Alumni Spotlight

Rory Feely - Military Test Pilot and Co-Founder of aviation company, HopFlyt

14 Mar 2019
Rory Feely, BSc 1993

UCC physics graduate, Rory Feely, is a U.S. Military Experimental Test Pilot and Marine Corps Aviator who has been flying high-performance aircraft for over 20 years. He has been deployed four times and flown over 300 hours in combat. He is also the co-founder of HopFlyt, an innovative aviation company which aims to rid the world of traffic jams and exhaust pollution by providing urban commuter aircraft transport. Rory looks back on his time at UCC and gives his advice to today’s students.

RORY FEELY'S memories of UCC are set to the strains of eighties pop song ‘Come on Eileen’, which was on constant rotation in the Campus Kitchen. The song, he says "still drives me nuts to this day when I hear it…’twas more than a little over-played!"

It may seem like a giant leap from the Campus Kitchen to the U.S. Air Force, but Rory says graduating with a BSc in physics in 1993 was to prove invaluable in his job.

 "Physics, as a discipline provides one broad and meaningful insight into a multitude of concepts such as electrical, thermal, electro-magnetic, aerodynamics and structural loading.  Having a firm grasp on all of these skills is necessary to evaluate high-performance aircraft.  When it comes to a technical discipline, physics is the jack of all trades".

His time as a physics student left a lasting impression and he has especially fond memories of Professor Michel VanDyck, whom he calls "an inspirational man, approachable and accessible to all students". In the intervening years, he has followed the work of the Physics Department from afar and attributes it’s accomplishments to the leadership of Professor John McInerney, "it is great to see the University Physics Department doing well and Professor McInerney brought that vision in over 25 years ago".

He advises today’s students to start working on their teaming and communication skills as early as possible, and credits his own accomplishments to a team effort.

"We, as people, are hard-wired to connect with others but that takes work and practice to do it effectively.  Find a team that inspires you and be as big a part of it as you can.  Whether it is building something or creating something… people do very little by themselves".

He also takes a philosophical approach to the notion of failure and advises students that they will learn more from their perceived failures than from their successes.

"Whether in success or in failure, you often cannot control the cards you are dealt; however, how you play your hand is what really matters and will earn you the respect of your peers for comporting yourself with decency and integrity".

Rory’s experience of UCC exemplifies his can-do attitude; he threw himself whole-heartedly into college life and even tried his hand at athletics for a time. However, it was in the canoe club that he found his tribe. Some of his fondest memories and best friends stem from his time in the club.

"We would go paddling and camping all over the place – mainly West Cork or Kerry but often travelled as far as Galway or Sligo.  And you could find us on the Lee most days too". 

He sums up the benefits of being involved in the university’s myriad of clubs and societies, "those types of interactions and the friendships made are an integral part of the UCC experience".  Wise words indeed.

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