I read the Dec. 1 story about Margaret Ringenberg and wanted to share my story of this great woman.
In 1970, being 15 years old, my father granted my wishes and agreed to start my flying lessons if I started ground school.
My entire life I’ve been nuts over aircraft and wanted to fly. We were living in Woodburn at the time, and on the west side of the town sat a small grass airport.
We went there to set up my flying lessons and the owner said one of the best instructors in Indiana would arrive in about an hour.
My father and I sat there waiting and in walk this middle-aged woman. The owner introduced us to Margaret Ringenberg.
Being 15 and stupid, my first thought was: What’s this woman going to teach me? Let’s face it, I wanted a real pilot like Chuck Yeager or Scott Crossfield.
My father set up my first lesson for the next morning and we left. I tried to talk him out of taking lessons from a woman, but he must have known something about her and said it would be her or no one.
I showed up the next morning and she was waiting beside a clean white and red Cessna 172. She walked me around the aircraft and we did a preflight. She didn’t explain each part of the aircraft, she asked questions first to see how much I knew. When she wasn’t happy with my answers, her explanations were easy to understand and very helpful.
It’s been many years, but what I remember about her as an instructor was her no-nonsense but soft touch with her students.
One thing Ringenberg told me early in our flying together was if you didn’t learn something each time you went up, she had failed in her job as an instructor. I can guarantee she never once failed.
The flight that I remember the most was on my 16th birthday. We took off and I was doing all the flying. Ringenberg was a little hard on me that day but I deserved it. I was a little sloppy, and she made me land and take off again. We flew a single pattern around the field and I did one of my best landings to date. She was as happy as I was.
She had me taxi to the center of the field and stop. I can remember her face like it was yesterday. She opened the door of the plane and stepped to the ground. Only two words came from her mouth: You’re ready.
She closed the door and walked to the side of the runway. I was so excited and scared; it was a horrible takeoff and landing, but I made it.
I taxied up and she was smiling and shaking her head. She gave me the sign to shut off the engine and she opened the door and asked me how I would rate the flight. I was honest; it was bad.
We then talked for a half hour. She had me explain what I had done wrong and what I should have done to correct the issues.
Ringenberg was a confidence-builder, and when she was happy with our talk she had me do one more takeoff and landing. It was perfect, in her own words. That day I felt like I was Chuck Yeager.
The last time I was in the great lady’s presence was on my last day before I went into the Navy. Not as a pilot but as a flight crew member in Navy aircraft.
I have read many stories of her in aircraft magazines, and I was not surprised at all that she had flown military aircraft during World War II. I do wish I had known when we were flying together.
A sad day in my life was when I read that she had passed away in 2008.
If I had to describe her, it would not start with her being a woman. First would be a pilot who happens to be a great woman. And any pilot who flew target towing for young novice pilots to shoot at during the war is some kind of pilot.
OZZIE (RICHARD) OSTHEIMER