ISSUE # 32
NEWS: We've got several new members this time. Bob Slifka, a United Airlines pilot, is looking for a Varga. You can call him at (415) 578-0459 or send E mail to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have or know of a Varga for sale. Howard Shaw of San Rafael, California has found a Varga and you can call him at (415) 453-1521 if you want to tell him what to look forward to. Howard also sent a recent FAA Registration List of Varga owners. If you want a copy, let me know and I'll send it to you. Mike Cagle of El Cajon, California is looking and can be reached at (619) 292-7817. Richard Bifulco in Amityville, New York bought Shinn N5144V. Richard is president of a travel company and also a CFII and Safety Counseler for the FAA since 1972. Rose Easley of Witchita Falls, Texas bought Varga 2150A, N8276J from James Johnson and sent an announcement for the first annual "Fly Fest" at Kickapoo Airpark on June 28. Although we missed it this year, with crawfish, corn on the cob and red potatoes, it sounded like fun so maybe we'll get next years "second annual Fly Fest" invite out a little sooner! Rose is at (940) 692-2046 if you want to say "Hi". Stuart Hampton just joined and lives in Deming, New Mexico. Frank and Sherri Ghilarducci in Littleton, Colorado own Varga 2150A N8295J which they bought in 1994. Andrew Desorbo of Schenectady, NY is not a member yet but is looking for a Varga. His phone is (518) 355-0770 if you know where he can find a good one.
I got a phone call and a letter from Jack Adams in Wilbraham, Massachusetts who says his airplane is working great and he's spending as much time in the air as possible. He hopes to make it out here in October for the Copperstate Fly-In.
As I mentioned in the last newsletter, Rosemary DeAngelo's airplane was damaged in a ground accident. She has been having trouble getting it repaired. I went over to look at the damage, which was limited to the left outboard wing and a few panels, but several parts were destroyed and have to be made from scratch. A couple of shops said they could do the job but it took a couple of tries to get someone to come and pick up the damged parts to get started on the rebuild. She also needs to buy a good left hand wing tip or to borrow one temporarily that the shop can make a mold from. I'm sure she would appreciate a call at (818) 784-0957 if you can help her. Rosemary also provided me with a copy of the FAA 337 modification that was made to her landing gear early in her airplanes life. I have included it as part of the insert in this issue. Years ago it was being flown out of a short strip in Massachusetts and suffered some landing gear damage. the mechanic who repaired it attached an external and internal strut from the forward spar to the bottom and top of the upper main gear. Although it adds a little weight and looks a little "different", the design principle is sound and it has apparently kept her gear good and straight for many years.
Merced Antique Fly-In: June 6-7, 1997, This was supposed to be the last Merced Fly-In and there was a pretty good turn out of antiques, classics and experimentals but it seemed like many airplanes started leaving early on Saturday afternoon and there were lots of empty parking spaces by Saturday night. I met Len Peters for the first time when he brought his Shinn in on Saturday. Len stayed for a few hours and we had a nice conversation as we walked around looking at airplanes. Len bought his Shinn new in 1961. I also saw Jack and Lynn Skarratt at the early bird dinner on Friday evening.
Eagle Tail Flyers Breakfast/Social Club: Call (602)841-1229 for this, almost weekly, breakfast gathering.
Copperstate Fly-In: October 9-12, 1997. Although it's been a little too warm the last couple of years, this one has a good turn out of a variety of airplanes. I'll probably be there on Saturday and maybe Sunday as well. See ya!
VARGAS FOR SALE
TRADE-A-PLANE, SECOND AUGUST ISSUE, 1997:
1979 VARGA KACHINA, TT 1068 A&E. King
KX-170B Nav/Com, KT-76A xpdr, Mode C, Sigtronics
ICS, auto gas STC, strobes and more. New overall white
sterling polyurethane paint scheme. Screaming Eagle
Aviation, http://aso.solid.com/ad/14242 or call 805,
1979 2150A, 1100 TTSN, like new, excellent condition,
Collins, Garmin GPS, Apollo 618, all accessories
and covers, $33,500. 919, 928-7489. NC/au3
SHINN MODEL 2150A, 150HP Lycoming engine O320.
