2012 Hall of Fame Inductee
Wilfred Ryan Sr. and Eva Ryan
The Twenty-seventh Alaska State Legislature is proud to honor Wilfred Ryan Sr. and Eva Ryan in recognition of their many years as “Entrepreneur and Builders” in Alaskan aviation and their induction into the Alaska Aviation Museum Hall Of Fame on March 22, 2012.
Lifelong Alaskans, Wilfred was born in Unalakleet and Eva in Shaktoolik. Wilfred served as a captain in the Alaska Territorial Guard and Eva as a Bureau of Indian Affairs teacher. They met, fell in love and raised nine children together, starting a multi-generational family of fliers that stepped up to fill a need for air service to their cherished rural Alaska home.
As Alaska Native visionaries in bush air transportation, the Ryans believed that the residents of Western Alaska needed a reliable and safe means of flying passengers and cargo to the villages. At age 23, Wilfred started flight training in Fairbanks. He acquired his pilot"s license in 1950 and worked as a station manager for Alaska Airlines in Unalakleet. Upon purchasing a Taylorcraft plane, Wilfred began flying charters between Unalakleet and Kaltag.
Unalakleet Air Taxi was founded by the Ryans in 1953 and thrived as Wilfred flew charter flights throughout Western Alaska and Eva assisted with the business. In the 1960s, the company began handling United States Postal Service mail delivery and the transportation of schoolteachers between Unalakleet, St. Michael, Stebbins and other communities along the lower Yukon River. As airplanes were added, the company grew and service expanded throughout the Norton Sound.
Wilfred Sr. passed away in 1977. His son Wilfred Jr., known to friends and associates as “Boyuck,” took over managing the company and it continued to grow, becoming Ryan Air in 1979. Today, the company employs over 100 people in an all-cargo operation with 18 aircraft ranging from a Cessna 207 to a Pilatus PC 12. Boyuck's son, Lee Ryan, is now the chief pilot of this family business that has expanded into serving over 70 villages in bush Alaska.
Wilfred and Eva started a legacy, not only with their company, but also by cultivating three generations of Alaska Native flying pioneers. Joe Hill, the five-year-old great-grandson of Wilfred Sr. and Eva, already identifies the planes of the Ryan fleet and may soon become the fourth generation of flying Ryans.
The Twenty-seventh Alaska State Legislature honors the contributions of the Ryan family to air transportation throughout Alaska and acknowledges the induction of Wilfred and Eva Ryan, Alaska Native aviation pioneers, into the Alaska Aviation Museum's Hall of Fame.