13 October 1931 – Godfrey Webster Dean, flying a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro, is the first pilot to loop a rotorcraft.

Godfrey Webster Dean with a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro, CF-ARO, (s/n B-15), circa 1931. [“British Consols” were bonds issued by the UK Government to finance the war. The last of these were paid off in 2015.] (CAVM 11043)

13 October 1932: Godfrey Webster Dean, pilot for Fairchild Aircraft Co. of Longueuil, Quebec, Canada, became the first pilot to loop a rotorcraft when he performed the maneuver in a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro over the Pitcairn Aircraft, Inc., air field near Willow


G.W. Dean, Flying “British Consols,” First to Loop the Loop in Autogiro

Fresh from new aerial triumphs, The “British Consols” autogiro, with Pilot Godfrey W. Dean at the controls, dropped from the clouds at the Fairchild Field at Longueuil yesterday afternoon. Pilot Dean and his machine have made a new all-time record for aviation in North America at least, for twice this week they have performed the hitherto impossible. They have “looped the loop” in an autogiro.

Three months ago, when the “British Consols,” sponsored by the Macdonald Tobacco Company of Montreal, first appeared locally, it created a sensation. Now it has another sensation to its credit, for it has done what the aviation world held to be impossible for any machine of the autogiro type. Never before on this side of the Atlantic has any machine with the rotar blades above been put into a loop. At the test field of the Pitcairn Company, makers of the queer “windmill” craft, Pilot Dean turned the “British Consols” into the evolutions of the loop. The machine was at the Pitcairn factory for a complete overhaul, after its strenuous aerial voyages above Canada, and on completion of the repairs and checking, its pilot demonstrated that with the proper care the loop is as possible to this type of aircraft as to the ordinary airplane. Twice the machine “looped,” first in what is known as a “loose” loop to the air-minded, and then in a “tight” loop. The daring of the local flier and the perfect co-ordination of his machine surprised the most experienced of the Pitcairn staff. Even the test pilots were aghast as the evolutions were completed.

According to Captain Dean’s own description of the feat, the autogiro behaved very much as any other airplane would have done. The sensational feature of the stunt is that there are no wings to support the ‘giro in its upsidedown manoeuvre. The machine is kept in the air by the action of the rotar blades above it. With the machine reversed it has always been supposed that the rotar blades would stop and therefore drop the machine. This was not the case.

Pilot Godfrey W. Dean, who was loaned by the Canadian Airways to fly the “British Consols,” has hung up more than one autogiro record since he took over the controls of the machine last July. Before he returned to the Pitcairn factory at Willow Grove, Pa., for his overhaul, he had crossed the continent twice. No other autogiro had ever established such a record. He had flown the machine 212 hours, according to the official log. At an average speed of 90 miles per hour, this means that the “British Consols” covered more than 20,000 miles of territory before it went back to the factory. The average flight of previous autogiros has been around the 100-hour mark in the air.

To hundreds of thousands of Canadians, from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific coast, the “British Consols” was the first autogiro they had ever seen It is the only machine of its kind under Canadian registration. From now on, the machine will be seen locally in some of its peculiar flight manoeuvres.

The Gazette, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Vol. CLX, No. 250, Thursday, October 15, 1931 at Page 2, Column 2

Pitcairn PCA-2 CF-ARO, serial number B-15, had previously been registered to Hubert M. Pasmore, with United States Department of Commerce, Aeronautics Branch, registration NC10786.

An autogyro is a rotary wing aircraft that derives lift from a turning rotor system which is driven by air flow (autorotation). Unlike a helicopter, thrust is provided by an engine-driven propeller. The engine does not drive the rotor.

The Pitcairn Autogyro Company’s PCA-2 was the first autogyro certified in the United States. Operated by a single pilot, it could carry two passengers. The fuselage was constructed of welded steel tubing, covered with doped fabric and aluminum sheet.

The PCA-2 was 23 feet, 1 inch (7.036 meters) long, excluding the rotor. The low-mounted wing had a span of 30 feet, 0 inches (9.144 meters), and the horizontal stabilizer and elevators had a span of 11 feet, 0 inches. (3.353 meters). The overall height of the autogyro was 13 feet, 7 inches (4.140 meters). The PCA-2 had an empty weight of 2,233 pounds (1,013 kilograms) and gross weight of 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms).

