Born: United States of America
Primarily active in: United States of America


Diz Dean, 76, of Glen Mills, formerly of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, a 20-year Boeing employee, died Nov. 29, 2001, at home in Glen Mills, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Dean was a noted aviation historian, who published five books in his last eight years. He was an active member of the American Aviation Historical Society (AAHS) and American Helicopter Society (AHS).

Born April 24, 1925 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and raised in Massachusetts, Dean went to Marblehead High School, where he played baseball and graduated fifth in his class. Dean's interest in aviation started early with his father having been an Army Air Service cadet in World War I, and visits to airports at an early age.

In 1942 at age 17, he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue a degree in aeronautical engineering. This was interrupted by service in the Navy in World War II as an Electronic Technician's Mate 3rd Class (ETM3). Dean received the Victory, American Campaign and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medals for his service. After the War, Dean returned to MIT and received his degree in 1948.

Dean started his engineering career that year at the Curtiss Propeller Division of Curtiss Wright Corporation. In his landmark final book, “The Curtiss X-Planes: Curtiss-Wright's VTOL Effort — 1958-1965” (Schiffer Military History, 2001), Dean recalled, “The division was busy working on new propellers for both civil and military applications such as Convair, Douglas, and Lockheed airliners, and B-36 and B-50 bombers as well as advanced turboprop installations.”

After about ten years working in various Propeller Division departments, including design, aerodynamics, structures, and advanced design areas, Dean joined a group being formed to work on propeller-driven vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, and led the air vehicle preliminary design group. He was intimately associated with all the VTOL efforts. The company’s Curtiss VTOL Systems Group, later a separate division, built a successful two-place X-100 concept demonstrator aircraft that broke the helicopter speed record on its transition flight to 5,000 ft (1,524 m) and back. The next six-place VTOL was initiated as the company’s X-200 project, and was given the military Tri-Service contract for two re-designated X-19 aircraft. Unfortunately, the first X-19 crashed in 1965 on its 50th flight when a nacelle casting failed at 1,000 ft (305 m).

Shortly thereafter, due primarily to immediate military financial needs of the Vietnam War, all US VTOL development contracts, including the X-19, were cancelled. During the period 1958 to 1965, many preliminary design studies of larger advanced Curtiss VTOL aircraft were made but not pursued. These were the last aircraft every built by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, which had been formed from the legacy of the first two successful American aircraft developers, the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss

Dean recalled in Vertiflite that he was hired at Boeing Vertol by John Schneider in 1966 and worked in the Ridley Park plant for 20 years before retiring in 1986. At Boeing, Dean worked on studies of advanced VTOL aircraft and helicopters, including some on the early Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey type.

Dean then launched a new career of writing aviation books for Schiffer Publishing Ltd. including “America's Hundred Thousand,” a detailed study of U.S. World War II production fighter aircraft, “America's Army and Air Force Airplanes,” a historical/pictorial review, and “America's Navy and Marine Corps Airplanes,” in the same theme for those services. He was also the technical editor for Schiffer’s “Report of Joint Fighter Conference: NAS Patuxent River, MD – 16-23 October 1944” (1988).

Dean passed away just as his “Curtiss X-Planes” book was published. At the time, he was working on a new book on Curtiss airplanes.

Sources: Find a Grave Memorial no. 45401147; “The Curtiss X-Planes: Curtiss-Wright's VTOL Effort — 1958-1965”; and Vertiflite, Summer 2001.