A flyover by nine small planes brought tears for many of the people standing outside Whanganui's Trinity Methodist Church for former pilot Ivon Warmington's funeral.

It was unusual for a coffin to be paused outside a funeral service, but Mr Warmington and his family wanted to see the flyover.

It began with a pass by a solo Venom aircraft. Then nine small planes flew east to west across the centre of Whanganui. There were Tiger Moths, an Airtrainer and Pitt Specials, with a Spitfire making a pass through them.

Read more: Flyover will acknowledge feats of distinguished World War II pilot

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"It's for my dad. Dad would've loved it," Mr Warmington's daughter Amelia Ruscoe said.

When people filed into the church there were no seats to spare, and a few stood at the back.

The minister, Don Biggs, said Mr Warmington attended the church regularly and it was fitting to celebrate his 95 varied and wonderful years.

He had often asked Mr Biggs to stand in the church pulpit, so he could see him.

"Ivon could tell you off, in that unique way, which was always so warm."

Mr Warmington was a bomber pilot who distinguished himself during World War II, and later taught flying at Wanganui Aero Club.

He used to vet any World War II videos shown to the church congregation, to make sure they weren't "Hollywood".

He had pre-planned his own funeral, one grandson said, asking for R W Gilbert's Requiem to a Rear Gunner to be read aloud.

The former bomber pilot didn't talk about the war much, but letters to the wife of his navigator show how grateful he felt to be alive. His crew was the only one of 10 who started together to survive the war.

He wrote how, up in the sky on a night bombing mission, he would think of his relatives behind the blackout curtains in their house in Cornwall. His father and mother didn't know where any of their three sons were.

Several speakers said what a thorough teacher Mr Warmington was.

"He was a good, strict instructor and you really learned a lot from him. He trained a lot of professional airline captains operating in New Zealand today," Bill Dimes said.

Grandson Stephen said his grandad was a great storyteller too.

"If you asked a question, you had better be prepared for the answer, delivered with lots of detail and enthusiasm."