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A Day in the Life of an Airplane Designer

By Leonard Milholland

Leonard Milholland
Leonard Milholland at the controls of his first homebuilt, a Junior Ace completed in 1974

Editor’s note: We should pray that we’ll all be as active and productive as Leonard Milholland, the designer of the Legal Eagle ultralight and Better Half VW engine conversion, when we are 85 years young. Leonard sent Light Plane World this diary of a typical day.

 

6:00 a.m.    

Wake up – the biological clock is working right today.
Woke up at the time I wanted to.

6:20 a.m.     

Leave the bathroom and eat breakfast.

7:15 a.m.      

Leave to walk in local mall. Call Earl, my cousin, and say I’m leaving.

7:40 a.m.     

Arrive at mall and meet Earl as he is usually waiting. Earl and I have been close all of our lives. He is 84 and I am 85 years young.

8:30 a.m.     

Leave the mall where we have walked three miles.

8:50 a.m.     

Arrive at Hard Times Bar-B-Q. Drink two cups of coffee and help solve all the world’s problems and cuss all the politicians. Continue to shoot  the bull until 9:30 a.m.

9:40 a.m.     

Arrive back at our hangar home and return three calls left on our voice mail. The first caller wants to buy plans with a credit card. I tell him that I do not take credit cards but to just send a check or money order,  and I will get his order right out to him when I receive payment. The second one wants to ask questions about the new Legal Eagle XL. I sell him on it and get a promise of a check. The third one is 65 years old and tells me he is too old to build a plane. I say, “Get your butt in the shop and get busy, because you are just a teenager.”    

10:00 a.m.

Finally I get in the shop and get to work on my new project. I need to make some drawings of this. If it works on paper, it will work in real  life. Then I try to remember where I left off yesterday. I look for tools  I didn’t take out. I’ve a bad habit of getting a tool out and not putting it back. Then I stop when the pile gets too deep and put tools away so I can find them. I locate everything and make some promising progress. The phone rings – a builder has a question about dimensions he thinks I left off of the plans. I tell him to look at page 60.

11:00 a.m.    

Back to work on the new project. I have good feelings that this is going to work. With no more calls or visitors for a while, I am able to make real progress on an improvement for the Legal Eagle. A lot of builders are going to like this feature, and it will be safer. 

12:00 noon    

Stop work and go to town to mail yesterday’s orders. Pick up two letters about the planes. One has a check for the new XL plane. The other is from a prisoner. He wants information about all three of the planes. Prisoners have lots of time to scan magazines and ask for a  lot of reading material. They never send money, and they all say they are getting out soon. I trash that one. Then I go home and make a sandwich for lunch.

1:45 p.m.       

Back in the shop. Answer call about VW engines which is one of my favorite subjects. I talk too long. Some people limit calls to after 5:00 p.m., but I answer them all day as they come in.

3:00 p.m. 

Have had enough work in the shop to prove that the idea will work. Now I really need to draw it. I will build a new one and make it better looking. 

3:20 p.m.       

Call from builder wanting prices for the kit and welded fuselage. I tell him to call my partner, John Bolding, on the other side of Houston as he handles the kits. And I don’t want to misquote his prices.

4:00 p.m.       

Call from builder who wants to put a 4-cylinder VW engine in the Legal Eagle. I try to talk him out of it but don’t know if I was successful.

4:15 p.m.       

Start cleaning up the shop again as tool pile is getting where I can’t  find what I need to work with. Walk over to Legal Eagle and admire my work as I’m sure it will do the job. I may have to furnish the builders some parts for this one, something I really don’t want to do.  I would rather just furnish the plans and let them scrounge up their own parts. These parts are going to be easy to get all over the country. I even have parts numbered to present. There will be only a small amount of machining and some welding. The owners that   build these planes are going to be able to duplicate this easily.

5:00 p.m.       

I get a call from Steve Kiplinger in California. He’s an early builder and a very good friend. He scans the plans for me and has found an  omission in the XL plans. When you sit in front of a drawing board  for six weeks at a time and only draw two or three pages a day, one can’t see the forest for the trees. Steve and John check plans   for me and keep the errors to a minimum. Donna, my wife of five   years now (time flies), keeps the grammar correct in the instructions.  All have been most helpful and make me look much better than I  ever could by myself.

5:30 p.m.     

Donna returns from work. I stop to greet her; I start to close the shop for the day.

6:30 p.m.     

 Eat dinner and watch Wheel of Fortune.

7:00 p.m.     

After dinner I go upstairs to open my computer and check my e-mail. There are 28 messages, 5 or 6 good ones, and the rest are junk. I am  thankful for the delete button. I fill the order that I received today and get it ready to mail. Donna makes the sales receipt and makes sure  I put everything in for the order. She is a real catch for this old geezer.   I notice the Double Eagle plans stack is also low, so I get them ready    to print tomorrow. 

7:30 p.m.     

Start drawing the plans for my new project. Feel that I am really making progress now.

8:00 p.m.     

Donna calls me to come downstairs to watch a favorite program. Sit in front of the boob tube until 10 o’clock.

10:00 p.m.   

Get invited to bed. Donna has to work tomorrow and needs her beauty rest. I wait for news to catch up. Nothing earth shaking, just a couple of bad wrecks and two shootings. Off to bed and try to shut off my mind so sleep will come.

 

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