2023 Gala Honoree – Vicky Benzing

Vicky Benzing

Vicky Benzing’s love for flying began as a child in Watsonville when she flew with her uncle in his plane. She discovered a passion for skydiving in college and shortly after informed her parents she wanted to be a pilot. She then began learning to fly in a family friend’s 1940 Taylorcraft.

Vicky Benzing’s talents spread across the aviation spectrum; she is an accomplished pilot, skydiver, air racer, and aerobatic performer. Her appreciation for all things aviation is shown not only through her diverse talents but also through the aircraft she performs at shows around the country. She flies her powerhouse vintage 1940 Boeing Super Stearman aerobatic biplane and her unlimited aerobatic airplane, a candy-colored Extra 300S.

Vicky began her aerobatic training in 2005 under air show legend Wayne Handley, but her aviation career extends far beyond that. She has been flying for more than 30 years and holds an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, as well as commercial ratings in helicopters, seaplanes, and gliders.

Aside from performing around the country, Benzing is also a fearless air racer. In 2015 at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, Benzing was named the fastest woman in the history of the races, flying at a speed of over 469 mph around 50 feet off the ground.

“It’s really cool to be able to earn the respect of the other racers. I do it because I enjoy the camaraderie and being part of such a historic event,” she said of the championship races.

When talking about doing an airshow performance with her vintage Stearman, she has said, “I do stunts similar to what the WWII cadets would have done when they were learning aerial maneuvers, things like loops and rolls and hammerheads,” Benzing said. “I perform right at show center, right in front of the audience, down low, with lots of noise and smoke.”

When commenting about her life of flying, Vicky has said, “It was love at first flight, let me tell you. It’s been a passion throughout my whole life.”