VG-21 Squadron





ISSUE # 24

NEWS: The last newsletter had so many "For Sale" ads that I didn't have room for much of what I had to report while still trying to keep it down to about 10 pages. I also didn't include Maintenance Item #18 (Landing Gear) with the last newsletter as I said I would and I apologize for that. I try to spend more time on it and get it to you next time. Scott Patterson sold his airplane to Ricky and Susan Phillips and has traded up (down?) to a Yak 52 to satisfy his ex-fighter pilot urges.


Copperstate Fly-In: 7 Vargas and 1 Shinn made it to this event. Lee and Pat Beery, Del Lutz, Floyd and Joyce Blankenbaker and Max Bishop flew in on Thursday. Roger Harris's (formerly John Vance's) airplane was also there but we never saw it's owner. Ed Brannon hasn't found his Varga yet but he was there with his family to enjoy the event. Dave Wells, new member Hellen Beulen (who bought Jim Moyle's Shinn), and George Geottl and friend Jennifer flew in for the day on Saturday. At 98 degrees every day, the weather was about 10 degrees higher than usual for this time of year in Phoenix so it was a little warm, but there seemed to be more than 200 airplanes on the flight line with lots of variety in aircraft types. I attempted to host a Squadron get-together on Saturday but I didn't plan very well so we ended up just swapping war stories for an hour or so. I really enjoyed listening and talking to everyone there and hope we can repeat the occasion in the near future. I will try to be better organized for the next Squadron meeting. Many thanks to all who made it and to friend and airplane partner Steve Marinella of AeroSpec who provided us with food, drink and much needed shade for the entire event. I've already gotten a letter from Del Lutz who sent some photos (I forgot my camera) and said he had a good flight back to Dallas.

Cactus Fly-In: This 38th annual antique aircraft event is held on March 1, 2 & 3, 1996 at Casa Grande, Arizona. I will be there all day on the 2nd and hope to see some of you there. Call me if you plan to be there too.

VG-21 Fly-In: On Saturday, April 13, 1996 I plan to have a get-together in the park near my hanger (A9) at Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona. I plan to grill hamburgers and hot dogs and provide soft drinks and coffee for those who can make it. I'll start the festivities at noon with a maintenance seminar and question and answer session after we eat. The Champlin Air Museum and a Confederate Air Force hanger are also nearby if you want to come early and look around. Please let me know if you think you can be there.


Ken Bunker still has his airplane for sale at $34,500. (408)248-6932

Pat Baylor's airplane is still for sale at $35,000. (817)246-4760

Roger Harris has his Varga (formerly John Vance's airplane) for sale at $40,000. Call Doug Donaldson for details at (602)866-3737.

George Geottl has his Model 2180 for sale for $45,000. (602)253-9577



VG-21 Membership: A $20 annual donation will cover all the printing and mailing costs for at least four issues a year and will help pay for return phone calls, letters and postage when you have questions or comments that require a quick or personal response. Old VG-21 Newsletters: $10 covers most of the printing and mailing costs.

The new owners if Varga 2150A, N4614V have moved and their new address is:

Ricky and Susan Phillips

1516 Blind Brook Lane

Vestavia, AL 35216-3305

Mark Palesh sold his Varga 2150A, N8288J to new member Tim Williams at:

Tim Williams

10234 N. Oak Creek

Highland, UT 84003

(801)756-6531 Home

(801)274-0506 Work


If any of you have anything that you would like to pass along to other Varga owners, I would be glad to include that information in future newsletters. It can be a story about an interesting flight or person, a personal observation about Vargas or other airplanes (perhaps relative to, or in comparison with, a Varga), a local event or place of interest to you, airplane related humor or just something you just want to get off your chest.

In response to my query about taildragger conversions, I was expecting a few positive comments (or no comments at all) from people about why they'd like to convert their airplanes to taildraggers but, I was surprised by a post card from Del Lutz that said as follows:

"Convert to taildragger. NO!

1. I like the CG where it is-no ground loops!

2. Better visibility when landing and taxiing.

3. Better cross wind landing control.

4. Who the hell wants a 1930 landing gear config.-???

Thanks anyway - Del"

Actually, even though I own a taildragger, I agree with Del. As an engineer, although I think it looks better as a taildragger, it doesn't seem make much sense to design and build something that is harder to use.

