeall’s wife, Kaye, found the moment particularly moving.

“It was a solemn event to pay respects and ‘feel’ his presence,” he said.

Mr Gonsal would remember his friend for his “passion for aviation and life in general”.

The future of their Warbirds business, which is based at Murray Field near Mandurah, is uncertain.

“It will keep going for the time being as the fallout from this unfolds,” Mr Gonsal said.

“I’m hoping to keep it in WA but it’s too big for me to handle alone.”

Mr MacNeall was a prominent member of WA’s flight community, having served in the RAAF from 1961 to 1988.

He learnt Vietnamese in a three-year deployment as a warplane instrument fitter during the Vietnam War to acquaint himself with the locals.

The Kalgoorlie Aero Club welcomed him as their chief flying instructor in 1992.

He retired in 2000, flying gliders recreationally and in championships.

In a 2011 media interview, Mr MacNeall reflected on his time as a member of RAAF’s 75 Squadron in Malaysia.

He described it as a “real awakening of a young fellow becoming finally someone who could fly his aeroplane properly as against just learning to fly”.