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Margaret as a WASP in the 1940s.
Margaret as a WASP in the 1940s.
Margaret Ringenberg was at Atz’s Ice cream shop on Tuesday morning, April 11. She was up early for a 7:30 a.m. presentation to the Southside Optimist Club. Margaret now lives in Leo Indiana and she keeps her airplane hangered at Fort Wayne International Airport.

Margaret was interested in flying from a very early age, but she was under the impression that only men could be pilots. She had decided to become an airline stewardess but then found an opportunity to take a flying lesson at Baer Field. From that day on she knew she would become a pilot.

Margaret received a telegram from the United States Government in 1943, requesting her service. She applied to the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP’s) along with 2,600 other female applicants. 1,800 were chosen and 1,074 would eventually graduate. She was sent to Sweetwater Texas to learn about weather, Morris Code, life saving and most of all, flying. Margaret said, ” There were six women to a room, with one latrine, 1 locker and absolutely no personal effects.”

After her Texas training, her next stop was Wilmington Delaware. Her job included traveling to factories, inspecting airplanes needed in the service, and then flying them to wherever the government needed them. After delivery she would hop on the most convenient civilian passenger plane and fly back to Wellington for her next assignment. She said, “If the commercial aircraft was full, I had the authority to bump any passenger except the president of the United States.”

On Dec 30, 1944, Margaret was decommissioned and sent back home. She had earned $150 per month and had to pay her own way home.

When she arrived back in the Hoagland area she found that her family had sold the farm and moved into the city. Most of her friends had moved away and she no longer could look out the window to her beloved farm fields. In March of 1945 she traveled to Smith Field and obtained her instructors license. But unfortunately, not many people wanted to take flight instructions from a woman.

In August of 1945, Fort Wayne Newspapers were on Strike. Victory over Japan was fast approaching and the newspapers commissioned Margaret to drop 56,000 flyers out of her J-3 Cub. She made a low sweep and dispersed the VJ Day news to an anxiously awaiting public.

In 1946, she met and married her husband Morris. Together they had 2 children and she now has 5 grandchildren. Morris passed away in October 2003 after 57 years of marriage.

In May of 1994, Margaret flew a Cessna 4-14 around he world. She started and finished in Montreal Canada and she and her two lady co-pilots made the trip in 28 days. She said, “We flew over countries where women were not allowed to vote, or drive and they had to be completely covered while in public. A world that still has much starvation and poverty.”

When she was flying over Iran she was met by a jet fighter that flew close for an inspection but did not force them to land. While landing in Turkey to refuel she had been warned to disguise her voice to sound like a man so as not to create a problem with the airport authorities who had never seen a woman pilot.

Margaret has been a pilot for Dan Quale, was featured in the Dan Brocaw book, The Greatest Generation and received a full-page layout in the National Enquirer. She has flown over the place of ‘First Flight’ at Kitty Hawk and she was honored by 27 astronauts at Houston Space Center. She was allowed to land the space shuttle Columbia via the shuttle simulator and recently rode with Sara Fisher on the Indianapolis Speedway at 180 mile per hour.

Margaret raced in every Powder Puff Derby from 1957-77 and completed the Round the World Air Race at age 72. In March of 2001 at age 80, she flew in the race from London to Sydney.
From her tender years when she first learned to fly until now, she has logged over 40,000 hours of flying. She said, “Next month I will be 85, and I can’t wait for the phone to ring for the next adventure.”

The Waynedale News Staff
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