Ryan McCall was only 16, but he had such a passion for flying that he already held his student pilot's license, his family said Monday.
Ryan was killed Sunday morning after his plane crashed in a field in Orange County, Virginia. His plane went down just east of the Orange County Airport
Virginia State Police said McCall, of Spotsylvania, was the only occupant of the plane, a 1974 Piper, single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft.
The Virginia State Police, Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating. Meanwhile, Ryan's classmates at Spotsylvania's Riverbend High School said it was uncharacteristically quiet across the school Monday.
The students struggled with a range of emotions from grief, to shock to admiration for what Ryan had already accomplished.
"It's pretty sad," said Mary Lyon, the mother of one of Ryan's schoolmates. Ryan's two brothers are in the 9th and 11th grades at Riverbend.
"Anytime the students have to deal with saying goodbye to someone they knew, knowing they are not going see them anymore, it hits them pretty hard."
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Ryan was permitted to fly solo; FAA rules allow 16-year-olds to obtain a student pilot certificate. They can do solo flights as soon as their instructor endorses the certificate.
Ryan's instructor from Skyline Aviation watched from the ground as he took off, and as he crashed.
Ryan's family released the following statement:
"The family of Ryan McCall appreciates the thoughts and prayers of all our family and friends as we mourn the passing of our beloved son and brother. Ryan died on Sunday, March 29th while piloting a small plane.
"Ryan was our beloved middle son, a typical teenager whom we loved so much and who himself had such a passion for flying that he had already earned his license to pilot at the young age of 16.
"The family requests privacy at this time as they mourn the passing of their vibrant, intelligent, and compassionate son, who at 16, knew his heart and his passion so young in life."