On the other hand, David Brown said, in part,

"... I've finally got my Varga. But there's still some emptiness in joy... it's not a taildragger. If cost were no consideration it would be done in a heartbeat. You ask why... I guess I fly to be challenged, and, simply tail wheels are a bit more to handle. You don't drive 'em around on the ground, you stay sharp, alert, makes one behave more like a pilot."

I asked Loren Perry if he would be willing to make and sell taildragger parts or installations and he said not for at least a year or more.

Loren and I also talked a little about market conditions for producing the airplane but I really didn't know what to say at the time. While attending the Copperstate Fly-In I got a chance to look at the new VanGrunsven RV-8, a new, larger version of the very popular RV-4. Having had a chance to fly Jim Moyle's RV-4 from the back seat, I can tell you from a little experience and conversations with RV-4 owners who have flown a Varga that their flying qualities are very similar but, as you may know, the RV-4 is much faster. The RV-4's biggest shortcoming is cockpit space. Although the front seat is not too bad and can accommodate fairly tall pilots, rear seat space and storage area is very limited. I've been told that heavy passengers can also create a CG problem in some RV-4's. The RV-8 appears to have solved all of those problems without seriously affecting it's other excellent flight characteristics. The RV series of airplanes are also capable of spins and some aerobatics. The only things left that might make the RV-8 less desirable than a Varga are that you have to build it yourself, it isn't currently available with tricycle gear and the fact that it is experimental and it can't be flown for rent or for hire.

The point of this one sided conversation is that if VanGrunsven now has over 1000 of his kit airplanes flying and if he chooses to certify his side-by-side RV-6 and tandem RV-6A, and his tandem RV-8 (and RV-8A?), he may be in a better position to take up the market for all metal two place airplanes than Loren Perry will ever be. VanGrunsven is, by now, a very skilled and experienced aircraft producer and marketer and, if willing to put up with FAA certification and production hassles, could probably start production within a year of his decision to do so. Although the Varga is certified, it needs several changes to bring it's performance up to date (closer to the RV) and Loren Perry may not have the resources to do the job. In other words, it may be less effort to certify a production kitplane than it would be to start building an out-of-production certified airplane. I'm afraid Loren may have missed his window of opportunity to return the Varga to production by a couple of years. On top of that, I suspect that Loren now has a lot of money wrapped up in the purchase, moving and storage of the tooling, inventory and his two Varga's and will have to be a very good salesman or very creative to recover his investment. Because there are only a few more than a hundred airplanes still flying, it is doubtful that Loren will ever be able to make reasonably priced parts at a profit, and that will make it difficult for him to make them. You will probably have to continue to find salvaged parts or have them made or repaired where ever you can. I'm sorry to say that I'm not very hopeful that new Varga airplanes or parts will be available any time in the near future.

On the other hand, there are (perhaps unfortunately) more salvaged aircraft to take parts from, most of the wearing parts you need are repairable or not too hard or expensive (in aircraft term$, of cour$e) to have made, some of the parts (engine, wheels & brakes, etc.) are still available off-the-shelf and, if we hang together, I'm sure we can find ways to keep ourselves in the air for as long as we want to fly.

In addition we should probably be very glad we already have an airplane like the Varga because new airplanes will cost so much more. It is rumored that the new Cessna 172 will cost over $100,000. A 118hp Citabria Aurora featured in the AOPA PILOT November 1995 issue has a price as tested of $67,500. In that same issue is an article about the Italian General Avia 160hp fixed gear F22B and 200hp retractable gear F22C which may be distributed by Lopresti Speed Merchants and sell for more than $130,000 and $170,000 respectively.


Frank Gulick has asked for design data or a 337 related to installation of shoulder harnesses in pre-harness airplanes. If someone out there has a 337 and can pass a copy on to Frank, I'm sure he'll appreciate it. I have no design data but can tell him (and you) what I did when I designed and installed the system on production airplanes in 1978.

