Clay Lacy will receive NBAA’s Meritorious Service to Aviation Award tonight. The honor is presented annually to an individual who has made significant, identifiable contributions that have materially advanced aviation interests. In announcing Lacy’s award (along with Don Spruston being honored with the Doswell Award for lifelong individual achievement in business aviation), NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen said, “NBAA is proud to recognize these two outstanding leaders in the business aviation community for their lifelong service and invaluable contributions to the industry.”
Lacy’s varied aviation career has ranged from serving as a U.S. Air Force pilot to flying as an airline pilot and national air racer to heading an FBO as CEO and finally “going Hollywood” as a movie director. He attended his first NBAA convention in 1958.
A native of Wichita, Lacy had his first flight “at the age of seven; then,” he said, “at 12, I started working at Cannonball Airport receiving flight time for pay.”
In 1952 he flew for United Airlines as a copilot on Douglas DC-3s, taking military leave to attend U.S. Air Force pilot training. After returning to United he continued flying with the California Air National Guard.
From 1956 to 1964 he was in charge of flight operations for California Airmotive, which operated Beech 18s, DC-3s, Martin 404s, Convair 240s, Learstars and de Havilland Doves. He subsequently became a manager of Learjet sales for California Airmotive, which was the Learjet distributor in the western U.S. He based the first business jet at Van Nuys (Calif.) Airport and was one of the first pilots type-rated in the Learjet.
In 1968, Lacy established the first jet charter service west of the Mississippi River, at Van Nuys. He now owns Clay Lacy Aviation, a full-service FBO with a Part 135 charter and aircraft management operation with a fleet of 65 jets, including Learjets, Gulfstreams and Boeing Business Jets. The company, based at Van Nuys, has approximately 90 pilots and a total of 230 employees.
Flying a P-51 Mustang, Lacy won the 1970 Reno unlimited pylon race, becoming the national champion. He went on to win numerous other races. In 1988, he set an around-the-world speed record in a United Boeing 747 SP, raising $530,000 for children’s charities.
With his exclusive Astrovision-equipped Learjets, Lacy has shot video footage for nearly every airline commercial and for the aircraft industry and U.S. military. A member of the Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild of America, Lacy has participated in aerial scenes for dozens of movies including Capricorn One, The Island, Top Gun and The Right Stuff.
Lacy has flown more than 200 different aircraft and he holds an ATP certificate endorsed with 32 type ratings. He is rated in helicopters, seaplanes and holds flight instructor and flight engineer certificates. Last year Lacy was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame, he received a Pathfinder Award at the Seattle Museum of Flight and was awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Certificate by the FAA.
Asked his favorite corporate airplane to fly, he told AIN: “I like them all, but Gulfstreams and Learjets are high on my list.”