616, 342-6450 after 6pm. au1
'80 VARGA 1635TT, 1100 STOH, new MX170B digital
Nav/com, Loran, transponder/encoder, EGT, intercom,
strobes, 7/97 annual. All cylinders 70's, STC Mogas.
Hangered. 9 in and out. $34.500. 423, 458-9959. au3
Carl Sigg says that, for $25,000, he will sell his 1980 Varga 2150A
to you in pieces if you are willing to put it back together. Although
the engine still needs an overhaul, he says all the parts that wiggle
or move have been repaired like new and the paint has been stripped
from all the parts. His home phone in California is (408) 625-3843.
1958 MORRISEY 2150, 1st production Morrisey Casey Braley
is asking $32,500. You can reach him at 3053 32nd Ave. W.,
Seattle, WA 98199 (206) 282-1949.
1979, TT 1153, 868 SMOH, annual 5/96, good condition.
$33,000. Stan Allen, 706, 865-0793. or trade
for C-170B w/Lyc. engine conversion. Will deliver for
SHINN 2150A, 1860TT, 500 SMOH, excellent condition,
$29,500 with fresh annual. 540, 884-2675, after
6PM EST. VA/ap2
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 most Saturday mornings.
Lots of people have asked about ways to increase leg room in a Varga. I recently got a call from a six footer who had heard that Vargas had limited room and wanted to know if he would fit. The only way we could help accommodate a pilot's size while I was at Varga was to provide the owner with different thicknesses of seat bottom and back cushions. The standard Varga bottom and back cushions were 2 " thick.
In the Varga, the seat is installed low enough, the pedals are high relative to the seat and space between the seat and the pedals is short enough that even if you are of average height, your knees will probably be bent so much that you will be sitting too hard on your tail bone. This is not a big problem on those short, fun breakfast hops but those 2 to 3 hour cross country treks can get kind of uncomfortable.
Short people like me (5' 4") can usually just add as many cushions as we need and we get by OK. I made structural changes on my plane for more leg room but I didn't change the seat design. I made my front seat bottom cushion 3" thick. The removable front seat back cushion is 2" thick but when I had the seat upholstered, I had 1" of foam glued and sewn into the back. For myself, I bought one of those after market 3" bottom/1" back cushions which works OK but like most cushions that you buy the foam is too soft and compresses after you've sat there for a while. Although he usually doesn't, my 6'+ partner, Chuck, can take out the 2" back cushion if he needs to and still have a little padding behind his back.
What can you do?
As you guys and gals probably know, how you fit into a Varga depends a lot on your body type. If you are long legged but short wasted and not too tall, you can add a thick bottom cushion which will move your bottom up and back and straighten your legs a little and your head won't hit the canopy. If you have enough head room, a very thick (5" to 6" and firm) bottom cushion will help straighten your legs enough to transfer some of your weight from your tail bone to your thighs. If the trip isn't too long and you don't mind the hard aluminum back too much, you can also remove the seat back cushion completely. That might give you another inch or so. If you are shorter legged and long wasted you may be able to get away with a thinner bottom cushion. Unfortunately, pun intended, it's pretty hard to go without any bottom cushion at all. Also, the cockpit is wide enough so that, if the air is not too bumpy, you can take your feet off the pedals and cross your legs periodically to get the cramps out and ease the load on your butt. I've also found it helpful to replace the seat bottom cushion foam with "Temperfoam". It might also help to "reshape the seat bottom cushion to more closely match the angle between your legs and back. All or some of these things may help a little. They may even help just enough!
There are pull rods between the front and back rudder and brake pedals that attach them together. Not too long after I started working at Varga Aircraft, I found that there was just enough room to lengthen these rods about 1" and I got FAA approval to do that. This gave the front seat pilot 1" more leg room. I don't remember the rod hole to hole length measurement or at which airplane serial number this change started at but if you own a Morrisey, Shinn or very early Varga you may be able to make these rods that much longer on your airplane. You just need to make sure that if you make them longer, the brake pedal has enough clearance at full deflection when the rudder pedal is all the way forward. The firewall blanket and a diagonal frame tube may be in the way of full brake pedal travel.
