The Wichita Aero Club (WAC) selected Ryan International founder and long-time corporate pilot Ron Ryan as the 11th recipient of its annual honor, the Wichita Aero Club Trophy. The award goes to a person or organization that maintains a strong relationship with the Wichita area and has effected exemplary achievements in aviation either during the most recent calendar year or through contributions to the aviation community across an entire career.
Ryan, who will be honored during WAC’s annual Gala on January 29 in Wichita, is being recognized for serving the global and local aviation community with “creative leadership, vision, and generosity,” according to the citation accompanying his nomination.
“Ron’s entire career in aviation has been marked by outstanding accomplishments and exceptional leadership,” said WAC president Dave Franson. “He is the embodiment of a creative, resourceful, and undaunted entrepreneur whose vision and unwavering commitment made him not just a great pilot but a true force in the local aviation community and around the world.”
Ryan, who earned his private, commercial, and instrument pilot ratings while working as a mechanical engineer at Western Electric, initially flew as a pilot for a military charter company before obtaining a Learjet type rating in 1966 and becoming a pilot with Mid-West Lear Jet in Kansas City. Ryan subsequently became a chief pilot for real estate company DeBoer & Associates and helped turn that flight department into a jet charter service company.
He purchased the company in 1976, renamed it Ryan Aviation Corp., and began operating a fueling and maintenance center at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport (now Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport). In 1981, he launched Ryan International Airlines and upgraded its Part 135 certificate to Part 121. He eventually expanded the operation into an international charter and cargo service with more than 2,500 employees and $350 million in annual sales. He sold the company in 2004.
Ryan also engages in significant philanthropic activities and serves on boards and committees of a number of organizations in Wichita.