Jack McCornack Joins EAA Ultralight Hall of Fame
Ultralight designer, competition pilot, and humorist Jack McCornack was inducted in the EAA Ultralight Hall of Fame on October 27, 2011. Jack designed and flew his first “powered hang glider” (as ultralights were called back in the day) in 1976. In 1979, Jack and his friend Keith Nicely astounded EAA Oshkosh attendees by flying two Pterodactyl Pfledge ultralights from California to Oshkosh—the first ultralights to fly into Oshkosh from anywhere—and from Oshkosh to Kitty Hawk.
Jack’s designs include the Cuyuna 430 ultralight engine (the industry standard in the early ’80s which he now describes as “a market survey for Rotax”), the Pterodactyl Ascender, and the original Buckeye and Six Chuter powered parachutes. In the 1990s he was America’s top-rated microlight competition pilot, winning two U.S. National Championships and representing the United States in four FAI World Microlight Championships.
Jack had a scheduling conflict, so he asked 30-year veteran AirVenture volunteer and ultralight flightline announcer Frank Beagle to accept the Hall of Fame Award for him. This would make Frank’s association with the Ultralight Hall of Fame complete as he already had the honor of introducing the first three winners, John Moody, Homer Kolb, and Chuck Slusarczyk, many years ago.
Here are the words of Jack’s acceptance speech as spoken by Frank.
[Open paper, clear throat or whatever, and read.]
Hello, I’m Jack McCornack and…thank you…thank you…that’s enough, please…please sit down…thank you…please sit down, all of you, or we’ll be here all night…yes, thank you.
This is a great honor. I’ll keep this brief, but I’d like to thank a few of the people who made it possible. First, Toni James, who is my friend forever and was my wife back in the day, who kept our business on an even keel while I was flitting around in my Pterodactyls shouting, “Look at me, everybody!”
Second, Keith Nicely, who blended his level-headed general aviation skills with his remarkable appetite for adventure by flying coast to coast with me in our two Pterodactyls in 1979, when it was just barely technically possible to pull off a transcontinental passage. Keith’s third flight in an ultralight was our departure from California, headed for Oshkosh, and that took some daring. Seven weeks later, when we landed at Kitty Hawk, he was one of the world’s most experienced ultralight pilots. But his apprenticeship was intense and I tip my hat to him.
Finally, I would like to thank three women of the media: Robyn Sclair, Sharon Wilcox, and our own Mary Jones, who allowed me long editorial leashes when I was writing my adventures for their publications. I doubt I’d have any fame worthy of this hall if they hadn’t let me write my own legend as I went along. Thanks to you all, and thank you, Frank, for reading this with a straight face.
On behalf of my good friend “Papa DAC Jack,” I thank the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Ultralight Hall of Fame, and all of you. – Frank Beagle
See this complete list of Ultralight Hall of Fame inductees.