Young visitor gets ‘Royal treatment’ at Cougar Helicopters

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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7-year-old aviation enthusiast welcomed into hangar by pilots, ground crew

Seven-year-old Ryan Downey has had a hard go of it in his short years.
Since he was born four months premature and weighing in at just two pounds, six ounces at birth, Downey has been through four surgeries.

Ryan Downey was on lookout Sunday at St. John’s International Airport. He spotted a helicopter, leading his parents to the Cougar Helicopters hangar. — Photos courtesy of Downey family

“He is a miracle child,” said his mother, Maria Downey, who explained her son lives with various challenges, in terms of hearing and vision, but is also full of energy and curiosity — particularly when you raise the subject of pilots, airplanes and helicopters.

This past weekend, Ryan, his mother and his father, Phillip Downey, went to the St. John’s International Airport for what

has become a common stop, watching planes and having a plate of chips.

This time around though, the young man was also given a special tour.  

Ryan took interest in the helicopters he spotted and, on the way out from the airport, the Downeys stopped at the Cougar Helicopters office and hangar building, to see if Ryan could get a closer look.

“(Phillip) went in and he asked the girl on the front desk, ‘What does a dad have to do to get his seven-year-old son close to a helicopter?’” his mother recalled. The response was more than the Downeys ever expected, she said.

Ryan was welcomed inside the aircraft hangar for a look at Cougar’s aircraft.

Once inside, Capt. Scott Ferguson, first officer Mathieu Belanger, vessel facilitator Kayla Mullett, ramp security officer Mike Martin and maintenance control planner Doug Vincent all offered the family a warm welcome.

“It was a fantastic day,” said Maria Downey. “We just walked in off the street and were given the Royal treatment.”

Ryan was helped into the cockpit, where the pilots spoke to him about the helicopter’s controls. He was given a headset to wear and was buckled into a seat, asking questions of the pilots while the helicopter was dragged from the hangar.

“Sometimes my son is a little hard to understand,” Ryan’s mother said. “But they took the time to talk to him. ... It was just fantastic.”

She said Ryan has been fascinated by airplanes ever since a visit to Florida last June. The family is looking at making a return trip in near future, but appreciated the welcome at Cougar Helicopters in the meantime.

“Ryan will never know that we got more out of it than he did,” said Capt. Ferguson, in an email sent to The Telegram from a company spokeswoman Monday afternoon, in response to questions earlier in the day on the Sunday drop-in.

Geographic location: Florida

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Recent comments

  • Joan Downey Shebib
    October 30, 2013 - 18:15

    I was amazed to see my nephews/sons story, it was wonderful how you treated Ryan, sounds like he was very proud to have been able to be on that plane. Sounds like you made his day. Bless you all! Joan

  • Gerry Mahoney
    October 29, 2013 - 10:39


  • JimmyC
    October 29, 2013 - 10:16

    Pandora's box has been opened for this weekend now

  • Angela
    October 29, 2013 - 08:00

    Thanks for posting this story, it's the best one I've read in a while. Love hearing a happy story for a change. I'm almost crying, great job! Wish there was more people in this world like the staff at Cougar Helicopters. People that truely make the work a better place to live in.

    • phillip
      November 07, 2013 - 15:00

      thank you and you are 100% right this world would be a better place