Wichita native and aviation legend Clay Lacy entertained a capacity audience in Wichita with a few stories from his long career. Yeah we know. Legend is overused. Tiresome. Sometimes, though, no other description will do. See if you don’t agree.

  • The world’s top aerial cinematographer
  • Nearly 50,000 flight hours in 50-plus years
  • A commercial pilot for more than 40 years
  • Type-rated in 30 aircraft, from helicopters to 747s
  • One of the first pilots type-rated in Learjets
  • Owner of one of the nation’s top jet charter firms
  • Pilot for celebrities and presidents
  • Still flying at age 75

We could go on. But you get the idea. World-renowned (we resisted the temptation to say “legendary,” but we could make the case) air-to-air photographer Paul Bowen chatted with Lacy for the benefit of an appreciative crowd at Wichita State University, eliciting a number of nuggets from among Lacy’s endless trove of aviation tales.

WSU’s Ulrich Museum of Art brought the two together to discuss the art of aviation as part of an exhibit, “Aircraft: The Jet as Art.” Lacy said when he first was contacted, he wasn’t sure that he knew much about aviation art. But the more he thought about it, he said, the more he realized that, “I think airplanes are art. I think that airplanes in flight – all of them – are absolutely beautiful. I’ve seen more of them in flight than anyone ever, and I still love them.”

Then Lacy showed two short films, one showcasing his air-to-air cinematography and one covering a few highlights of his life in aviation. They erased any doubt about whether airplanes constitute art or whether Lacy is an artist of the first order. Bowen described the complex choreography and precision flying required for one of Lacy’s photo shoots as an aerial ballet. We think that’s a perfect description.

Sonia, who serves on the Ulrich board and knows more than a few aviation luminaries, finds new inspiration each time she hears the words of masters such as Lacy and Bowen. “Aircraft are the perfect expression of function driving elegant form. Clay’s cinematography, like a Paul Bowen photograph, is truly breathtaking. Graceful. Fluid. It’s such a privilege to hear these men in person, talking about their lives and their work. It’s one of the real advantages of living in the Air Capital.”