Halifax businessman Dimitri Neonakis gained international recognition recently when he flew a heart-shaped pattern centred on the Nova-Scotia community of Portapique, ground zero of the horrifying massacre earlier this week of at least 22 people.
Neonakis, owner of a Cirrus SR-22 and a COPA member, felt an urge to do something to express his condolences to the people of Nova Scotia as soon as he heard about the killings. On Sunday afternoon, just hours after the killing stopped, he took his plane to the sky to pay tribute to those affected by the tragedy. He had no idea he was being observed by others.
Halifax air traffic controllers with whom Neonakis was in contact with after returning to Halifax airport (CYHZ) noted the pattern he traced with his ADS-B OUT-equipped Cirrus, calling it “A beautiful flight path.” The flight path was also recorded by air traffic tracking app FlightAware and the video clip has since gone viral around the world.
Showing empathy for those less fortunate among us is nothing new for Neonakis, who emigrated to Nova Scotia from Greece as a young man. For six months every year since 2017, Neonakis has been giving free one-hour flights for developmentally challenged or ill children around the skies above Nova Scotia. In the three years he has been running the program he calls Dream Wings, he has given 420 disadvantaged children the thrill of flight, with many of them enjoying a hands-on-the-controls experience.
“It’s my way of giving back,” Neonakis told eFlight in an interview.