We were buying our seat belts from American Safety and asked them to provide an inertia reel system that was similar to the existing seat belt installation and would fit both front and rear seats on the Varga. The FAA recommends in chapter 9 of AC43.13-2A that the inertia reel attachment be as far above the shoulder as possible to an angle of up to 30 degrees. In the rear seat, this meant that the best place to mount it was on the aft fuselage behind the hat shelf. This also meant a fairly long strap to the passengers waist. A low inertia "Y" type harness with a 66" strap gave us the travel we needed to fit both seats and was relatively easy to install at the rear seat. A preliminary load test with the harness mounted just to the skin of the aft fuselage showed that the skin was too flexible by itself when we hung 500# on it so we added a reinforcing channel and tied it to the nearby fuselage bulkhead. This attachment easily held the 500# weight. The front seat was a little harder to do. The need to raise the harness attachment above shoulder height dictated the installation of a head rest/roll bar structure. The easiest thing to do would have been to weld a hoop to the existing vertical tubes that hold the front seat but that would have made the structure fairly wide and difficult for the passenger/instructor to see around. So, in order to keep this structure as narrow as possible, I welded a hoop to the cross bar that the vertical tubes attach to and load tested it. It wasn't strong enough so I also attached the hoop to the seat with a sheet metal channel and reinforced the seat which worked OK. I then made a plastic cover for the hoop and upholstered it to look like a head rest. I think we got a few requests for shoulder harness installations on older airplanes while we were in business but I don't remember if we did them. We may have sold some of the parts so that owners could do it themselves, but I'm not sure.

If I were to install a shoulder harness on an older airplane, I would probably try to get the same American Safety inertia reel harness that Varga used, if possible, because I like the way it works and fits. The American Safety part numbers are in the Parts Manual. If I couldn't get a pair of those, almost any good "Y-type" harness and belt assembly available from most aircraft supply houses that have long enough harness straps to fit the back seat will work. I would reinforce the aft fuselage attach point with aircraft aluminum angle similar to the way I did it on the production airplanes. For the front seat, I would just make a hoop that could be welded or bolted to the vertical front seat attachment tubes and attach the harness to the hoop or to the back of the seat. If you follow the guidelines if AC43, you (hopefully) shouldn't have too much trouble getting FAA approval for this type of installation.

In August of 1987, just before I went to work for them, Montanair had former NASA test pilot, Jim Patton, evaluate the flight characteristics of the Model 2180TG that they owned (Loren Perry owns it now). I have a copy of that flight test report and I hope that Jim and the people at Montanair don't mind if I reprint it here for you.




August 11, 1987


Test Conditions. The airplane was flown for 1 hour 20 minutes on 8-11-87. The seat was occupied by a 195 lb. passenger for 1 hour of flight; the remainder of the flight was with the pilot only. Except as noted, comments on flying qualities are based on the 2 pilot loading. Very low atmospheric turbulence was present and little or no cross wind existed for takeoff and landing. Test altitude was 7,000 to 10,000 feet. Following the evaluation, the airplane was flown to the Glacier Park airport and back to Crystal Lake airport with the rear seat occupied. Limited acrobatics were conducted, including loops, aileron rolls, Cuban eights, and hammerhead stalls. Twelve landings were made, including one no flap landing.


Appearance. The airplane has very good lines, especially in the tailwheel configuration, giving the impression of strength, utility and maneuverability.

Cockpit. Entry and egress are somewhat awkward due to the folding canopy. Dual sliding canopies would be preferable. For acrobatic flight and for spin testing, either a sliding or jettisonable canopy would probably be mandatory.

Laterally, the cockpit is comfortably roomy; the fuselage width is more than adequate. Large people and additional equipment can easily be accommodated. Map cases should be provided to take advantage of available space. Legroom is inadequate. The writer is 5 ft. 7 in. in height; without parachute, the rudder pedal position was satisfactory, but would be uncomfortably cramped with a parachute. The rear seat occupant has the same problem. During acrobatics, the rear seater's boot once jammed between his rudder pedal and the adjoining structure, as he attempted to "follow through" on the controls.

The carburetor heat control should be relocated to be more readily visible to the pilot. On 2 occasions, placing the control back to the COLD position was overlooked after usage of carburetor heat.

The wing flap control lever would be more comfortable to use if it were moved slightly outboard. Retracting flaps on touch-and-go landings required some groping and called for and awkward shift in body position at a critical point in directional control on the runway.

The pitch trim system is undesirable in that precise trimming is difficult. The spring rate of the bungee design results in high forces for several trim changes near nose up or nose down trim limits. Also the selected trim seemed to drift with time, requiring more or less constant attention in cruising flight. Future use of the airplane as an instrument trainer would be considerably enhanced if rudder and aileron trim was provided.


General. The airplane is pleasant to fly, with no objectionable or unsafe characteristics. It would probably meet all FAR Part 23 stability and control requirements for Normal Category.

Longitudinal Stability. Longitudinal stick force gradient is low, with proportionally increasing forces to the stall and to higher speeds from the trimmed speed. Sufficient stick deflection with airspeed change exists to make the low forces very desirable and pleasant. Control system friction level, as evidenced by the free return friction bond (airspeed hysteresis) is very low; practically zero with power on and 1 or 2 mph with power off. Characteristics here are rated "excellent" due to low forces, low friction, and proportional changes in force and deflection with airspeed.

