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Vicky Benzing Debuts “Plum Crazy,” Iconic Purple P51 Mustang, at Final Reno Air Races

Air racer and aerobatic pilot Vicky Benzing will debut “Plum Crazy” at the final National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada this September, an iconic purple P51 Mustang with a rich history in air races and shows across the country.

From a WWII military fighter to the 1970 National Air Race Champion to a full restoration in its original racing livery, “Plum Crazy” maintains a long-lasting legacy and introduces the purple Mustang to a whole new generation of aviators.



Built shortly before the end of WWII, the aircraft was converted from a military fighter to a civilian airplane and eventually found a home with owner Al Paulsen at Burbank Airport, California in 1964. Paulsen had purchased the airplane for his friend and United Airlines pilot Clay Lacy to race in the inaugural Reno Air Races. 

Al painted the Mustang (N64CL) in its now widely recognizable purple colors after he was shipped 1,500 gallons of purple paint by mistake.

Clay campaigned the airplane at Reno from 1964 to 1972, winning the National Championship in 1970. Clay purchased the aircraft in 1967 from Al and flew many air races and attended many air shows as “Miss Van Nuys” across the U.S. 

The ‘Purple Mustang’ would become an iconic fixture in the warbird community.

The great Bob Hoover once flew this airplane when his own Mustang was inoperative, and the air racer even starred in an episode of the television classic “Magnum PI.”


Next Generation

Clay sold his beloved Mustang to his friend Vicky Benzing in 2019. Vicky brought it to Reno that same year as a static display after which the aircraft underwent a four-year restoration under the expert guidance of Steve Hinton Jr. at Fighter Rebuilders of world-famous Planes of Fame in Chino, California. 

Completely restored, repainted, and with a freshly overhauled engine, Vicky plans to race the historic P51 Mustang in the Unlimited Class at the final National Championship Air Races on September 13-17, 2023 in Reno, Nevada. 

An accomplished pilot, skydiver, aerobatic performer, and air racer with nearly 10,000 hours of flight time and over 1,300 parachute jumps, Vicky was chosen as “Rookie of the Year” in 2010 after having won her first ever air race and became the “Fastest Woman Racer” in the history of the Reno Air Races in 2015.

She loves to share her passion for aviation with others. She has been a crowd favorite in air shows with her 1940 Boeing Stearman performance, an aerial display of power and grace in the spirit of vintage barnstorming. 

Now ready for flight, she’ll also add “Plum Crazy” to air show line-ups across the country.


Vicky Benzing and California Aeronautical University team up  

A highly educated aviator with a PhD in Chemistry, Vicky is a strong proponent of pursuing an aviation education. She’s teamed up with California Aeronautical University (CAU) to help inspire the next generation of aviators. 

As partners in aviation, Vicky and CAU will appear together at air shows to help expose more young people to the aviation world and to the possibility of starting an aviation career. 

The University is proud to support Vicky and help maintain this historic legacy.


About California Aeronautical University

California Aeronautical University (CAU) is preparing the next generation of aviation professionals. Serving students from all over the country, the University offers career-focused programs in aviation, aviation business, and aircraft maintenance. With on-airport locations throughout California and in Arizona, CAU courses are delivered in a year-round, fast-paced schedule that enables students to enter the pipeline for aviation careers in a shorter amount of time. Through the University’s strong partnerships with airlines, influential aviation organizations, and leaders in the aviation community, CAU graduates become a part of a larger aviation network and reap the benefits of these relationships, including direct access to several airline cadet programs. The University offers financial aid, scholarships, and veteran educational benefits to those who qualify. 

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