Margaret Ringenberg Biography

as told in Maggie Ray: World War II Air Force Pilot by Marsha J. Wright

Margaret Ringenberg took her first airplane ride at the age of seven from a farmer’s field in rural Indiana. She earned her private pilot’s license in 1942 and was called to be a Womens Air Force Service Pilot, a WASP, in 1943. She became a flight instructor in 1945 and has flown as a commercial pilot ever since.

She started racing in 1957 and has flown the Powder Puff Derby, the Classic Air Race, the Grand Prix, the Great Southern, the Denver Mile High, the Illi-nines Air Race, the Kentucky Air Derby, the Indiana F.A.I.R, the Michigan SMALL Race and others. She has won numerous times and earned over 150 trophies. From the time she soloed in 1941 until she completed the ’Round-the-World Air Race in 1994 at the age of 72, she had logged over 40,000 hours. In 2001 Margaret flew the London to Sydney Air Race. In 2003 at the age of 82 she flew the Air Race Classic, the ARC, crossing the finish line at Kitty Hawk placing second. She continues to fly the ARC each June and has consistently placed in the top ten. In 2005 she flew her 29th ARC having flown every one since its inception.

In addition to racing she travels the country sharing her experiences with audiences from kindergartners to senior citizens, from students to engineers. In 1998 she received a standing ovation from the 1000 cadets she addressed at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. In 2002 she spoke to the astronauts at NASA and had the privilege of flying the space shuttle simulator and later that year spoke in the memory tent at the dedication of the Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence Kansas.

A chapter was devoted to her in Tom Brokaw’s bestseller, The Greatest Generation, and she has written a book of her own, Girls Can’t Be Pilots. Very much to her surprise she was featured in a full-page story in the National Enquirer. In June of 2007 a biography of Margaret’s WASP years was released. Maggie Ray, World War II Air Force Pilot was written by Margaret’s daughter, Marsha J. Wright.

Margaret received numerous awards including the NAA Elder Statesman in Aviation Award presented in Washington D.C. and the Sagamore of the Wabash, the top honor presented to an Indiana citizen. She has been honored in Woman Pilot Magazine, featured on the Indiana’s Trailblazing Women Calendar and on the NBC’s Today Show in a segment called Ladies in Their Eighties.

In 2004 at the age of 82 she rode in a race car with Indy driver, Sarah Fisher, to promote the Make A Wish Foundation for senior adults resulting in several more-than-life-size billboards in the Midwest. In June of 2007 she was selected by the Air Staff and Command College of Maxwell Air Force Base as an Eagle for the Gathering of Eagles.

Margaret was married to banker, Morris Ringenberg. At his death in 2003 they had been married for over 56 years. They have two children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandsons. All five of her grandchildren have flown with her in races, and all have been in the winner’s circle. Margaret has been active in Girl Scouting, church activities, museum work, and, since 1945, has been a member of the 99s, an organization of women pilots. Margaret Ray Ringenberg continues to fly and to represent aviation to the public. At the age of 86 Ringenberg assures audiences that she is still not ready to retire to the rocking chair and that, "I can hardly wait to see what the next twenty years bring for me."