Pitcairn Aircraft, Inc., advertisement, 1932

The four-bladed rotor was semi-articulated with horizontal and vertical hinges to allow for blade flapping and the lead-lag effects of Coriolis force. Unlike the main rotor of a helicopter, there was no cyclic- or collective-pitch motion. The rotor system was mounted at the top of a pylon and rotated counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) The rotor had a diameter of 45 feet, 0 inches (13.716 meters). The blades were approximately 22 feet (6.7 meters) long, with a maximum chord of 1 foot, 10 inches (0.559 meters). Each blade was constructed with a tubular steel spar with mahogany/birch plywood ribs, a formed plywood leading edge and a stainless steel sheet trailing edge. They were covered with a layer of very thin plywood. A steel cable joined the blades to limit their lead-lag travel.


The aircraft was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 971.930-cubic-inch-displacement (15.927 liter) Wright R-975E Whirlwind 330 nine-cylinder radial engine with a compression ratio of 5.1:1. The R-975E produced a maximum 330 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. at Sea Level, burning 73-octane gasoline. The engine turned a two-bladed Hamilton Standard variable-pitch propeller through direct drive. The engine weighed 635 pounds (288 kilograms).

The PCA-2 had two fuel tanks with a total capacity of 52 gallons (197 liters). It also had a 6½ gallon (24.6 liter) oil tank to supply the radial engine.

The PCA-2 had a maximum speed of 120 miles per hour (193 kilometers per hour). It had a service ceiling of 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and a range of 290 miles (467 kilometers).


Godfrey Webster Dean was born at Burslem (Stoke-on-Trent), Staffordshire, England, 6 April 1897. He was the third of three children of Samuel Webster Dean, chairman of Edge, Malkin & Co., and a manufacturer of pottery (S.W. Dean, and, later, Deans (1910) Ltd. His mother was Mary Edna Edge Dean.

From 1914, Dean served as an officer in the British Indian Army (Indian Reserve of Officers, I.A.R.O.). He was with the 1/1 Gurkhas in Iraq and Kurdistan. Lieutenant Dean received a  commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, Royal Field Artillery, 8 October 1917. He was deployed to France, from 5 June 1917.

For his service during World War I, Lieutenant Dean was awarded the British War Medal 1914–1916 with Kurdistan and Iraq clasps, and the Victory Medal 1914–1918.

From 1920 to 1921, Lieutenant Dean was an artillery instructor assigned to te Persian Army.

Following the War to End All Wars, Lieutenant Dean transferred to the Royal Air Force as a Pilot Officer on probation. His rank was confirmed 1 November 1922. He was next promoted to Flying Officer on 1 November 1923.

Flying Officer Dean was transferred to the Reserve, Class A, 1 May 1926, and to Class C, 25 June 1926.


On 1 May 1930, Flying Officer Godfrey Webster Dean relinquished his commission on completion of service.

Dean was employed as a pilot for Fairchild Aviation Company in April 1927. That company was absorbed by Canadian Airways Ltd. On 12 March 1932, he was flying a ski-equipped Junkers W33fi, CF-ASI, with a load of cargo from Tashota, Ontario, Canada, to a trading post at Kagainagami Lake. The airplane crashed and burned. (Some sources say that it caught fire in flight, then went out of control. Others say it went down in a snowstorm.) A contemporary report described the actions of a witness:

“Mr. Bates was watching the machine approach, but lost sight of it just prior to landing behind an island. In seeing smoke arising from behind the island, Mr. Bates ran to the machine and pulled pilot Dean’s body from the wreckage. While he was doing so, the machine was burning, the flames having just reached the pilot’s cockpit. Mr. Bates displayed courage of no mean order, as the flames were then close to the gas tanks, which might have caught fire and exploded at any minute . . . The courage shown was a of a very high order, particularly as Mr. Bates probably could see from the wreck that the pilot was already beyond assistance.”

According to contemporary newspaper articles, Dean’s body had no burns.

Godfrey Webster Dean was buried at Cimetière Mont-Royal, Outremont, Quebec, Canada.

Dean’s Junkers W33 was the sister ship of this Canadian Airways Ltd. W33, CF-AQW.