Recounts An Extraordinary Aviation Career
They call him "Mr. Learjet" and "Mr. Hollywood." They say he's a
pilot's pilot, an ambassador of aviation, an icon in the industry.
He was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in
Clay Lacy has flown more than 300 aircraft types and logged more
than 50,000 flight hours during the past six decades; at the March
22 Wichita Aero Club monthly meeting Lacy shared experiences from a
legendary aviation career that began in Wichita, KS.
When he took his first flight in a Beech Staggerwing at age 8,
Lacy already knew he wanted to be a pilot. Four years later he
began flying thanks to Orville Sanders, who used land on Lacy's
grandmother's farm at Maple and Tyler in west Wichita to create the
Orville Sanders Cannonball Airport.
Lacy worked at the airport in exchange for flight time, and since
then he has only worked one half of a day in anything other than
aviation (a short stint at a grocery store).
He joined United Airlines at age 19 to fly DC-3s and went on to
become its most experienced 747 Captain, an aerial cinematographer
for movies and commercials, experimental pilot, fighter pilot,
entrepreneur and holder of 29 speed records. In the early 1960s
Lacy spent a lot of time back in Wichita to help with the inception
of the Learjet. Lacy said he once asked Bill Lear why he decided to
build airplanes in Wichita, and Lear said: "Can you think of any
place I can steal more engineers?" He had a long affiliation with
Learjet, being the first to fly Learjet demo flights out of
Hollywood and opening up the corporate jet transportation market
At the March 22nd Wichita Aero Club business luncheon, Lacy
reminisced about his formative years as an excited young boy,
fascinated with planes and flying. Acknowledging local
friends and businesses, he took pride in his Wichita roots and said
that when it comes to aviation, "it deserves its title as 'the Air
Capital of the World' because more airplanes have been built here
than anywhere else. Interestingly enough, I now live in the city
that is second in that category, even though it hasn't produced an
airplane in over 30 years-Los Angeles," he added.
Guests at the luncheon not only heard the world's most
experienced pilot talk about his experiences in the air, they
viewed a video that was shown at his induction into the National
Aviation Hall of Fame last summer and some extraordinary footage of
the former Learjet demo pilot putting a 50-year old Lear 24 through
a series of aerobatic maneuvers more suited to a modern military
fighter. "It's a program I'm exploring for what to do with
used business jets," he suggested-- facetiously, of course.
Today Lacy owns FBOs in Van Nuys, CA, Seattle, WA, and Denver,
CO, one of the world's leading charter and aircraft management
companies, and continues filming aviation for movies and