There are BIG obstacles to any other changes that you can make. There is just enough room in the aft cockpit for the stick to travel forward without hitting the back of the front seat or aft without hitting the rear seat bottom frame tube/seat cushion/fat passenger's belt buckle. There is also a structural cross member that stiffens the frame and supports the top of the front seat. At the bottom, the front seat is attached to two tube assemblies between the wing spars that also support the aft rudder/brake pedals and a flap torque tube.
The aft stick is removable and you could probably cut out the upper cross tube and the two lower seat attachments and move them back a couple of inches. With a little bit of reinforcement, this wouldn't seriously affect structural integrity but it would eliminate use of the rear stick, move the center of gravity back a little and maybe make the passenger hold his/her legs a little farther apart. I've not heard of anyone doing anything like this. Another option is to "dishpan" the firewall. In other words, move the pedals forward a couple of inches and make deep pockets in the firewall that the pedals and your moving foot will fit into. The pedals are attached to cross tubes that are welded in place and they would have to be cut out, moved forward and rewelded in a new place. A sketch in the upper right hand corner of page 3 in issue #29 shows a side view of what you would have to do to physically move the pedals down and forward about 2". You would also have to change the steering linkage to accomodate the new pedal position and perhaps modify the pedals to fit into the hole in the firewall that you just created. If you make holes in the firewall, you will need to find a new place to mount the parts that were mounted where that part of the firewall used to be. On the left are the battery and starter solenoids, the voltage regulator and the over voltage control. On the right is the oil cooler. The small electrical stuff is not too hard to relocate and you can probably remount them to the newly fabricated sheet metal "dishpans" that you will need to make and install. A new oil cooler installation will probably require more creativity than that. I published a 337 for a relocated oil cooler installation in issue #31.
A third option might be to do what I did on my airplane. I have a somewhat modified fuselage truss and part of that modification moved the rudder pedals down a little less than 2" to a cross tube welded lower longeron tube in the side truss. Instead of the plywood ones that you have, I made fiberglass floorboards with heel wells that are a little more than an inch deep. This doesn't allow quite as much leg room as either of the above two modifications but, along with the seat cushion changes that I made, it does move the pilots legs down so that he is sitting much more on his thighs than his tail bone. My airplane also has a tall bubble canopy so that, if I chose to do it, I could raise the pilot's seat up a couple of inches which would also provide more leg room. Most taller pilots have found my airplane to be much more comfortable than a regular Varga.
Although I don't think anyone can afford to do it, the best changes that I made were on the Varga that I designed in Montana. There, I stretched the fuselage forward 3 inches and back 1 1/4" and made the forward rudder pedals adjustable. It was designed to fit Montanair owner's 5' daughter and 6' 6" son.
Even though most owners are less concerned about rear seat leg room, I also made changes to the rear pedals on the Montana airplane to move them forward an inch or so. Two things limit the forward travel of the rear pedals. The flap handle and flap torque tube and the brake master cylinder. The brake master cylinder will hit the front wing spar if you move the pedals too far forward and the rudder pedal will contact the flap handle. On both my airplane and the Montana airplane, I moved the brake master cylinder to the front pedals and on the Montana airplane, I narrowed the flap handle, narrowed the rear pedals and cut the flap handle torque tube shorter. Once you get the flap and brake parts out of the way, you can lengthen the rudder pedal cables about an inch and have that much more leg room in the back.
I've had some serious thoughts about going through the FAA approval processes (STC & 337) and making many of these changes on a certified Varga. I've even talked about it with several Varga owners and the FAA. Unfortunately, from my many conversations, I've concluded that there just aren't enough current Varga owners out there that are willing or able to help recover the several thousands of dollars the certification process would cost just to gain 3 or 4 inches of leg room. Maybe someday someone will buy the Varga assets and do it for us.
