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 Bill Dean

No-one who flies Jetex can be unaware of the name of Bill Dean. From the earliest days of Jetex, right through its heyday, Bill produced a steady stream of eminently flyable designs. With a career that began in the UK and ended in the US, Bill gained a reputation not only on both sides of the Atlantic but also world-wide.


       Bill's plans on the Jetex.org website include:
           Jetwing (1948) for Jetex 100
           Atom Baby (1953) for Jetex Atom 35
           Vulture (1957) for Jetex 50B


In the field of Jetex design, Bill Dean's speciality was 'quickies', sheet balsa models of simple construction, which did much to encourage young and inexperienced modellers to try their hand at Jetex. This is not to say that Bill's models were ordinary! – far from it. Even easy-to-build Jetex designs showed flair and invention, embracing such imaginative subjects as flying saucers, flying humans and canards.

As a columnist, reporter and draughtsman for a number of periodicals, Bill did much to foster interest in Jetex and to promote the efforts of other designers. Nor were his own designs limited to Jetex power. Power duration models, Wakefield rubber duration craft and A2 gliders also sprang from his drawing board.

At the age of 16, Bill Dean joined the staff of Aeromodeller, in 1939, and worked there with another of the greats of UK design, Ron Warring. Called up for military service in 1941, Bill joined the Royal Air Force and, posted to Rhodesia, became an instructor on Harvards. After demobilisation in 1946, Bill again joined forces with Ron Warring who had parted company with Aeromodeller following disagreement with its owner, D.A. Russell. As free-lance designers, Bill and Ron produced a series of publications for the Ian Allen group, variously called Model Aviation, Model Aeronautics and Model Planes Annual. They were also regular contributors to Model Aircraft. When D.A. Russell ceased to be involved in Aeromodeller, they resumed their contributions to that magazine as well.

Bill Dean also linked up with Eddie Keil on leaving the RAF and became in-house designer for Keilkraft kits. His designs were to include Jetex craft, gliders, rubber-driven models and his 'Slicker' series of power duration models, first seen at rallies in 1947. Bill Henderson recalls how Bill Dean's Slicker X power model astonished spectators with its powerful climb at the British Nationals of that year. It was kitted by Keilkraft as the 'Super Slicker'. Eddie named Bill's Wakefield 'Gipsy' as a way of pulling Billís leg about his long hair and sandals. (Later photos show a distinct improvement in Bill's sartorial standards.)

With the appearance of the new Jetex motors in June 1948, Bill promptly became an enthusiastic advocate. His 'Skyjet' series for Keilkraft appeared four months later and his first published Jetex model design, 'Jetwing' for the 100 motor, was printed in the 1949 Model Planes Annual, at the end of that year. This was followed by the 'Jetex Canard' in the January 1951 Model Aircraft and the Jetex 350 'Flying Saucer' in the August 1951 Model Aircraft.

Again in concert with Ron Warring, Bill founded the Zombies model club, having an invitation-only membership, catering to well known names in the control-line, power duration and Wakefield classes. With such an expert group, the Zombies became a force to be reckoned with in the contest scene. In the mid-fifties, Bill contributed a 'Model Talk' column to the Royal Air Force Flying Review.

In 1953, Bill Dean attended the A2 World Championships in Yugoslavia where he met members of the Zaic family and became aware of opportunities for model designers in the US. Bill subsequently moved across the Atlantic, where his first job was with the Zaic brothers' model company, Jasco (later Jetco), which had been run during WWII by Frank Zaic's father and his sister Christine. Bill also worked as a freelance editor for Air Trails, as a columnist ('Modelerís Guide') for American Modeler and with SIG on their advertisements.

Bill suffered serious injuries on being hit by a vehicle in a car park. The compensation he received allowed him to set up a book and magazine subscription service, Bill Dean Books Ltd, in Whitestone, NY, but his designing days had come to an end.

For a Bill Dean Celebration Contest at Middle Wallop, UK, after his death in 2002, 56 of his designs were nominated as eligible models, eight of them Jetex – and these by no means comprised the totality of Bill Dean's portfolio of model aircraft designs.

 
- Model Aircraft, Oct. 1948 (p. 12)
- Model Airplane News Annual 1960 (p. 81)


Bill Dean – British version (left, in 1948) and American version (right, in 1960 – Ambroid advert.)


- Model Aircraft, Nov. 1948

Bill Dean's 'Skyjet 100' and 'Skyjet 200' in a 1948 Keilkraft advertisement. As though the maufacturer were a little unsure as to whether modellers would trust the novel Jetex power, they were cannily billed as "Dual-purpose" "Jets that g-l-i-d-e".



- Model Aircraft, Nov. 1948

Bill Dean as he was introduced to American Modeler readers in 1963, as the author of their new 'Modeler's Guide' column, in a self-portrait and as the designer of the prixe-wining 'Slicker 50'.


- Model Airplane News, May 1960 (p. 41)

This excerpt from a 1960 American advertisement from Jetco (C.A. Zaic Co. Inc.) shows four Jetex models and a Cessna 170, proudly billed as "Designed by Bill Dean".


- Aeromodeller, Mar. 2000

At the wheel of the 135 mph Jaguar XK-150 loaned to Bill at the 1961 US Nationals so he could observe and "sketch nearly 40 outstanding Nats planes".

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Acknowledgements

- Research by Bill Henderson
- Obituary for Ron Warring 1920-1984, Aeromodeller, April 1984, p. 163
- Vic Smeed, Fifty Years of Aeromodeller, Argus Books, 1986
- Vic Smeed, Flying Models – Favourites of the Fifties, Argus Books, 1988
- Illustrative material from Mike Thomas and the MAAC archives
- Private correspondence of Bill Henderson with Ron Moulton

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