Teenage pilot Ryan McCall died doing what he loved, friends say

Posted at 2:18 PM, Mar 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-30 19:07:13-04

SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. -- Friends, classmates and teachers of the teenager killed when the small plane he was piloting crashed at the Orange County Airport Sunday returned to school Monday and met with grief counselors. Ryan McCall, 16, was a sophomore at Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania County. His brothers, one older and one younger, are also students at the school.

Friends remembered Ryan as smart and athletic. They also said he was a man of faith who came from a tight-knit family that helped him achieves his goals.

"He just has a really good spirit, I mean he was flying planes. He wanted to fly a plane, not everybody wanted to do that," said Raeghan Fennewale, a Riverbend High School junior who grew up with McCall.

Wyatt Bagley, a senior at Riverbend High, said Ryan died doing something he loved.

The 16-year-old was killed when the plane he was flying crashed Sunday after his brother, Brandon, a Junior at RPS, dropped him off for a flight lesson. CBS 6 News has learned McCall's family did not witness the crash.

 Ryan McCall

Ryan McCall

The investigation into what caused McCall's 1974 Piper, model PA28140, single-engine plane to crash Sunday remained on-going. The teenager had been a pilot for more than a year. Virginia's Aviation Board President Johnny Meza said seeing a 16-year-old pilot is not uncommon. He said the only restrictions on McCall would have been he need to fly either solo or with another certified pilot. McCall was flying solo at the time of the crash.

"Everyone was really upset. We did a moment of silence after the principal talked to us and a lot of people left class," Bagley said.

While the NTSB and FAA investigate what caused the teen pilot to crash, extra counselors have been brought in to help Riverbend students and staff come to terms with the fact the star student and athlete won't finish school at RHS with his older and younger brothers.

"It's always sad when you hear something like this happen to one of our students. They're so young and vibrant and when this happens we do assemble a team into action our crisis team," said Spotsylvania Schools spokesperson Rene Daniels. "We do have some students and staff members that are going to our counseling staff and asking for some support. He was a great student and he will be missed by many."

The school system will have counselors on hand all week and has provided grief management resources on its website for parents and students.

"We're just going to have support each other," said, Bagley. "People are going to remember him as the one who crashed the plane. The one who was doing something with his life. He was really smart. He was one of those kids who didn't mess around and wasn't into the scene that most kids fall into."

The Spotsylvania County School Board has planned moment of silence to honor Ryan on its April 13 meeting.


A ‘Good Pilot’

Instructors described McCall as a “good pilot” and speculated that birds in the area could have caused the tragedy.

"If he had a bird strike, and say that bird came through the windshield, that in itself could incapacitate a pilot," Meza  said.

Remembering Ryan 

The McCall family requested privacy Sunday as they grieved their loss. McCall’s friends took to social media  and used the hashtag #RipRyanMcCall to honor his memory.

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