Press Release

The San Diego Air & Space Museum Remembers World War II Ace Dean “Diz” Laird – the “Quintessential Fighter Pilot”

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.

San Diego, CA – 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.

Since 1963, the International Air & Space Hall of Fame has honored the world’s most significant pilots, crew members, visionaries, inventors, aerospace engineers, business leaders, preservationists, designers and space explorers. Laird entered the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in 2013.

“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, Dean “Diz” Laird is an American legend and “quintessential fighter pilot.” He entered naval service in January 1942, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and continued 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.

The International Air & Space Hall of Fame is the most prestigious induction of its kind in the world and is composed of hundreds of air and space pioneers, engineers, inventors and innovators, along with adventurers, scientists and industry leaders. NASA Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts and Russian cosmonauts are honored in the Hall, as well as famous legends such as the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Neil Armstrong and Amelia Earhart. Notable inductees also include Buzz Aldrin, Igor Sikorsky, Wernher von Braun, Jack Northrop, Jackie Cochran, William Boeing, Sr., Reuben H. Fleet, Glenn Curtiss, Walter Zable Sr., Fran Bera, Wally Schirra, Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, T. Claude Ryan, Jimmy Doolittle, Bob Hoover, Ellen Ochoa, Peggy Whitson, Linden Blue, Patty Wagstaff, and many more.

For more information, see the following link: http://sandiegoairandspace.org/exhibits/online-exhibit-page/international-air-space-hall-of-fame.

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The San Diego Air & Space Museum is California’s official air and space museum and education center. The Museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and it was the first aero-themed Museum to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The Museum is home to the prestigious International Air & Space Hall of Fame. The Museum is located at 2001 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA 92101. The Museum and gift store are open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with admissions until 4:30 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

San Diego Air & Space Museum

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