The San Diego Air & Space Museum is remembering Dean “Diz” Laird, whose distinguished aviation career earned him an honored spot the prestigious International Air & Space Hall of Fame. Diz passed away on August 10, 2022, at the age of 101. “Dean “Diz” Laird was the ‘Quintessential Fighter Pilot,’ the type of flyer generations of other fighter pilots looked up to and who wanted to be like,” said Jim Kidrick, President & CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. “He truly embodied the spirt of aviation and space exploration which earned him an honored place in the prestigious International Air & Space Hall of Fame. He proudly served our country in a time of its greatest need, and continued his service for nearly three decades, flying every type of aircraft in the Navy’s ever-evolving arsenal. The San Diego Air & Space Museum mourns his loss while remembering him fondly for his incredible achievements and contributions to aviation.”
As the only known U.S. Navy ace to shoot down both German and Japanese planes during World War II, Laird is an American legend and has been dubbed “quintessential fighter pilot.” He entered naval service in January 1942, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and continued in the service for 29 years until his retirement in 1971 as a Commander. During that time, he flew virtually every type of fighter and attack plane in the Navy inventory, logging more than 8,200 hours in 3,662 jets, 4,623 propeller aircraft, and 520 carrier landings. Laird earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his achievements. To celebrate his 90th birthday, he went skydiving out of an airplane. In 2022, at the age of 101, he went on a final flight in a historic Stearman biplane over his hometown of Auburn, California. Laird was inducted into the prestigious International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in 2013.