Sunday 17 December 2017

'He would go to the Cannes and party with the stars. Incredible really. A great guy' - family's moving tribute

Family's tribute to 'incredible dad who died doing what he loved best'

Pilot David Ryan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Pilot David Ryan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

A veteran pilot killed in a tragic crash has been remembered by his family as a man who lived life to the fullest.

David Ryan (84) died when his aircraft crashed in a field adjacent to the N25 Cork-Waterford road on Monday after issuing a distress signal at around 4.30pm.

Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) inspectors are now trying to determine if the light aircraft had encountered mechanical problems or whether the elderly pilot had fallen ill.

Mr Ryan, from Sandymount in Dublin, built the single-seater plane in which he died in his own garden.

His son David Jr spoke glowingly about his father's passion for flying at the family home yesterday.

"Flying was his dream, and he died doing what he loved best. Of course we will miss him, but he and my brother and sister watched our mother fade slowly from cancer many years ago and we would not want that for him," he told the Irish Independent.

Mr Ryan’s workshop, where he built his own plane and was working on a new project. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Mr Ryan’s workshop, where he built his own plane and was working on a new project. Photo: Gerry Mooney

"He built the plane in the back garden over a 15-year period, and in the end he had to get a crane to lift it out before he brought it to Waterford.

"He would go and fly it many times, it was his passion. His current passion was a gyrocopter he had started building. He was always making things or taking things apart," he added.

David Snr had also embraced the computer age and was using a 3D printer to print things he scanned, using a 3D scanner he had built himself.

"Himself and his brother Gerry started flying in the 1970s out at an airfield near Dublin Airport," David Jr explained.


"But then he began building his own plane, the one he died in. It kept him going after our mother Betty died 17 years ago because he needed something to focus on," he added.

Mr Ryan's home is testament to his creative flair, with tools and gadgets lying on benches and tables in the property.

David Sr and Betty had two other children - Gillian, who still lives in Ireland, and Robbie, a well-respected cinematographer who mainly resides in London.

David Jr lived with his father and described how he got the news of his father's death.

"I was here working on the computer when I saw two figures at the door. When I answered it I saw they were two gardaí from Donnybrook. They were very good about it.

"I used to worry a bit about dad, but he was a great man who was full of energy and enthusiasm. It's odd but Monday was a day I wasn't worrying about him at all," he said.

"Dad was able to put out a distress call, and the investigators think he developed trouble with the engine. Their investigation will find all that out," he added.

"He had survived prostate cancer and beaten a kidney ailment as well. He would go to the Cannes film festival with Robbie and be partying with all the stars. Incredible really. A great guy," he said.

"We would appeal to anyone who may have witnessed this aircraft yesterday to contact us on (058) 48600 to help our inquiries," a Garda spokesperson said. Investigations into the crash continue.

Irish Independent

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