ISSUE # 30
I got a new computer for Christmas and now have access to the internet. By searching the web, I was able to find a summary of Doug Donaldson's accident which reads as follows.
NTSB Identification: LAX96FA131 for details, refer to NTSB Imaging System
Accident occured MAR-10-96 at PEORIA, AZ
Aircraft Varga 2180A, registration N5065V
Injuries: 2 Fatal.
Four pilot witnesses saw the airplane take off on runway 5L. One witness reported that the
airplane settled after becoming airborne as the pilot retracted the flaps. After climbing to about
150 to 175 feet above ground level, the airplane was observed to enter a left turn. During the
turn, the airplane went into a steep angle of bank, then it entered a spin and an uncontrolled
decent. It struck the ground in a nose down attitude, and a post impact fire erupted. No
evidence of mechanical failure or malfunction was found. Regarding takeoffs from airports, the
Aeronautical Instruction Manual (AIM) states that if remaining in the traffic pattern,
commence the turn beyond the end of the runway, within 300 feet of traffic pattern altitiude;
if departing the pattern, continue straight out or exit at a 45 degree turn beyond the
departure end of the runway, after reaching pattern altitude.
Failure of the pilot to obtain or maintain adequate airspeed for turning (maneuvering) after
takeoff, which resulted in an inadvertent stall/spin. The lack of altitude for stall/spin recovery
was a related factor.
I have been unable to access the NTSB Imaging System for a copy of the full report but I suspect the the summary is enough to know. I said in the last newsletter that the Varga is unlikely to enter an unrecoverable spin but it will enter a spin and, IF YOU HAVE ENOUGH ALTITUDE, will recover easily with rudder and more airspeed. As with any airplane, you should BE MORE CAREFUL WHEN YOU'RE CLOSE TO THE GROUND!!!
New member J.R. Sheridan says he has owned Shinn N431MB since 1965 and uses it for Timber Farm control.
I have misplaced my list of who gets the photo album next. There are lots of different paint schemes out there. I'll make up a new list on a first come first serve basis if you'll call or write to tell me that you want to see it.
Jack Skarratt (Varga 2150A, N5600B) has his airplane back together and he says, after rerigging, it is flying better than ever. In he search for landing gear parts he found that the lower strut from a Bonanza has the same axle size and very nearly the same vertical strut tube size. Although he didn't put it on his plane, Jack thinks he has got a redesign with the Bonanza gear just about worked out and his mechanic may make drawings available when he's done with FAA approvals. He also ended up with 3 usable or repairable lower gear struts. Call him at (510) 657-6552 if you think he can help you.
Tim Keith-Lucas (Varga 2150A, N4614V) was able to borrow Rolf Lehman's engine mount weld fixture and with the sketches I sent and with help from a good shop, he said he is well on way to getting back in the air. He is going to make some plastic bushings and may have some extras made if you're interested. Tim also says the fixture is all set up at the shop and if any of you need some engine mount repair he can probably arrange it. His phone number is (615) 598-1317.
Cactus Annual Antique Fly-In: Casa Grande, Arizona, 1 & 2 March, 1997. I had to haul some stuff to Casa Grande in my truck so I got there late on Saturday and saw Dale Lewis's airplane just as he was leaving. I later found Dave Wells parked at the end of a taxi-way. He said Dale Lewis and Clay Jordan had both left early. We talked awhile and Dave decided to leave at about 2 pm. We had rain the day before so I suspect that kept a lot of out of state airplanes away and, although it was a beautiful day on Saturday, the turnout was low.
El Toro Open House: Bob Stambovsky (Shinn N5124V) will be on active duty as the static display officer for this airshow that will be held the last weekend in April (26th & 27th). There will be a USMC assault demonstration, aerial demonstrations and the Blue Angels. Call Bob at (805) 723-5370 for details.
PLANES & PARTS:
Bob Stambovsky has made several updates and modifications to his Shinn which include overhead glass, new side glass and windscreen, a throttle quadrant modification which includes throttle, mixture and carb heat and an instrument panel redesign. If you're interested in having this type of work done on your airplane, you can contact MountainHawk Aviation in Tehachapi, CA at (805) 822-8153. Bob says his crew chief, Mr. Glenn Epic of Rosemond, CA, is a Varga guru and A&P extraordinaire for annual inspections who does excellent work. Glenn can be reached at (805) 275-8321. In addition, Bob is also an instructor pilot (Comm/Inst/ASMEL, 2,300 hours TT, CFI/MEI/AGI) who is available for BFR's, checkouts and night currency, etc. He offers a discount to Varga drivers and can be reached at Stambo Aviation, Lancaster, CA (805) 723-5370.
