Legal Eagle: 25 Years & Counting

The Legal Eagle is celebrating its 25th year at AirVenture.
Conventional controls make the Legal Eagle familiar to experienced E-AB pilots and provide good training to up-and-coming bird men. This is B-747 instrumentation in a Legal Eagle, none of which will intrude on your Garmin budget. Think kitchen timer and oil pressure gauge, plus an iPhone for navigation.

A quarter century is plenty long to be championing a homebuilt airplane, but for Leonard Milholland of Brookshire, Texas it might not seem all that long as he’s 95 years old this year and still putting out the Legal Eagle.

Well, he’s putting out the plans for the Legal Eagle and you do the rest. But the rest is not all that much and fun besides. That’s because the Legal Eagle is one of those barely-there ultralights ideal for 20 minutes of sunset or dawn flying.

A bit of welding to put the three-longeron fuselage together, a minimum of rag work—just the wing and tail surfaces—then hang a touch of horsepower on the nose and you’re flying. You don’t even need brakes.

A variety of small engines fit the Legal Eagle. Les Holman’s uses 22hp worth of Briggs & Stratton to make aviation. Half-VW’s are also a good fit.

Post-building maintenance is a snap because everything is out in the open. There’s really no such thing as opening the airframe because all the controls are already standing outside, including the non-cowled engine.

A belt drive and wooden propeller offer low-cost thrust. These mufflers look like they were stolen off Gravely Model L garden tractors (great tractors).

At AirVenture Milholland was holding court in the shade under the wing of Les Homan’s Legal Eagle XL (for us big guys). Turns out Les is the same Homan who used to own Starduster Corporation (now owned by Aircraft Spruce) and he’s put a satisfying 675 hours on his Legal Eagle. Those hours include puttering between the buttes in Monument Valley, low and slow along the Oregon coast and over Kitty Hawk. And no, with a cruise speed of 48 to 50 mph Les didn’t fly his Legal Eagle to all those places—it got there in a trailer—but rather flew over those places once he got there.

Les, who should know after his Starduster experience, says the Legal Eagle, “is forgiving to build and forgiving to fly… You buy the plans and build it one piece at a time.” And we’ll observe there just aren’t that many pieces. He says a fair number of RV builders have bought Legal Eagle plans to address their post-RV construction blues.

To save weight the aft fuselage sports just three longerons and goes through life naked. That sure makes it easy to find an antenna mount or tie-down point.
Don’t ask if it’s adjustable or where the baggage compartment is.

Les took some of the dihedral out that the plans call for to make it more responsive and reports his plane has good control feel; you can tell he’s enjoyed it. Naturally he flies it pretty low and for sure slow and says that with such casual velocity you typically end up re-covering much of the same ground, but you’re going so slow and have such good visibility that you see something new on every flight.

Given the ever-rising cost of conventional kitplanes we think the Legal Eagle is just the sort of grassroots, affordable flyer young people could afford as they begin their kitplane journey.



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