Military Wiki
Ryan Aeronautical Company
Fate Merged with Teledyne
Successor(s) Northrop Grumman
Founded 1934
Defunct 1969/1999
Headquarters San Diego, California

The Ryan Aeronautical Company was founded by T. Claude Ryan in San Diego, California in 1934. Part of Teledyne after 1969, Northrop Grumman purchased Teledyne Ryan in 1999. Ryan built several historically and technically significant aircraft, including four innovative V/STOL designs, but its most successful production aircraft would be the Ryan Firebee line of unmanned drones used as targets and unmanned air vehicles.

Early History

In 1922, T.C. Ryan founded a flying service in San Diego that would lead to several aviation ventures bearing the Ryan name, including Ryan Airlines founded in 1925.[1]

T.C. Ryan, previously best known for building Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic Spirit of St. Louis, actually had no part in building the famous plane.[2][3][4][5][6][7] Ryan had been owner or partner in several previous companies, one of which also bore the name Ryan Aeronautical. The Spirit of St. Louis was not built by the final Ryan Aeronautical entity.

The new company's first aircraft was the Ryan ST or "Sport Trainer", a low-wing tandem-seat monoplane with a 95 hp (71 kW) Menasco B-4 "Pirate" straight-4 engine. Five were built before production switched to the Ryan STA (Aerobatic) with a more powerful 125 hp (93 kW) Menasco C-4 in 1935. This aircraft had enough power for aerobatic display, and it won the 1937 International Aerobatic Championships. A further improved Ryan STA Special was built in 1936, with a supercharged Menasco C-4S with 150 hp (112 kW).

In 1937 and 1938 a second civilian aircraft model was introduced, the Ryan SCW-145 for Sport Coupe, Warner 145 horsepower (108 kW) engine. The SCW was a larger three seater aircraft with a sliding canopy and side-by-side front seating. The prototype SCW was originally powered by a Menasco engine, however prototype testing revealed that more power was needed hence the move to the Warner 145 hp (108 kW), 7-cylinder radial engine for production models. Thirteen examples of the SCW were built, although the last one was assembled from surplus parts decades after the initial production run was finished.

USAAC trainers

Interest from the United States Army Air Corps followed. The Menasco engines proved unreliable, and instead Kinner radial engines were fitted. Aircraft were produced as the PT-16 (15 built), PT-20 (30 built), PT-21 (100 USAAF, 100 USN) and finally as the definitive PT-22 Recruit (1,048 built) ordered in 1941 as pilot training began its rapid expansion.

Ryan also pioneered STOL techniques in its YO-51 Dragonfly observation craft. Three prototypes were built, but no USAAF order came.


In the immediate postwar years, Ryan diversified, including even building coffins for a short period. It bought the rights to the Navion light aircraft from North American Aviation in 1947, selling it to both military and civilian customers.

Ryan became involved in the missile and unmanned aircraft fields, developing the Ryan Firebee unmanned target drone, the Ryan Firebird (the first air-to-air missile) among others, as well as a number of experimental and research aircraft.

Ryan acquired a 50% stake in Continental Motors Corporation, the aircraft-engine builder, in 1965.

In the 1950s, Ryan was a pioneer in jet vertical flight with the X-13 Vertijet, a tail sitting jet with a delta wing which was not used in production designs. In the early 1960s, Ryan built the XV-5 Vertifan for the U.S. Army, which used wing and nose mounted lift vanes for V/STOL vertical flight. It was flown, crashed after ingesting a test rescue dummy in its fans, and was not made into a production aircraft. Other Ryan V/STOL designs included the VZ-3 Vertiplane and the YO-51 Dragonfly.

In 1966/67, Ryan was awarded the contract to build the digital Doppler radar system installed aboard the Apollo Lunar Lander.

In 1968 the company was acquired by Teledyne for $128 million and a year later became a wholly owned subsidiary of that company as Teledyne Ryan. Claude Ryan retired as chairman with the Teledyne purchase.

Northrop Grumman purchased Teledyne Ryan in 1999, with the products continuing to form the core of that firm's unmanned aerial vehicle efforts.

Ryan aircraft

File:Teledyne Ryan Mural San Diego.jpg

Mural on the site of Teledyne Ryan in San Diego depicting many of the Ryan products.

Summary of aircraft built by
Model name First flight Number built Type
Ryan ST/PT-22/NR-1 1934 1994 Trainer
Ryan SC 1937 14 Cabin monoplane
YO-51 Dragonfly 1940 3 STOL scout
FR Fireball 1944 66 Piston-Jet Fighter
XF2R Dark Shark 1946 1 Turboprop Fighter
Ryan Navion 1948 1202 Light single engine
X-13 Vertijet 1955 2 Experimental vertical takeoff
Ryan Firebee 1955 xx Target Drone
VZ-3 Vertiplane 1959 1 Turboprop Fighter
Ryan XV-8 1961 1 Flex wing
XV-5 Vertifan 1964 2 VTOL


  1. Gill Rob Wilson (July 1954). "Genology of American Aircraft". 
  2. Spirit and Creator: The Mysterious Man Behind Lindbergh's Flight to Paris by Nova Hall
  3. The Untold Story of the Spirit of St. Louis by Ev Cassagneres

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