In this episode of Money Tales, our guest is Vicky Benzing. Vicky enjoyed an extremely successful career in tech and then decided to pursue an encore career as a stunt pilot, where she performs heart-stopping moves in airshows across the country. In both careers, she was often one of the only leading women which led to some interesting money stories.
Born and raised in California, Vicky is an accomplished pilot, skydiver, aerobatic performer, and air racer. With over 9000 hours of flight time and over 1300 parachute jumps, Vicky has a passion for everything airborne. Her flying career has spanned nearly forty years and she currently holds an Airline Transport Pilot rating as well as a commercial rating in helicopters, seaplanes, and gliders.
Vicky still remembers her first flight in her uncle’s airplane when she was just a small child. Inspired by that flight at a very young age, Vicky learned to fly in an antique airplane at a small airport on the California coast while working on her PhD in Chemistry from UC Berkeley.
Following obtaining her doctorate, Vicky spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Oregon. During this time Vicky authored over a dozen scientific papers on a novel laser-based technique for analyzing embedded surfaces. Her first job outside of the university environment led her to the semiconductor industry and then later to the semiconductor equipment industry. During her time in the high-tech world, she assumed positions of increasing responsibility including serving as Vice President of Technology for a $2B corporation.
During the 24 years that Vicky worked in the semiconductor industry, Vicky’s passion for flying never waned, and her appetite for spins, loops, and rolls returned when she took an aerobatic flight with air show legend, Wayne Handley. Following that memorable flight, Vicky began aerobatic training in earnest. She competed in aerobatic contests throughout the US, working her way up through the many categories. In between contests, Vicky also began performing in local air shows. In 2012, Vicky fully retired from corporate life to focus solely on her flying interests. Today Vicky holds a surface level aerobatic waiver and has flown air show performances at venues across the United States, including as an invited performer at the greatest airshow in the world, EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI.
In addition to aerobatics, Vicky got the racing bug when a friend invited her to “come play in my sandbox” at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, NV. In her first year of racing, Vicky was chosen as “Rookie of the Year” after having won her first race ever, and in 2015 Vicky became the “Fastest Woman Racer” ever in the history of the Reno Air Races when she qualified an Aero Vodochody jet on the racecourse at 469.831 mph. Vicky currently serves as an officer of Racing Jets Inc.
Vicky has also had the opportunity to work on a number of film, television, and other media projects. Vicky can be seen flying her beautiful Boeing Stearman in the documentary film “Mercury 13” which is currently airing on Netflix. Other film and television projects include episodes of “Ice Pilot” and “NCIS LA,” and extensive stunt work in her Stearman for the short film “Niner Echo Foxtrot.” And now open in Las Vegas NV is the immersive flight- ride experience, “FlyOver Las Vegas – The Real Wild West,” where Vicky can be seen barrel-rolling her red Stearman across the sky.
Vicky’s passion for science, technology and aviation have led her on a winding road throughout her life. She believes that by building her self-confidence and being willing to continually step out of her comfort zone is what has created new opportunities and experiences that have enrichened her life.
You can learn more about Vicky by visiting her website at vickybenzing.com.
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