American Aerolights Double Eagle

Display Status:

This object is on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Collection Item Summary:

This is the first known ultralight aircraft employed by a police force. The Monterey Park, California, Police Department first flew this airplane on September 2, 1982, and it quickly became a valuable asset to police work. However, the powerplant proved fragile and Lt. Joe Santoro, project manager, grounded the Eagle after seven engine failures in six months. Santoro continued to believe in the basic concept and experimented with several other types of ultralight aircraft. "Our hilly terrain and lack of appropriate forced landing sites do not allow a viable program in this community," Santoro said after grounding the Eagle, "but the concept is good." The National Air and Space Museum also displays another ultralight flown by Monterey Park police officers, an improved and more reliable twin-engine Ultraflight Lazair SS EC.

Collection Item Long Description:

Larry Newman founded American Aerolights in 1979, a year after he, Ben Abruzzo, and Maxie Anderson crewed the first balloon to cross the Atlantic Ocean (see Double Eagle II, also in the NASM collection). Newman built and flew the first Eagle ultralight in 1980. A simple, low-powered beginner's machine was his primary design goal and he aimed squarely at the market for trainers that permitted experienced hang glider pilots to transition safely and economically to powered ultralights. He designed a flight control system that combined techniques found in both hang gliders and some motorized ultralights. The pilot sat in a swing-seat for weight-shift pitch control (the standard hang glider control arrangement) and he or she moved a tiller bar to control yaw.

Newman equipped the first Eagles that he sold with Soarmaster power packs, a device that propelled a number of motorized hang gliders but the Soarmaster did not provide enough power an ultralight such as the Eagle. Eventually a variety of other engines drove Eagles but one type originally built to power industrial-strength, timber-felling chainsaws, the Cuyuna 430RR, powered the modified Double Eagle bought by the Monterey Park, California, Police Dept. To handle the rigors of law enforcement aviation, American Aerolights installed a single seat on the production Double Eagle airframe and they used a stronger airframe and more powerful engine than those that equipped the standard single-seat Eagle.

This modified Double Eagle became the first known ultralight aircraft operated by a police force. Officers flew the airplane first on September 2, 1982, and it quickly became a valuable asset to police work. However, the engine proved fragile and Lt. Joe Santoro, project manager, grounded the Eagle after seven engine failures in six months. Santoro continued to believe in the basic concept and experimented with several other types of ultralight aircraft. "Our hilly terrain and lack of appropriate forced landing sites do not allow a viable program in this community," Santoro said after grounding the Eagle, "but the concept is good." The National Air and Space Museum also displays the second type of ultralight operated by Monterey Park police officers, an improved and more reliable twin-engine, Ultraflight Lazair SS EC. The Monterey Park City Council generously donated the Double Eagle to NASM on March 22, 1985.