Bob Gustafson bought Ken Bunker's Varga 2150A (N8263J) and was looking for some new torque link bushings. I'm all out and don't have a source unless I go to a machine shop and have them made. I told him to look through his old newsletters for the drawing of the bushing so that he could do that but if any of you already have some made you can call him at (916) 777-6267 in Isleton, CA and I'm sure he'll appreciate the help. By the way, the drawing of the torque link and bushing is in Maintenance Item 16 if you have the same problem.
Ken Harris is looking for at least seven, maybe eight, 1000-6 stub wing center section ribs. If you can help him, give him a call at (970) 356-6041 (w) or (970) 356-0491 (h). I sent him one that I had left but I don't know if it is in good enough shape for him to use.
VARGAS FOR SALE
TRADE-A-PLANE, SECOND FEBRUARY ISSUES, 1997:
SHINN 2150A, LOW time, clean, well equipped, new annual, white with black trim, $30,000. 417, 926-4221. tf
1977 VARGA, LOW TIME, military paint. Call for details. $36,500. Ran Hanscak, 412, 327-6743 nights; Phil Stango 412, 372-2620 days. PA/f2
MEMBERS & OWNERS:
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. Beery VG-21 Newsletters: $10 covers most of the printing and mailing costs for all issues. Old Bishop VG-21 Newsletters: $1.00 per issue (includes postage).
For those of you who don't know, I am the former Varga Aircraft Corporation engineering manager (1975-1982) and may be able to help you with a problem. I can be reached at:
2062 West Gila
Chandler, Arizona 85224
You may also be able to find me at hanger A9 at Falcon Field in Mesa.
Cliff Shinn, who was the manufacturer of all those Shinn 2150A's that some of you are flying, owns Varga 2180 N5600L and is now a VG-21 member.
Bob Stambovsky is trying to get FAA approval for his new throttle quadrant installation. He may make his design available to other Varga owners. If you're interested in something like that for your Varga/Shinn/Morrisey you might give him a call and let him know. While I was at Varga, we had several requests and I looked into installing a throttle quadrant but we didn't have the resources to pursue that design change. There were a few "after-market" quadrants available, but all ran the push-pull controls between the front and rear seats on the inside of the cockpit instead of outside which may have interferred with the passengers left leg. These units were also significantly more expensive than the existing, adequate and already certified, throttle/mixture/carb heat control installation. When we were losing money on every airplane we sold, it didn't seem to make much sense at the time to add to the cost unless we were able to also increase the price.
Bob Stambovsky also asked why we didn't use circuit breakers instead of fuses. The airplane was certified with switches and fuses when Mr. Varga bought the Type Certificate. I did look at replacing the fuses with circuit breakers and also replacing both the switch and fuse with switch/circuit breakers but the cost difference seemed to be too great at the time. If I remember correctly, a fuse holder and a switch only cost us about a dollar each, give or take fifty cents. Simple push button circuit breakers were about $5 to $20 each depending on the amperage and I think switch/circuit breakers cost between $15 and $40 each, depending on amperage. Changing to circuit breakers would have also meant part design and tooling changes and a new FAA approval involving drawing changes and electrical load and flight tests. Since there weren't too many complaints about the fuses, we had many other problems with a higher priority and we would have just added to our losses on the sale of each airplane, I didn't think the change was a reasonable thing to do at the time.
I need to apologise to the Varga owners at Paso Robles. I told them I would send them information on how to change their fuel vent system to preclude siphoning. I still plan to get something to you but have been busy and haven't spent any time on the drawings I need to make to describe the necessary changes. I hope to get to it along with lots of other things on a long list of "things-to-do"!
Lots of people seem to be interested in the history of their airplanes. Loren Perry has all the production records so he could give you the exact production history, but I think I have been able to assemble a reasonably good record from serial number and registration number data.
Morrisey model 2150 serial numbers seemed to use an "FP" prefix that went from FP-1 through FP-10. Shinn used an "SP" prefix (Shinn Products?) from SP-11 through SP-45. Varga used a "VAC" prefix and skipped some numbers to VAC-50 for their first airplane. A dash number to indicate the year was added with VAC-51-75. If you add up all the serial numbers from VAC-50 to VAC-188-82 you come up with 139 airplanes. VAC-189-85 was delivered to it's owner after a legal dispute was settled and appearantly completed in 1985. Had it been completed at the factory, my airplane would have been S/N VAC-190. I think Varga's fiscal year began in October and so the first 1979 airplane, for example, would have been built in October.of 1978.
I don't have any information about Morriseys but from what I remember I think all of the Shinns were assembled between the last half of 1961 and the first half of 1962. The first Varga (VAC50) was built in 1974. 3 airplanes were built in 1975, 10 in 1976, 21 in 1977, 29 in 1978, 32 in 1979, 18 in 1980, 17 in 1981 and 10 in 1982. I counted 15 model 2180's although the first 2180 was originally certified as a 2150A and the FAA registration may not have
been changed when it was STC'd as a 2180. So there may have been 16 2180's. I thought we built 3 but my records only list 2 of those 2180 as taildraggers.
