Legal Eagle Ultralight Birthday.

Celebrating The Legal Eagle’s Silver Anniversary

Celebrating its 25th anniversary at AirVenture Oshkosh 2023 was the Legal Eagle, designed by Leonard Milholland, EAA 72307. The Legal Eagle is a high-wing, semi-open taildragger powered by a 30-hp 1/2 VW engine that embraces and embodies the idea of back-to-basics flight. It is fully Part 103 compliant and is available as a kit or can be scratch-built from plans.
“I wanted an ultralight, but I didn’t want an armchair, lawn chair-type ultralight,” Leonard said of his inspiration for the design. “I wanted something that looked like an airplane, so I started drawing and sketching, and I came up with this design. Triangle-shaped fuse- lage for lightness and very light wood wing and light covering. And I already had a 1/2 VW engine that I thought would work. I wasn’t sure I could make it work, but I was very carefully calculating everything. I came in 10 pounds under the legal limit. That lets the builders have 10 pounds to play with, but they must be very careful because they can get it overweight. Anyway, I wanted something that looks like an airplane.” Leonard wasn’t sure of the exact number of Legal Eagles that have been built in the past 25 years, estimating between 400 and 500. He often gets folks contacting him from various corners of the planet.

“I’ve got them all over the world. I recently got a picture from somewhere in Russia with a Legal Eagle sitting out there in the middle of a desert someplace, and he slipped one in on them,” Leonard said. “Anyway, it’s not unusual at all for once a week I get somebody telling me they just finished a first flight and they’re happy with it. It’s been a real success. I didn’t really build it for everybody else, but I put a picture in EAA’s magazine of a completed project, and my phone rang off the wall for months. People wanted the plans. And, so, I had to sit down and draw the plans. I had sketches, but I didn’t have plans. And drawing plans from an airplane that’s already flying is quite a job. My friend had to do it years ago, and they came out okay. And people can build from them. And if I get any complaints, I just tell them, ‘Well, a lot of people build them from those plans.’ … There’s not much money in plans, but I’ve met many wonderful people. Made a lot of friends. That’s my reward.”

Les Homan, EAA 1063924, brought his Legal Eagle XL to AirVenture 2023, having finished it in 2012. He’s Hown about 675 hours in it and has had three different engines on the machine, currently using a Briggs & Stratton. “It flies exactly like a regular airplane,” Les said. “The only difference between this airplane and a Citabria [or] Decathlon, anything I’ve ever flown, is because it’s a Part 103; it’s light. You’re under 254 pounds, and when you come in to land, you want to fly it to the ground until you get to know it before you pull the power off. If you’re 10 feet in the air, pulling the power off and expecting it to continue gliding, it stops at that point because the prop is a big brake.

“It’s real easy to learn the tailwheel side on a normal situation with the 1/2 VW,” he said. “You end up getting off the ground in about 150 feet. So, when you go to take off, by the time you get the thing to the firewall, it isn’t very long until the tail comes up; you’re flying. When you come in to land, it’s a little bit more tricky. But I’ve always liked to do wheel landings, so I fly it down. My goal is to be just above the stall, get the wheels on the ground, pull the power off, [stopping] in typically about 150 to 200 feet.”