T. Claude Ryan

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T. Claude Ryan
Tubal Claude Ryan.jpg
Born(1898-01-03)January 3, 1898
DiedSeptember 11, 1982(1982-09-11) (aged 84)
OccupationAviator, aerospace engineer

Tubal Claude Ryan (January 3, 1898 – September 11, 1982) was an Irish-American aviator born in Parsons, Kansas. Ryan was best known for founding several airlines and aviation factories.

Early years[edit]

Ryan began his flying career in 1917 when he enrolled in the American School of Aviation at Venice, California.[1] After making his first solo flight, he was accepted into the Army Air Service with an under-age waiver. The day that he was to report to the recruiting station, the armistice was signed, ending his prospects for a military flying career. Instead, Ryan went to Oregon State College and studied Engineering for less than a year, then was accepted into the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Army (later known as the United States Army Air Corps). With the Army, Ryan learned to fly at March Field, California, where he graduated in 1921[2] with a pursuit pilot rating. Ryan flew forestry patrol duty until his enlistment ended in 1922. Ryan then went to San Diego and sold barnstorming rides to pay for a military surplus Curtiss JN-4 Jenny.

Business career[edit]


Ryan's first employee was William Hawley Bowlus, who had been the mechanic at the first flying school Ryan attended. One of his students was a wealthy young stock broker and real-estate developer named Benjamin Franklin Mahoney. Ryan sold half of the Ryan Flying Company to B. F. Mahoney on April 25, 1925. With Mahoney's funding, they bought Donald Douglas's first complete aircraft, the Douglas Cloudster, which Douglas had built to attempt the first non-stop transcontinental flight. A broken engine part grounded that flight in El Paso, Texas and by the time they had made the necessary repairs, a pair of military pilots accomplished the feat in a Fokker.

Bowlus modified the Cloudster to carry 10 passengers. With the modified Cloudster and three Standards that Bowlus had modified to carry four passengers each, they founded "The San Diego - Los Angeles Airlines," the first all-year airplane passenger service in the United States. It began operation on March 1, 1925 ferrying passengers on a regular schedule between San Diego, California and Los Angeles, California.

Ryan Airlines[edit]

Waterhouse Cruzair photo from L'Air November 15, 1926

The company's next venture was to build aircraft to fit the requirements of the new Airmail service. The first aircraft this company, Ryan Airlines, produced was called the Ryan M-1 mail plane developed in 1926. It was the first production monoplane in the country. The so-called Ryan M-1 of the 1920s is in actuality a monoplane designed and engineered by William J. Waterhouse of Glendale, California's Grand Central Airport in 1924 (Waterhouse and Royer Airplane Company). In 1925, Ryan purchased construction blueprints of the Waterhouse/Royer Monoplane "Cruzair." William Hawley Bowlus built the craft in a San Diego waterfront cannery building. Ryan painted his logo on the plane's rudder and immediately marketed it as the Ryan M-1. In an effort to disclaim plagiary,[citation needed] Ryan displayed his copy of the monoplane on an elevated platform at the airfield (Dutch Flat in San Diego), sporting a large banner saying "Built in San Diego" (photo on file at San Diego Air and Space Museum, 2001 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA 92101). Compounding and confusing the historical origins of the M-1, Ryan submitted Waterhouse's Cruzair design to the U.S. Patent Office as his own, and in 1929 Ryan was awarded "inventor" status for Waterhouse's monoplane design.

Ryan sold his half interest in their three companies: the 'Ryan Flying Company'; 'The San Diego - Los Angeles Airlines'; and 'Ryan Airlines' to his business partner, B. F. "Frank" Mahoney on November 23, 1926, and was kept on the payroll until the end of that year. Ryan often made claims to have remained to manage it long after that, though this fact is in contention by various sources.[3] What is known is that Ryan was not present when Donald A. Hall was hired and was never present when Charles Lindbergh arrived or during the production of the famous aircraft, this according to personal letters between Charles Lindbergh and the designer Donald A. Hall.[4][5][6][7] Ryan thus was probably not approached by a group of St. Louis, Missouri, businessmen to build an aircraft to cross the Atlantic non-stop (to be flown by Charles A. Lindbergh). It is unclear where the source of the previous reports originated. Ryan had no financial interest in the company and made no financial gain from the NYP project.

The Ryan Aeronautical Corporation[edit]

Ryan used the funds from the sale of Ryan Airlines to buy the US distribution rights to the German Siemens & Halske radial engines, and began that enterprise as soon as the deal was final. He took delivery of his first two engines in December 1926 and mounted the first on the new Ryan M-2 airframe he received from Mahoney as a part of their dissolution agreement. That M-2 with the Siemens & Halske engine became Ryan's sales tool. In late January 1927, he toured the country attempting to sell these engines. Returning to San Diego that summer, he formed the T. C. Ryan Flying School. In October of that year, formed the first Ryan Aeronautical Corporation to sell those engines. Soon after, he became embroiled in a lawsuit with the Mahoney-Ryan Aircraft Corporation, now based in Anglum, Missouri over his use of the "Ryan" name (the dissolution agreement with Mahoney forbade him from doing so without the letters "T. C." attached to the front. That lawsuit coupled with his failure to make good on his agreement to begin manufacturing the Siemens & Halske engines stateside (which he renamed 'Ryan-Seimens') caused his relationship with the engine manufacturer to sour. The German-based Siemens & Halske company bought him out in 1928. Ryan then took a hiatus.