Stick force per "g" is low, with apparently linear change with "g", and is rated "excellent". This is a very important quality in acrobatic flight, to allow pilot anticipation of airplane dynamic response to control inputs.

Short-period dynamic stability shows very heavy damping, with deadbeat response to elevator pulses. This means that PIO (pilot-induced oscillation) should not be of concern; heavy damping is a desirable trait.

Long-period dynamic stability (phugoid), although lightly damped, does not have large amplitude oscillations in airspeed or altitude. The phugoid is the tendency of the airplane, when disturbed from trim, to enter long-period (30-50 sec.) pitch oscillations and relates to the ease of instrument flying. This airplane's characteristics are rated "good" in this respect and should present no problems.

Longitudinal Control. Generally, control is adequate but not exceptional. Sufficient power exists to stall the airplane in free flight out of ground effect but is not capable of reaching the stall in ground effect. Landings with full aft stick (flaps down) resulted in 3-point touchdowns before stall was reached. Most landings were conducted with the rear seat unoccupied; addition of the second pilot would probably give capability to land tail-wheel-first. This level of control is adequate and is rated satisfactory. At more forward C.G. loadings this might degrade to less than satisfactory due to insufficient control power for landing.

Lateral-Directional Stability and Control. Dihedral effect, or rolling moment due to side slip, is of desirable level. It is a measure of the airplane's tendency to cancel side slip caused by turbulence, and important factor in both instrument and visual flight.

Sideforce characteristics are determined form steady-heading side slips, as is dihedral effect, rudder effectiveness, and clues as to directional stability. Side force is evidenced by bank angle with given side slip values. This airplane requires about 15 degrees bank (power on) and 10 degrees (power off) to balance full rudder side slips of 15 degrees to 17 degrees. Side force is important because it furnishes the pilot a force cue acting on his body to notify him that a side slip exists. This airplane's side force characteristics are rated "good".

Rudder effectiveness is desirably high, as shown by the 15 degree + side slip generated by full rudder. In left steady-heading side slips (relative wind from the left) rudder force increase is of desirable levels and proportional up to about 3/4 rudder pedal displacement; from this point, the force gradient reverses and drops to a low but positive value at full rudder. This is accompanied by a strong pitch-down tendency. This force gradient reversal is not nearly as pronounced in right side slips. Both left and right side slips have moderately heavy vertical tail buffet as evidenced by rudder pedal vibration, indicating that pre-stall airflow separation is occurring on the vertical tail. Further increase in rudder deflection may result in tail stall, which would be undesirable. Except for the force gradient reversal, this airplane is rated "very good" for rudder effectiveness. It is capable of a wide range of descent angles at approach airspeed due to side slip.

Directional stability cannot be measured directly in qualitative testing, but all indications are that this airplane has satisfactory levels. This is shown by the tendency to recover from side slips and by minimal displacement of the ball indicator in slow turn reversals.

Aileron effectiveness is indicated by maximum roll rate with full aileron displacement. The maximum roll rate of this airplane is about 30 deg/sec for left rolls and about 40 deg/sec for right rolls. This is satisfactory for training and general use airplanes, but is less than desired for acrobatic category airplanes, which should have at least a 60 deg/sec capability, in the writers opinion.

Stalls. Stall characteristics with flaps down and power off are rated as "excellent". Stick force increases linearly to the stall, giving the pilot good control feel in slow flight. Holding full aft stick, the nose "bucks" about 10 degrees up and down as the wing partially stalls and unstalls. The wings can be held within 15 degree bank angle while holding full aft stick and 30 degree turn reversals can be performed with moderate pilot workload. Incipient spin tendencies are low.

Ground Handling. The airplane tracks very well, with no induced ground loop tendencies. Brakes are easy to use and effective. With the top of the pilot's head about 3 in. from the canopy roof, the runway is visible over the nose, greatly aiding directional control.


J. M. Patton, Jr.


WHAT'S NEXT: Landing gear Maintenance Item #18 and maybe Exhaust system Maintenance Item #19, a discussion about the Varga CG range and how it affects elevator trim and information about one or more of the FAA 337's that have been given to me for distribution to you. I also have some information about a LoPresti model 2150A nose cowl STC that was installed on one aircraft and is reported to give an extra 10 mph.