Ruth Eunice Franckling (Reynolds)
January 12, 1919 – May 15, 2007
Training Location: Houston Municipal Airport, Texas
Planes Flown: PT-19, PT-22, BT-13, AT-6, AT-19, AT-19, A-20, B-24, B-25, C-47, P-38, P-39, P-47, P-51, P-63
Assigned Bases: Romulus Army Air Base, Palm Springs Army Air Base, Long Beach Army Air Base
Ruth Franckling grew up in Woodstock, NY and in 1935 graduated from Kingston High School in Kingston, NY at the age of 16. In 1940, she earned her pilot’s license, and in 1941 became the first woman to earn a commercial rating in Ulster County, NY. In 1942, she earned her instructor’s rating and became a flight instructor.
With more than 700 flight hours, Franckling was accepted into Class 43-W-2 and trained at Houston Municipal Airport, graduating at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas on May 28, 1943. She was one of just 143 WASP who qualified to fly pursuit aircraft. Over the next 18 months she accrued 1,478 hours ferrying aircraft across the country, more than half in pursuit planes.
On two occasions Frankling’s quick thinking averted disaster. On take-off from Tulsa, the engine of her P-51 quit. She put the plane back on the airstrip and wore the wheels down to their hubs, narrowly avoiding other aircraft, a rapidly dispersing crowd of people, and a row of train cars at the end of the runway. The problem was identified as water in the airfield’s underground fuel tanks.
The other close call occurred when switching fuel tanks above Minneapolis. The P-63’s engine quit. Frankling quickly switched back to the first tank and then put the plane into a nose-dive, eventually spinning the propeller fast enough to restart the engine. Upon landing in Fargo, North Dakota, the ground crew discovered that the factory in Niagara Falls had neglected to remove a plug from the fuel line to the second tank.
Upon dissolution of the WASP Program, Franckling returned to her job as a flight instructor in Kingston, NY, where she instructed a recent Army veteran named Ward Reynolds. Within a year they were married, moved to a dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains, and opened a flying service with two Piper Cubs. Franckling continued to instruct until the first of their four children were born.
Ruth embraced farm life and motherhood, and in 1969 became the bookkeeper and membership coordinator for the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development. Although Ruth Frankling never piloted again, she maintained a life-long friendship with WASP Martha Wagenseil Davis, and together they attended multiple WASP reunions held at various locations around the country.
Ruth always said that the time she spent as a WASP was the happiest of her life, and the P-51 Mustang was her favorite plane of all.
Submitted by her daughter, Margaret DiBenedetto.