VICKY BENZING – Ph.D. TURNED AIRSHOW PILOT
“I fell in love with the sky at an early age” Vicky shares. A woman of many talents, Vicky Benzing doesn’t seem to do anything halfway. An accomplished pilot, skydiver, aerobatic competitor, airshow performer and champion air racer – she’s a true Super Hero!
“I took my first flight in a Pitts Special when I was around 5 years old. I remember looking down and wondering if those were toy or real houses we were flying over.” In 1982, she learned to fly in a 1941 Taylorcraft and it changed her life forever. “During my private pilot training my instructor even let me do rolls, loops and spins – I was thrilled and hooked for life.”
Vicky grew up in a science and aviation family in her hometown of Watsonville, California. Her father was an electrical engineer who taught her how to work on engines. A self-described ‘nerd’ she understood clearly the relationship between STEM and aviation, leading her to pursue a Doctorate in Physical Chemistry from UC Berkeley. She had a successful 25-year career in the Silicon Valley high-tech industry, but decided to retire, trading income for experiences and doing full-time what she truly loves most…flying.
In 2005, Vicky began serious aerobatic training and competitions. In between competitions she performed at local Airshows, she has performed at more than 200 Airshows, including Oshkosh. Vicky is an accomplished pilot with more than 8,000 hours of flight time in everything from gliders to seaplanes to helicopters and jets.
She also performs in a variety of aircraft; including her beautiful red Stearman! It was love at first sight when Vicky saw the big machine and after some effort, she convinced the owner to sell the magnificent 1940 Boeing PT-17 Stearman. Her beloved Stearman is outfitted with a powerful 450HP Pratt & Whitney R985 engine, just like the WWII pilots trained in. She delivers an aggressive barnstorming aerial performance that includes loops, rolls, hammerheads, Cuban eights; allowing you to feel the raw power of this remarkable aircraft right in the center of your chest.
Adding to her flying resume, Vicky can be seen flying in the new movie “Mercury 13” which is currently on Netflix. “Mercury 13” is the story of the 13 women who trained to be astronauts during the Mercury 7 program. Vicky flies her beautiful Stearman as the stunt double for Wally Funk, one of the original Mercury 13 women who is featured in the film.
When asked why she chose this path? “I like the camaraderie of airshows, the people and the opportunity to be a role model for young people. The best thing about airshows is meeting and talking to the kids – I’m so lucky to be doing this. I’ve been passionate about flying my entire life – I love to share the thrill and adventure. Planes are like magic carpets, they can take you anywhere you want to go, faster than you can imagine.”
Photo Credit: Allen Ball
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