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Tue, Jul 29, 2008

Gone West: Noted Aviatrix Margaret Ringenberg

Died In Her Sleep... At Oshkosh

Another World War II flyer, and one of EAA's Timeless Voices, went west this week... and from AirVenture, no less. Margaret Ringenberg, 87, passed away in her sleep Monday morning, reports The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

ANN profiled Ringenberg earlier this year, when she was inducted into the Women in Aviation Pioneer Hall of Fame. She 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 said in March. "What an honor to be able to serve my country and to fly."

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," said Ringenberg. "Eventually I started picking up students, and pretty soon my schedule got full."

Ringenberg was among four inductees into the WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame this year. "It is a great honor," Ringenberg said of the honor. "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.

The Journal Gazette's Rebecca S. Green reports Ringenberg competed just last month in the Air Race Classic, flying last month from Bozeman, MT to Mansfield, MA. Ringenberg placed third in the 2,312-mile womens-only race, along with co-pilot Carolyn Van Newkirk.

Ringenberg even 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.

Ringenberg later 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!"

ANN stringer Dave Slosson remembers speaking with Ringenberg from the tower.


"I met Margaret only once, but talked to her many times via radio, pilot to controller... She was a true American hero, and just as down to earth as the land she and her husband farmed. It is so appropriate she passed away in Oshkosh.

"You're flying now, Margaret, and we'll see you on the other side."

FMI: www.airventure.org, www.girlscanfly.net/


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