I just completed my annual inspection, which I do myself, with some help from Bart, one of my airplane partners. I do not have an A&P license but, since I built my airplane as experimental, I do have a repairman's certificate for N2103Z only.
You don't have to take off every removable panel from a Varga to do an annual (or 100hr) inspection. You can get to most everything important on a Varga by just removing the engine cowl, tail inspection panel and cone to get to the elevator and rudder moving parts and the wing inspection panels and fairings. You can check and lubricate the remaining flight control parts from inside the cockpit. You will also need to get to the brake fluid reservoir behind the left side forward fuselage panel. Without taking all that stuff off, if there are no serious problems, an annual inspection can be done pretty quickly.
Even though I just said that it isn't necessary, unless you know your airplane real well, I do recommend that you take off every removable panel. Even though taking panels off and putting them back on is the most time consuming part of my annual inspection. When I had certified airplanes to take care of (a Varga and a Cessna Cardinal) which required that I pay a mechanic and an inspector, I always did this job for them to save their time and my money.
The Varga maintenance manual has some pretty good check lists from pages 3-4 through 3-17 that you can make copies of and have the mechanic check off each item as is completed. Page 3-4 is a paperwork check. Except for battery electrolyte levels which requires removal of the battery, most of the operational checklist on page 3-5 is something you do almost every time you start the airplane.
The landing gear inspection on pages 3-6 and 3-7 of the maintenance manual is one of the most important things you can do on a Varga. Landing gear parts are getting hard to find and some of them are expensive to repair so it's worth while to take good care of the parts you have.
Pages 2-23 and 2-24 tell how to check and service the hydraulic part of the landing gear but unless you've just purchased the airplane and are checking for the first time or you see evidence of red hydraulic fluid leaking out of the gear, this check is often not necessary. You can usually see if there is a serious alignment problem just by looking at the characteristics of tire wear. Stand in front of the airplane and look carefully to see if the gear looks bent. If it is it will probably be pretty obvious to you. Check the bottom stub wing skin for wrinkles where the gear enters the wing. Although it sometimes seems unnecessary because I haven't put on many hours between inspections, I always clean and repack all the wheel bearings. Because my plane is prone to shimmy if I don't keep things tight, I always take the whole tail wheel assembly apart and clean and regrease it.
On nose wheel airplanes, you should always clean, lubricate and tighten all the steering parts to help preclude shimmy. Make sure the shimmy dampener is not leaking and is operating correctly. Steering system operation is easy to check by turning the nose wheel through it entire travel while someone holds it off the ground by pushing down on the tail. Check the steering stops for damage.
Make sure the gear forks (torque links) are well lubricated, tight and in good condition. The grease fittings may be in a bad position for your grease gun and sometimes the best thing to do is remove the connecting bolt and swing the torque link into a better position to attach the grease gun. If you (or your mechanic) don't do this you (he) may end up breaking off a pressed-in grease fitting which is no fun to repair. Also make sure there is not too much play at the torque link pins attaching the links to the lower and upper gear struts. Check the log books and replace all the flexible hydraulic brake hoses at 1000 hr intervals.
I always end up changing at least one set of brake pucks, so check these for wear. Even if the pucks look OK, remember, what's left may have to make it to the next annual or you'll get steel rubbing on steel and may end up changing the disk the next time. I have a friend who has a brake rivet setting tool and replacing brake pucks is a pretty easy and relatively quick thing to do.
Much of the cabin inspection on pages 3-8 and 3-9 is something you do every time you fly the airplane. I always put a little oil on all the rudder and brake pedal parts and wiggle them at the same time to make sure everything's still tight. I do the same for the flap controls and the stick parts. If you keep these parts tight and well lubricated it will be a long time (years) before any of them wears out. Check the landing and nav lights while you're here. This year I forgot to check the landing and nav lights until I had the airplane back together and now I've got to take off the tail cone again to replace the nav light there. If they're sticky, the fuel valves are a pain. To lubricate them you'll have to pinch off the fuel lines and take them apart to lubricate them. This is the subject of one of Lee Beery's Maintenance Items and I'll send it to you if you need it.
