Experimenter

DEC 2014

Experimenter is a magazine created by EAA for people who build airplanes. We will report on amateur-built aircraft as well as ultralights and other light aircraft.

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10 Vol.3 No.12 / December 2014 LEONARD MILHOLL AND'S LEGAL EAGLE LEONARD MILHOLLAND'S LEGAL EAGLE is a low-cost, plans-built ultralight with a conventional configuration that is designed to be powered with a ½ VW engine. With more than 2,500 sets of plans sold, hundreds of aircraft under construction, and at least 100 airplanes completed since the design was introduced 16 years ago, the Legal Eagle is on its way to becoming the most popular plans-built ultralight. Milholland, of Brookshire, Texas, accomplished several feats with this airplane. First, Leonard showed it was possible to build a satisfac- tory three-axis, fixed-wing ultralight under the 254-pound legal weight limit for ultralights, something that other designers have found difficult. He produced a plans-built design that drastically lowered the cost of an ultralight. With good scrounging and ordinary building skills, a builder could complete a Legal Eagle and have it ready to fly for $5,000, including the engine and prop. The choice of a simple design using long-established construction methods combined with an undeniable cuteness has made the Legal Eagle a hit. Finally, Leonard did it with a four-cycle engine! Many of us had long believed that only a two-cycle engine provided the needed weight-to-power ratio for a successful (and legal) ultralight. Very close attention to weight savings in the air- frame and the engine makes it possible with the Legal Eagle. HIS T OR Y A ND ORIGINS The ability to come up with a successful and popular plans- built ultralight didn't come out of nowhere. Leonard said he was "infected" with aviation even before he saw his first barnstormer at the age of 5 during the Depression. In an EAA Timeless Voices interview , he admits to sneaking into hangars as a boy to sit in airplanes. He was an avid model airplane builder and flier, a hobby he continued into his adult life. The Army Air Corps gave him intensive training in airplane engine mechanics in 1943, and he became a crew chief on BT-13s and B-24s. In 1970 he and his wife took flight training and became pilots, and he discovered EAA in 1972. In 1998, after own- ing and building a number of airplanes, he became con- cerned about his third-class medical and decided to build an ultralight. The airplanes that seemed to have influenced his design were a Corben Junior Ace that he built, which he admired for its use of triangulation, and a Sorrell Guppy powered by a Cushman scooter engine. When the Cushman engine failed and he replaced it with a ½ VW engine built from plans, the seeds were born for the Legal Eagle. The Legal Eagle ultralight draws heavily from other de- signs. Leonard would say he hasn't done anything that hasn't been previously tested. The wing structure was inspired by the well-proven Mini-Max ultralight designed by Wayne Ison. The ribs are ¼-inch spruce with plywood gussets, and the wooden wing spars are the built-up type with spruce caps and a plywood web. The fuselage is mostly welded 5/8-inch 4130 steel tubing. The pop-riveted aluminum tube A pair of Legal Eagle wings ready for cover. The cockpit of Les Homan's Legal Eagle XL reveals minimal instrumentation. Leonard Milholland with his Double Eagle two-place. Photography courtesy of Sam Buchanon and www.BetterHalfVW.com

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