Clay Lacy was born in 1932 and grew up in Wichita, Kansas, the birthplace of aviation manufacturing and the Air Capital of the World. While other Midwest boys were riding bicycles, building treehouses and spending lazy summer afternoons fishing in the Arkansas River, Clay became interested in model airplanes at age 5. Clay built his first flying model in 1940 when he was only 8 years old, and had his first flight at age 12.
Clay knew he wanted to be a pilot at age 7. When he was 12, he started working at an airport trading work time for flying instruction. From that time on, aviation was definitely in Clay’s blood.
Clay’s focus on aviation soon found him behind the controls of a United Airliner as the youngest professional pilot in the business. Not long afterwards, he stepped into the jet era by joining the USAF during the Korean War. His taste for jets was augmented by the airline industry conversion from propellers to jet transports.
Upon the rebirth of national air racing in 1964, Clay’s purple P-51 and his back seat companion, “Snoopy,” caught the interest of America’s new air race fans. His presence on the air race scene found him not only a competitor but also a spokesman for the pilots whereby he pioneered the formation of the first Professional Race Pilots Association. For several years, he was a constant competitor and promoter of air racing. He once flew a DC-7 with Allen Paulson in a 1,000-mile pylon race, finishing ahead of most of the single engine war birds in the event. His colorful air-racing career was highlighted when he and Snoopy captured the Unlimited Air Race Championship in 1970.
In 1968, Clay Lacy established the first executive jet charter service west of the Mississippi, using a leased Learjet. He bought his first Lear in 1970 in 1970, the second Lear aircraft just 3 years later. In 1975 he bought Bill Lear’s own model 25 and since then added another Lear 24 and a Lear 35. His fleet consists of nineteen aircraft including Learjet’s, Gulfstreams, Boeing 727s and business jets (BBJ). Fifteen of these aircraft are used for charter operations. Lacy strives to offer the best possible support and accomodations to the executive traveler. This pilot-entrepreneur is personally involved with all aspects of his operation. All flight crews are trained to the most demanding airline standards, and factory-trained mechanics keep a watch over the fleet.
Clay has also spent a major part of his time as pilot, director and videographer, conducting over 2500 air-to-air photography flights, shooting everything from sequences for Hollywood blockbusters “Top Gun” and “The Right Stuff,” to commercials for the airlines.
The name Clay Lacy appears on many pages of official aviation record books. His most memorable achievement was the 36 hour 54 minute around the world trip in a Boeing 747SP “Friendship One” in January 1988. The trip was made with a passenger manifest of 100 aviation notables and celebrities, which raised over $500,000 for Children’s Charities of the World. In 1995 Clay took his winglet modified Gulfstream GIISP on a record setting flight from Los Angeles to Paris. The flight culminated in placing the record-holding GIISP on display at the 1995 Paris Air Show.
Clay Lacy carries under his belt almost 50,000 hours of flight time, more flying hours in jets than any human on the planet! To place this accumulation of flight time in perspective, it would take over five years of non-stop gear-up to touch down flying to equal this accomplishment. He has devoted his lifelong efforts to airplanes and the aviation industry, and over the years he has set many marks in private, military, air race, airline and experimental flying. This pilot’s pilot-airline captain, air-race pilot, Air National Guard fighter jock, cinematographer and FBO entrepreneur is the catalyst behind Clay Lacy Aviation.