Leonard Milholland’s History and Bio Information…
A Bit of History and a Little Perspective
When giving a lecture at Oshkosh in 2002, Leonard was asked what type of airfoil was used on the Legal Eagle. “LP2,” Leonard answers, “LP2” answers the crowd. Yes, Leonard says “LP2” stands for Lead Pencil #2. A good joke, but to really understand why LP2 works for Leonard, you have to know that he has been at this for a while. In fact, Leonard has about 60 years of experience in drawing lines with a #2 pencil. Leonard Milholland (designer of the Legal Eagle™) at the controls of his first homebuilt Junior Ace, completed in 1974. Leonard was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on July 29th, 1924, and has always been interested in airplanes. But his opportunity to really learn about them started in World War II. Early in 1942, he was assigned to Goodfellow Field in San Angelo, Texas. Interestingly enough, at about the same time this picture was taken 60 years ago, Leonard met his wife, LaVerne! They were married in June 1943. The US Army Air Corp trained Leonard as an aircraft mechanic, crew member, and gunner on a B24.
Leonard could field strip a fifty-caliber machine gun, but it never did him any good. Not the same can be said for his mechanical abilities, which were put to good use throughout the war. Here, we see Leonard inspecting a B24 engine at David, Panama, in the canal zone. Naturally, during the war, Leonard got to do some flying, fulfilling those boyhood dreams when watching barnstormers in Kansas City. After the war, Leonard returned to the states and worked 33 years for Shell Oil. But life on the wing didn’t start again until 1970. That is when he and LaVerne started flying lessons. They took to it as chicks pushed from the nest. Sports Flyer Estates in Brookshire, TX (west of Katy, TX) is their home base, and they live in a 60 by 80 hangar that they built, complete with a 2-bedroom apartment built into one end. After earning their pilot’s licenses, Leonard and LaVerne started getting around in a newly purchased Cessna 182. They began to attend airshows, getting to know flying enthusiasts who restore or build their airplanes or home built. We decided we wanted a fun little airplane, said Leonard; I picked out a simple design that was tried and true and started building it in our garage in Deer Park. TX. This is the same garage that Leonard had worked in for years as a VW and auto mechanic for the local community. The skills Leonard gained really came in handy when designing the Better Half VW. The garage became his haunt after work and on weekends. He bought aircraft-grade spruce and mahogany and cut all the pieces himself. He fashioned the fuselage from steel tubing, and slowly the Junior Ace, N20LM, metamorphosed from a stack of wood spars, yards of fabric, and an assemblage of wires and gadgets into a spirited open cockpit airplane. This first home built took two years, four months, and 20 days.
During the plane’s construction, the Milhollands started thinking about the need for an airplane hangar. To cut costs, they decided they’d build it themselves. Naturally, their ideas about what they wanted to do in retirement were also a consideration, causing the addition of the apartment in the hangar. Here, we see Leonard and LaVerne photographed on the sun porch for a feature story that Shell did on them in 1987. The photo directly below is also credited to the Shell story. Leonard in his hangar workshop in 1987. Naturally, the hangar is fully equipped to build small airplanes and do the little odds and ends that Leonard tackles for his EAA chapter. They also have most of their meetings here. Leonard also has built several other homebuilt, including a guppy, a baby ace, and a Kelly-D.