For those of you who are interested, I think the base price for a Shinn was about $9,000 in 1961/62 and when I got there in 1975, the base price for a Varga was $13,000 or $14,000. When Varga went out of business in June of 1982, well equipped airplanes were going for between $40,000 and $45,000. Again, I don't know what a Morrisey sold for in 1958.
I am sometimes asked why Varga Aircraft went out of business. The simplest answer is that we ran out of sales and our financial backer ran out of money. Unfortunately, Varga Aircraft wasn't alone in it's demise. Piper, Bellanca, Grumman, Cessna single engine airplanes, Beechcraft small single engine airplanes and a few others all suffered the same fate.
I got there in May of 1975. For about a three or four year period, from the time I got there, I think we usually had a order backlog of more than 20 airplanes. We worked hard to build 2-3 airplanes a month at a small but somewhat manageable loss on each airplane. In early 1979, at the urging of a volunteer consultant, Mr. Varga arranged for financing to increase production. From spring of that year until fall, we were able to increase our production from about 2 airplanes a month to almost 5 a month. At the same time, we started development of the model 2180 using a model 2150A belonging to a friend of the Varga's named Bud Wolf. At the end of October two things happened that drastically reduced our production rate. The increase in production rate rapidly ate up our remaining backlog of model 2150A's. The next thing was that we announced the availability of the 2180 several month's before were able to complete the certification process. This caused several buyers to switch their orders from model 2150A's to model 2180's. With a gap of months between what was essentially the end of model 2150A production and the certification of the model 2180, production almost came to a halt at the end of 1979. Unable to meet our expectations, the consultant went away. We eventually got the 2180 into production, but if I remember right, it was a struggle to make it through 1980.
In late 1980 or early 1981, we did find extra money by taking on a partner. The new partner had big and, what I thought were, unrealistic plans. I think his initial investment was to be about $400,000 and he wanted begin an aggressive marketing campaign to at least quadruple sales and increase production at the same rate within one year.
I had spent the previous 6 months of my spare time going over the material and labor costs, assembly times, and overhead costs and everything else I could think of to know what it would take to produce the airplane at a profit. It appeared from my estimates that we needed to produce at least 10 airplanes a month to reach a break even point. I then created a draft 2 year financial plan that showed that, if the market was there, we could increase our production to 10 a month within the first year and start seeing a steady return on our investment at about the middle of the second year. The cost of this 2 year plan would have been about $1.1 million. I wanted to show this plan to the new partner before he bought in but was asked not to because it might turn him off. Another volunteer consultant that we had at the time, did a whole bunch of spreadsheets until we got one that made the numbers come out the way he wanted them to, and the investor bought in.
After we got the money to get going again, I was allowed to show the investor the draft plan that I created and was politely told that he didn't have that much money and that we would have to work hard to find a way to do it for half the money in half the time. Knowing from our 1979 attempt to increase production that there was no way to hire and train enough people to go to a 10 airplane a month rate in six months and having already worked five years of 60 hour, six day weeks, I didn't know how I was going manage that and was totally discouraged.
Even though we failed to increase our sales and production rate significantly, with the extra money, we did accomplish a lot in the next year and a half. We hired a full time quality control manager and added production and inspection people in the right places to help solve problems we were having with the FAA, we began full production of the model 2180, bought the rights to the taildragger STC from Hibbard Aviation, we updated our quality control manual and published and distributed the maintenance and parts manuals, we encountered and solved a critical elevator control problem, made some international sales in Canada, South America and Europe, had started to update and improve our tooling and production methods and by the time we went out of business, we were in better shape than ever to produce airplanes at a profit.
The obstacles to an increase in sales and production were obvious even at the time. The premature announcement of the model 2180 cost us the sale of many 2150A's. We had to expend valuable resouces to solve a couple of unexpected design and manufacturing problems. The cost of adding the taildragger was not justified by
an increase in total sales. Inflation had significantly increased the cost of loans to buy airplanes with interest rates at 20%+. Tax reform was ending the deductability of expenses for leaseback airplanes and consumer loans. The number of people who could get flight training on the GI bill was dwindling fast. Fuel prices were higher than ever. Although product liability costs were a significant problem to other manufacturers, we just went without coverage when our premium doubled. In the end, when our ability to increase the production rate was just beginning recover, we couldn't even sell airplanes as fast as we could make them.
As it turned out, creating and maintaining a profitable airplane company was just a dream that wouldn't come true no matter how hard we tried to turn our dream into a reality. What did turn out to be a reality is the airplane you are flying today. The only profit left for those of us who had a part in the making of every Varga out there is the thanks that we sometimes get for doing as good a job as we did.