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Ramblings of an Airplane Nut

By Leonard Milholland, EAA 72307

Leonard Milholland

In 1970 I started flying legally, and that was when I met Spud Miller. He was running a fixed-base operation in La Porte, Texas. Spud’s EAA number was 76; through him I got to know about EAA. Spud was a true airplane nut, and he practically lived at the airport. Spud’s wife would bring his dinner to the airport so he could stay there. My instructor was Jonnie Hartso. Besides me, Jonnie was also teaching Mickey Gilley. Mickey is a famous singer now. Back then he was another student to me, and he was a nice guy.

Spud was a source of information and seemed to have an unlimited knowledge about airplanes. He had the same love for airplanes that I did, and we got along very good. After a flying lesson, I would hang around the office and talk airplanes. One of these times, Spud told me about a fly-in at Georgetown, Texas. It was the first Southwest Regional Fly-In and I drove up to Georgetown to see what a fly-in was all about and I was hooked. The fly-in was great. I slept in my truck that night but didn’t get to sleep late, as some guy got up early and buzzed the field until he woke everyone. I found him and thanked him for the wake-up call. I discovered his name was Ray Hegy. He had a little red biplane with not much of a muffler. No one got to sleep late when Ray attended a fly-in.

After the Georgetown fly-in, I decided to build a plane. My wife and I wanted side-by-side seating and an open cockpit, so that narrowed it to a few choices. We picked a Junior Ace as the plane. It had only one wood wing and was rag and tube. It took two years, four months, and 21 days until the first flight. Tony’s articles in EAA Sport Aviation were a great help. They seemed to be just about what I needed every month. Before then, I had joined EAA and gained the number 72307. Spud had built me a beautiful running engine. The first day I flew the plane, I took to the air six times with no trouble and very little changes needed.

My wife and I flew the plane to EAA Oshkosh 1974 in only 14 hours. Being a new EAA member and approaching Whitman Field while looking over the nose of this plane we had built was a real thrill. Oshkosh was wonderful; I wore out a pair of socks the first day. We stayed at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. The next morning, we stood in the street waiting for a bus to the field when some kind soul stopped his car and offered us a ride. “Where do you want to go?” he said. “I have a pass and I can take you.” We elected to go to the T-18s, as it was a new plane we wanted to see. The man took us right out among the planes, and as we departed the car, he said, “My name is Paul Poberezny. Enjoy the fly-in.” This was my official introduction to EAA.

Leonard Milholland designed the Legal Eagle ultralight and the Better Half VW engine conversion. www.BetterHalfVW.com

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