Little is known of Ryan's dealings during that hiatus. It has been inferred that Ryan was instrumental in getting newly-formed land created when dredged material was deposited between the factory where the Spirit of St. Louis was built and Dutch Flats, the airfield it flew from. This resulted from San Diego city fathers enacting a bond measure to deepen San Diego Harbor so that merchant ships and the Navy's newest aircraft carriers could safely navigate the harbor.

The "new" Ryan Aeronautical Corporation[edit]

In 1931, Ryan opened a flying school in San Diego, which he named the 'Ryan School of Aeronautics'.[8] This company was one of many around the country (including, among others, the Parks College with campuses in Tulsa, OK, and St. Louis, MO) that served the government's need for trained pilots through the Civilian Pilot Training Program as they were increasing their readiness for what would become World War II.

Dissatisfied with the trainer aircraft available at the time, Ryan decided to produce his own, and returned to manufacturing.[8] Thus, in 1932, he formed the 'new' Ryan Aeronautical Corporation, the second incarnation of the Ryan Aeronautical Company, which became known as "Ryan Aircraft". It was the fourth new company to bear his name, and the last one he would form. The plane it was to manufacture took two years to complete, and in 1934 the Ryan ST flew for the first time. The ST was a very successful design, and many believe it to be one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built. Over the years, it was developed into a series of aircraft that were widely used by civilian organizations and military worldwide.

Ryan Aeronautical Corporation is also famous for producing the Q-2 Firebee and related aircraft, some of the most famous and common UAVs in the 20th century, with extensive use in the Vietnam War.

Ryan Aeronautical Corporation produced many aircraft over the years, most of them trainers. Ryan again sold out his entire interest in a company he had founded, when in 1969, he sold Ryan Aeronautical Corp. to the Teledyne Corporation. That company, renamed Teledyne-Ryan, has always claimed to be the successor of the company that built the Spirit of St. Louis, but they had no connection to the Ryan Airlines other than the fact that Ryan founded them both. They produced a series of pilotless drones and airframes for the Apache helicopter. Teledyne later sold that latter company to Northrop Grumman.

Later years[edit]

After his retirement Ryan formed a new company with his son Jerome to develop and market the Ryan ST-100 Cloudster, a motor glider the elder Ryan had designed. The aircraft was type certified as both a light aircraft and powered glider, but Ryan died before production was commenced and only one was completed.[9][10][11]

Ryan died September 11, 1982, in San Diego, California. He was interred at the Cypress View Mausoleum and Crematory. He was survived by his wife, Zeta Gladys Bowen Ryan (1899–1997).[12]



  1. ^ "Claude Ryan." Aerofiles. Retrieved: May 9, 2012.
  2. ^ "T. Claude Ryan." allstar. Retrieved: May 9, 2012.
  3. ^ Cassagneres 2002, p. 44.
  4. ^ "Letter 01." charleslindbergh.com. Retrieved: May 9, 2012.
  5. ^ "Letter 02." charleslindbergh.com. Retrieved: May 9, 2012.
  6. ^ "Letter 03." charleslindbergh.com. Retrieved: May 9, 2012.
  7. ^ "Letter 04." charleslindbergh.com. Retrieved: May 9, 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Ryan." Archived 2007-12-23 at the Wayback Machine New Zealand Warbirds. Retrieved: May 9, 2012.
  9. ^ Said, Bob. "1983 Sailplane Directory." Soaring Magazine, Soaring Society of America, November 1983, p. 126.
  10. ^ "Type Certificate Data Sheet No. A7NM." Federal Aviation Administration, July 1983. Retrieved: March 16, 2011.
  11. ^ "Type Certificate Data Sheet No. G1nm." Federal Aviation Administration, July 1983. Retrieved: March 16, 2011.
  12. ^ "Tubal Claude Ryan." findagrave.com. Retrieved: May 9, 2012.
  13. ^ American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, San Diego Section. Archival Collection, Applications 1972-1982, San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives.
  • Bowers, Peter M. "The Many Splendid Spirits of St. Louis." Air Progress, Volume 20, No. 6, June 1967.
  • Cassagneres, Ev. The Untold Story of the Spirit of St. Louis: From the Drawing Board to the Smithsonian. New Brighton, Minnesota: Flying Book International, 2002. ISBN 0-911139-32-X.
  • Hall, Nova. Spirit and Creator: The Mysterious Man Behind Lindbergh's Flight to Paris. Sheffield, Massachusetts: Safe Goods Publishing, 2003. ISBN 978-0970296443.
  • Sprekelmeyer, Linda, editor. These We Honor: The International Aerospace Hall of Fame. Donning Co. Publishers, 2006. ISBN 978-1578643974.

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