Documenting fearless flight

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Philip Paluso. Photo by Brian Brosmer

Philip Paluso. Photo by Brian Brosmer

Fishers-based filmmaker debuts ‘Wings for Maggie Ray’

One Fishers-based filmmaker is out to tell the story of a Hoosier some say was without fear.

“Wings for Maggie Ray,” a documentary by Philip Paluso, owner, writer and director at Medium Cool Pictures debuts on WFYI this Thursday at 9 p.m.

The film details Margaret Ray Ringenberg’s life – from her time on an Indiana farm to her days as part of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots during World War II to a time later in her life when she was recognized as a valued trailblazer who helped prove women could be pilots.

WASP provided the American military with a small host of female pilots that flew new aircraft to airfields, points of embarkation and to boneyards throughout the U.S., as well as ferried other personnel – but the women who gave their time, effort and even lives for the war effort were not given the same benefits as American men who joined the services. One WASP class wasn’t even assigned duty before the program was shut down.

“There was an injustice done,” Paluso said. “There’s no way to sugarcoat that.”

The mission

Paluso, a veteran of both the news and video production industry, embarked on his mission to tell Ringenberg’s story after reading a short blurb about her daughter’s book.

He started going through literature, trying to find out how he wanted to tell the story.

Shortly before he picked up the phone in 2008 to call Ringenberg, she passed away after visiting an airshow and function.

Instead, he would call upon her daughter to pursue the story, and ultimately took quotes from books where her thoughts, memories and experiences live on today.

It would take Paluso approximately three years to pursue the story, jumping through hoops held by the Pentagon, digging through as much information as he could find and talking with folks who knew or were inspired by Ringenberg.

A self-funded venture, Paluso said friends in the industry helped and contributed to the production as they became attached to the story.

Capturing a character, telling the story

Paluso draws on interviews with Ringenberg’s family, USAF pilots Maj. Jackie Fleming and Lt. Col. Nicole Malachowski and others to tell the story of a girl that got her first plane ride by chance from a barnstormer landing in an Indiana field.

She became so enamored with flight, she told her dad that’s what she wanted to do – at a time when that was out of the ordinary. And he supported her.

As part of WASP, she flew planes that were new and old, some in danger of dropping out of the sky. Of the 1,078 WASPs, 38 lost their lives in the line of duty, and because they were not given the same stature as enlisted soldiers, were not given military honors at burials.

“Wings for Maggie Ray” delves further into her career, detailing her exploits as an instructor, pilot and more after her service was up. By the end of her lifetime, she logged 40,000 flight hours – a Herculean feat for any pilot.

Paluso said she became the pilot of choice for Senators Dan Quayle and Dan Coats for some time.

Shortly before she passed way in 2008, she finished third in the Air Race Classic, formerly the Powder Puff Derby, a race across the states.

“She was fearless,” Paluso said, “And she wasn’t going to get rattled.”

For the full “Wings for Maggie Ray” story, tune into WFYI on Thursday at 9 p.m. for the hour-long documentary.

 Inside Photo

Meet Philip Paluso

Lived in Fishers for: Four months

Family: Wife, Sarah; Son, Roman (3-years-old); Daughter, Celeste (22-months-old); Son, Nicholas (30-years-old); Daughter, Natalie (28-years-old)

Favorite movie: “Sunset Boulevard,” if he can only name one

Favorite director: John Ford for old Hollywood, Ron Howard for new Hollywood

Over-all favorite project: Blue Man Group DVD called “The Complex”

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