Elliot Kazan, known as “the Father of the Warthog” for his role in developing a popular military jet in use for more than 40 years, has died, his family said.
The longtime Dix Hills resident was 90 and died on Aug. 9 from complications of sepsis.
Kazan grew up in Queens and studied aeronautical engineering at Polytechnic University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1949 and a master’s degree in 1950, his family said. After briefly working for Boeing, Kazan took a job working for the Republic Aviation Company in Farmingdale, which later became Fairchild-Republic Co.
It was while working there that Kazan was named project manager for the development of the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Kazan led a team of almost 500 designers and engineers in the conception and creation of the fighter plane, which was nicknamed the “Warthog” because of its bulky and ungainly disposition.
"There was a major in the Air Force . . . . He saw the first couple of ones," Kazan told Newsday in 2003. "He said, 'Geez, that thing is as ugly as a warthog.' And it stuck."
More than 700 A-10 Thunderbolt II planes were manufactured in the 1970s and 1980s, with many still in use by the U.S. military. The aircraft sports a seven-barrel Gatling gun designed for destroying tanks. But it’s the Warthog’s ability to fly relatively slowly and close to the ground that has made it an invaluable tool in supporting ground troops, experts have said.
“He heard one guy after another say to him, ‘That plane saved my life. It was full of holes and it still flew me back safely,” Kazan’s wife of 55 years, Dorothy, said. “It was the love of his life, that airplane.”
Relatives said Kazan was even more devoted to his family, which included his two daughters.
“He would work 16 hours and he would come home and there was no running and hiding or anything like that . . . . He would have the girls out sleigh riding,” said his son-in-law, Stephen Kazan, who took his family’s name. “He was a dad first and an engineer second . . . . He was one of those guys who got it right.”
In addition to his wife, Kazan is survived by his daughters Krista Kazan, of Dix Hills and Kimberly Mazer, of Selden. He was cremated following a small service at St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Church in Dix Hills last month.
Kazan’s family said donations in his name can be made to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.