Margaret R. Ringenberg
Margaret Ringenberg engraved her name into Indiana aviation history at an early age. She flew with a barnstormer from an Indiana farm field at age 7, taking the first of thousands of flights in her remarkable career.
Maggie Ray earned her private pilot license in 1940. Though originally wanting to be a ‘stewardess,’ Maggie abandoned that plan to put her flying talent to work serving her country as a Women’s Air Force Service Pilot-a WASP-in 1943.
Maggie Ray and the WASPs were vital to the nation’s war effort. She piloted all types of aircraft, from single and twin-engine fighters, to light and heavy bombers, and heavy, four engine transports. She and her fellow WASPs ferried these aircraft all over the United States and to Europe at great risk, etching their names into aviation history.
When the WASP program was disbanded in December 1944, the women service pilots who had sacrificed so much, and served the country so well, were left to their own devices, with no official recognition or benefits and literally on their own to get home.
Maggie did find her way back to Ft. Wayne, determined to continue flying. Her career got a jump-start when, with the Ft. Wayne local newspapers on strike, she got a flying job to drop 56,000 leaflets announcing ‘Japan Surrenders’ over her hometown.
Maggie’s determination to fly never waned. She married banker Morris Ringenberg. She found work roles that she would hold the rest of her life as both a flight instructor and corporate pilot.
Logging thousands of hours as a professional pilot was not enough for the former WASP. Beginning in 1957, Margaret Ringenberg threw herself into competing as an avid air racing pilot. She competed in the major air races of the day, including the Powder Puff Derby, the Great Southern, the Gran Prix, the Denver Mile High, and the Kentucky Air Derby. She had the ‘right stuff,’ earning many first place finishes and collecting over 150 trophies and ribbons.
Margaret logged over 40,000 hours in her life and never gave up flying. At age 72, she completed the “Round-The-World” Air Race. In 2001, she competed in the London-to-Sydney Air Race.
At 82, the former WASP competed in the Air Race Classic from the West to East Coast, finishing second at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Margaret’s history-making career did not go unnoticed. Her long aviation life was immortalized in an entire chapter in Tom Brokaw’s bestseller, The Greatest Generation.
In 1998, Margaret’s story of amazing World War II WASP service, corporate career, and air racing experiences came to life in her book, Girls Can’t Be Pilots!
In 1999, she received the National Aeronautics Association ‘Elder Statesman in Aviation’ Award in Washington, DC.
Margaret passed peacefully in her sleep in Oshkosh, Wisconsin just before the start of the 2008 EAA Air Show where she was to be honored along with other WASPs.
For her service to the nation, and for her devotion and commitment to the world of flying, Margaret Ringenberg is inducted as a member of the Indiana Aviation Hall of Fame.