Margaret Ray Ringenberg, an Indiana pilot who ferried military planes across the country during World War II, died in her sleep Monday in Oshkosh, Wis., where she was attending an Experimental Aircraft Assn. event. She was 87.
Ringenberg, a resident of Fort Wayne, Ind., died of natural causes, Winnebago County Deputy Coroner Shelley Donner said from Oshkosh.
After World War II, Ringenberg served as a flight instructor and competed in numerous air races, including an around-the-world race at age 72.
She continued to fly into her 80s and had logged more than 40,000 miles in the cockpit.
Her adventures earned her a chapter in Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation,” a 1998 book documenting experiences of the World War II era.
In March, at the Women in Aviation International Conference in San Diego, she was named to the organization’s Pioneer Hall of Fame.
Ringenberg got the bug to fly when she was a child and a barnstorming pilot landed in a field near her family’s farm in northeastern Indiana. After she graduated from high school, she was resigned to becoming a flight attendant -- thinking that was the only job on airplanes available for women.
During World War II, however, flight schools suffered a shortage of students as men were drafted.
She was 19 when she flew solo for the first time in 1941. Then she joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
When the war wound down, she returned to the Fort Wayne area. In 1945, during a newspaper strike in Fort Wayne, she flew over the area dropping thousands of leaflets announcing Japan’s surrender.
She married banker Morris Ringenberg in 1946 and took a job answering phones at the airport. In the 1950s, she began racing and giving flying lessons. Her husband died in 2003.
She is survived by daughter Marsha Wright; son Michael; a sister; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.