The trophy is awarded annually to a person or organization with a strong relationship to the greater Wichita area, who have been responsible for significant achievements and contributions to the aviation community across an entire career.
“Clay Lacy has at least one interesting story for every hour he has logged in the left seat of an airplane…and that would add up to well more than 50,000 so far. He will tell at least a few of them at the Gala, no doubt, and it should be an enthralling evening since Clay counts movie stars, government leaders, legendary pilots, and past, present and future leaders of this industry among his many friends,” said Wichita Aero Club President Dave Franson.
“His induction into virtually every Aviation Hall of Fame in the western world is why so many of his colleagues consider this native of Wichita the single most prominent pilot in the world and the man who put the ‘air’ in our community’s claim to be the ‘Air Capital of the World.’ It’s an unchallenged fact that Clay has flown more hours as pilot-in-command than anyone else in the history of flight,” Franson added.
The citation which was included in Clay’s nomination reads:
Wichita native Clay Lacy first flew at age 12. In the years since, he accumulated more than 50,000 flying hours as a military, airline, and business aviation pilot, founded California’s first charter jet service, pioneered air-to-air cinematography, won the Reno Air Races, and firmly establish himself as an Aviation Legend whose exceptional accomplishments are matched only by his humility.
About Clay Lacy
Clay Lacy was born and raised on the west side of Wichita and began flying at the age of 12. He is a graduate of Wichita East High School. He began his aviation career at Orville Sanders Cannonball Airport. He traded his work as a lineboy, airplane washer, and “gopher” for flight instruction and already had more than 2,200 hours in his log book when he joined United Airlines as a co-pilot on a DC-3 at the age of 19 in 1952. He flew for the airline for more than 40 years and logged 28,000 hours.
During that same time, he became the Western US representative for Bill Lear and helped him make Learjet a household name. He still owns one of Bill’s early Learjets and piloted a Lear 24 in aerobatic displays all over the world.
He also developed Astro Vision, the camera system that is used to shoot virtually all of the aerial sequences in aviation movies, filming intricate maneuvers and formation flights in such movies as Top Gun and Armageddon.
In January 1954, Clay took military leave from United Airlines to attend Air Force Pilot Training. After completing F-86 Gunnery School in August 1955, he returned to United Airlines and continued flying military fighters and other aircraft with the California Air National Guard.
One of the first pilots to receive a Learjet Type Rating in November 1964, Clay was the manager of Learjet Sales for California Airmotive, the Learjet distributor in the seven Western States. He placed first in the 1970 Reno Unlimited Pylon Race to become the 1970 National Champion. In 1971, he placed first in the last propeller unlimited cross-country race held. He followed that by winning first place in the Fighter Pilot Tournament held in St. Louis, and also placed first in the Jet Class of “The Great Race” from London, England, to Victoria, British Columbia, that same year, flying a Learjet 24. Clay flew in every Unlimited Race from Reno ’64 through Reno ’72, as well as two LA races. In addition, Clay flew in two Mojave Races — one in a four engine DC-7, placing fifth in a field of 20 P-51s, Sea Furys and other high performance fighters.
With his exclusive Astro Vision equipped Learjets, Clay and his crews shot almost every airline commercial filmed, most Hollywood aerial scenes, and much of the photo work for the aircraft industry and military during the latter half of the 20th Century. As a member of the Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild of America, Clay has participated in dozens of movies. He faked a gear-up landing of a Learjet for the movie, “Capricorn One” and landed a DC-3 (for real!) gear-up for the movie “The Island.”
With well over 50,000 hours as a pilot, Clay holds an Airline Transport License with 32 type ratings, helicopter, seaplane, flight instructor, and engineer certifications. He retired as Seniority Number One from United Airlines on Aug. 31, 1992, after 40 years and seven months. At the time of his retirement, Clay was flying Boeing 747-400 from Los Angeles to the Orient.
On Jan. 28, 1998, Clay flew a Boeing 747SP around the world, establishing a New Around the World Speed Record, and in doing so, raised more than $500,000 for children’s charities. In addition, Clay has done test flying, making first flights on the original Pregnant Guppy; then World’s Largest airplane, STOLIFTER, the GENIE, and the TRI TURBO-DC-3.
Lacy will receive the award at the Aero Club’s annual Gala Jan. 25, 2020, at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel at Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport in Wichita. Tickets are $125 for members and $150 for non-members. Seats can be reserved online.