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The Ultralight Place

By Frank "Woof" Beagle

Frank Beagle
Ultralight pioneer Frank Beagle

The Ultralight Place, located at the Greater Kankakee Airport in Kankakee, Illinois, is one of my favorite places to visit. The owner is Jim Leon, who has many titles for himself and his business including the first ever FAA light-sport repair station, authorized Rotax repair center, FAA Designated Airworthiness Representative for ASEL, WSC, and PPCL, designated pilot and instructor examiner for ASEL and PPCL aircraft, certificated flight instructor in ASEL and PPCL aircraft, and FAA Safety Counselor. In 2003, Jim was also one of the only ultralight flight instructors to receive the master flight instructor rating from the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI). To put the master flight instructor rating in perspective, out of approximately 80,000 flight instructors in the United States, there are currently fewer than 200 that hold this prestigious title. The national accreditation is recognized by the FAA and is earned through a process of continuing professional activity and peer review. NAFI was established in 1967 and became an affiliate of EAA in 1995.

Jim Leon
Jim Leon, owner of The Ultralight Place, CFI - ASEL and PPCL,  DPI/DPIE

Jim began flying powered parachutes in 1995 and started his business instructing and working on Rotax engines in 1996. He later included fixed wing training in a two-place Flightstar. By the way, Jim is the only person that I’ve ever let work on my engines. Anyone you talk to who has had work done at The Ultralight Place will tell you that only the best work comes from this fixed base operation (FBO). Jim estimates he has overhauled more than 300 Rotax engines.

Ultralight Place
The Ultralight Place at Greater Kankakee Airport

Jim’s FBO, located near the approach end of runway 4, is easy to get to by landing on the 6,000-foot hard surface runway or the parallel 1,400-foot grass runway where The Ultralight Place holds its annual fly-in each year in conjunction with EAA Chapter 1159. The 2010 fly-in will be held July 9 to 11. Camping is available, and Jim says, “Our world famous chef will again be preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” You can go to this link for more information on this great fly-in. If flying in, keep your eyes and ears open, as the airport experiences a wide variety of traffic.

Heavy and light
The mix of traffic at Greater Kankakee Airport

The Ultralight Place has designed and sold a number of air-steering control systems used on powered parachutes for paraplegics who don’t have the strength in their legs to steer the aircraft in flight, a louver system for the liquid-cooled engines that controls air flow through the radiator, and a single-stick control for powered parachutes. The FBO is an authorized dealer for the Powrachute line of ultralight and light-sport aircraft powered parachutes.

Hoot Gibson
Astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson in the Ultralight Place club car

If you would like to read about my experience getting my sport pilot ticket from Jim, please go to my blog, www.FrankBeagle.blogspot.com. When I was asked to write something up about The Ultralight Place, I was happy to do so, just to let people know what I’ve known for many years.

Frank Beagle began flying ultralights in the early ’70s. He was one of the earliest ultralight pioneers in Illinois. He has worked as an Oshkosh volunteer for 29 years, much of that as the flightline announcer on the ultralight runway. Through his knowledge of the sport and its participants, he became the “voice of ultralights” at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh for over two decades.

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