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Sun, Mar 16, 2008

Women in Aviation Hall of Fame Spotlight - Margaret Ringenberg

Who Wants to Ride with a Girl Pilot?

By ANN Correspondent Aleta Vinas

The 2008 WAI Hall of Fame has four inductees this time out; Nancy Harkness Love, Major Nicole Malachowski, Geraldine "Jerrie" Mock, Margaret Ringenberg and one group - The Women's Section of the Air Transport Auxiliary.

This article will spotlight Margaret Ringenberg. Ringenberg was introduced to the lure of aviation at an early age. At age seven, she took a flight with a barnstormer, and by 1940, she had her pilot license in hand. She went on to serve as a WASP (Women's AirForce Service Pilots), flying BT-13's, AT-6's, PT-19's and UC-78's.

She co-piloted B-24's and C-54's.

"There was a job to be done and they had asked me to do it," Ringenberg says. "What an honor to be able to serve my country and to fly."

Looking back now, the realization hits ther hat the WASP's paved the way for other female aviators to follow. Ringenberg, back then, certainly had no idea how important the WASP contribution would become to female aviators. She never thought beyond doing her job for her country.

"I'm just absolutely overwhelmed by all this attention."

Ringenberg grew up on a farm, and had never dreamed of the life she led with the WASP's. "I was devastated when we got the orders as of Dec 20, 1944 that 'you're no longer needed.'" explains Ringenberg. When many of the WASP's went back to being housewives, Ringenberg continued with flying. She returned home and went down to the field where she had originally learned to fly.

She received her Flight Instructor certificate in March 1945 and promptly had no students.

"Who wants to ride with a girl pilot?" noted Ringenberg. While she waited for students, she would mow the lawn, repair Cub fabric, answer the phones, and even send letters. "I was at the airport and I was happy to do it," says Ringenberg. "Eventually I started picking up students, and pretty soon my schedule got full."

"It is a great honor," Ringenberg says about being elected into the WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame. "My family is very, very happy about it." Ringenberg was nominated by one of her local area 99's, which thrilled her, since it was a friend.

Ringenberg has a chapter of her own in Tom Brokaw's book The Greatest Generation. When a phone call came, saying Tom Brokaw wanted to use her story in a book, she thought it was some local friends playing a trick. Ringenberg decided to play along. Even after an hour-long phone interview, she was still convinced it was her friends. An in-person interview was planned and when the interviewers didn't materialize at the appointed time, Ringenberg was glad she hadn't told anyone. But, then a strange car drove up with Brokaw's lead man.

Ringenberg was surprised.

Ringenberg spoke to Brokaw, even giving him a flight lesson, which was taped and ended up as a news clip. Ringenberg remembers the experience, by noting that, "I got three minutes on the Nightly News - unbelievable!"

Still active in flying, including air racing and speaking, Rinenberg advises her listeners to "Go for your dreams." Rinenberg noted that most of her dreams that have come true, have started with a simple phone call, so for her next adventure, she says "I'm going to wait on the phone to ring"

FMI: http://www.girlscanfly.net/AboutMargaret.html

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