Attempted to join up the Navy and then Army when the military made a plea for pilots during World War I, but he was too young. He enrolled in the American School of Aviation where he convinced his instructors to write a letter indicating that he had had some training. The Army then accepted him for flight training, but the Armistice was signed and World War I ended before his call-up date.
Became a barnstormer offering rides for $2.50 or $5.00. He set up shop at Dutch Flats and opened the Ryan Flying Company, advertising passenger transport and a school of aviation.
Opened the Los Angeles-San Diego Airline, the nation’s first regularly scheduled airline, in 1925.
Designed the open-cockpit Ryan M-1. In March 1926, Ryan and the partners who owned Pacific Air Transport, set off in the M-1 on the Los Angeles to Seattle airmail route where the M-1 set a record seven hours, three minutes flight during the San Francisco to Seattle leg.
Created the Spirit of St. Louis (a plane based on the M-1), the historic plane that Charles A. Lindbergh (enshrined 1967) flew across the Atlantic ocean.
Designed the Ryan Fireball which became the first jet fighter for the Navy in 1944. Jet-pushed, propeller-pulled, the Fireball could fly either on its jet or conventional engine, or on both.
Created the Firebird, the first Air Force air-to-air research missile which was portable by fighter aircraft.
Demonstrated the dramatics of vertical takeoff and landing operations with his Ryan Vertijet in 1957.
Developed a landing system that was used on the Apollo 11 lunar module.