Tony Ryan departs the scene

A trueryan.jpg architect of the modern airline industry has passed. Tony Ryan, scion of the Ryan family, founder of one of the world’s leading low-fares airlines and a creator of the modern aircraft leasing industry, passed away this week at 71, according to a statement from Ryanair. The son of an Irish state railways employee, Ryan had worked at Aer Lingus when it was still a stodgy, state-owned monopoly. After 20 years at the airline, he started the Guinness Peat leasing concern in 1975, making the financial advantages of leasing a source of rapid airline growth, note some industry observers. Guinness Peat later became part of the global powerhouse GECAS. He went on to found Ryanair, which brought the Southwest Airlines low-cost, low-fares model to European skies and in so doing presented carriers such as Aer Lingus, British Air or Air France with their greatest impetus to change since the jet age. Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary called him “one of the greatest Irishmen of the twentieth century”, and Ryan’s passing was noted in obituaries in publications as diverse as those serving the thoroughbred industry in Kentucky, where Ryan owned a stable.

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