The fuselage and tail section inspection on pages 3-10 and 3-11 is mostly just that, an inspection. Although it's probably a good idea to clean the fuel strainer every 90 days as recommended, I usually only do it at annual time. I lubricate all the moving flight control system parts and wiggle them at their attachment points to check for excessive wear. I've noticed on the few Vargas I have checked or maintained that the bottom rudder attach hinge bolt tends to wear faster than the top one and the center elevator attach hinge bolt tends to wear faster than the outboard ones. These bolts may need to be replaced more often. Check the flap, rudder and trim cable pulleys to make sure they aren't stuck with the cable wearing a flat spot on one side of the pulley.
When I inspect the wings (page 3-12), I open the wing joint fairing at the top and remove all the pop-off inspection plates. Mostly, I just look for evidence of fuel leaks and for cracks and wear at all the aileron and flap attachments. If you live in a damp climate, look for corrosion. I don't have them on my airplane but unless they have already been reinforced, the inboard flap hinges on most Vargas may show signs of cracks or bending. If the crack or bend isn't too bad you can usually fix the hinge by just adding a doubler. Otherwise you'll need to replace the hinge and should add a doubler when you replace it. Once the doubler has been added I've not heard of a recurring problem. Trailing edge wing ribs at the aileron hinge attach points are also prone to cracking but you can't see the cracks unless you take the aileron off. Once repaired they won't crack again so you may want to check your log book to see if this problem has or has not been fixed on your airplane.
The propeller inspection on page 3-13 is standard and probably the same as it is for any fixed pitch airplane. I always take off the spinner just to look.
Even though it isn't necessary, for the engine inspection, except for the nose bowl, I always take off the whole engine cowl. I change the oil and filter, check compression, clean the spark plugs, check and repair baffle gaps and cracks, check and tighten loose parts, inspect the exhaust system and clean off as much accumulated oil and crud as I can. I also oil the moving parts, inspect all the wiring and time the magnetos. The carb heat box is also prone to cracks and bearing wear so it's smart to check it over real good. The heat in the engine bay has a detrimental effect so check your log book and change your flexible fuel hoses if they are more than 1000 hours or 10 years old. I also broke an alternator belt one time and the loose end stuck out the air inlet and slapped some paint off the nose cowl. I know now that it's a good idea to check it for condition and tightness.
I've done it lots of times, so I can usually complete an annual in two Saturdays with a few hours of work on the weekdays in between. I was in a hurry one year and, without removing the belly panels, was, with a little help, able to do it in one long day. I suspect that if you can do some of the work yourself and have a mechanic that is familiar with your airplane, you can do as well or better. If you want, you can let me know if you have any interesting annual inspection experiences or advice and I will pass the information along to others.
I was recently asked again about the availability of tail wheel conversion parts and/or an STC. As I think I said before in Newsletter #28, Loren Perry has the STC and many of the tail wheel parts and is the most logical person to offer a conversion. Whether he does it or someone else does it, the obstacle is cost. Loren is a businessman and wants to make a profit. Considering that he bought the Varga stuff in the first place, he is also a businessman who is, at least occasionally, willing to take a gamble. I'm guessing, so far, with the purchase, moving and storage and a search for customers, he's probably gambled in the neighborhood of $200,000 on an airplane factory and lost (unless he can sell it for more than that, we don't know how much). But let's say, for the sake of argument, that he's willing to gamble a little more to try and recover some of his "investment".
The first thing he might want to do is find out how many people want one so he adds up his initial costs and offers a factory conversion for say, $9,999 installed. Almost everybody says "that's too much" but he finds 10 people that are willing to put down a 10% deposit. Being the gambler that he is, he decides to start the process with only $9,999 in his pocket along with some of his wife's K Mart shopping budget and the hope that maybe, once he delivers his first conversion and gets lots of free publicity from all those aviation magazine articles, he will get more orders.
If he hasn't already figured it out, now he has to decide whether to make the parts or farm them out to someone who can make them for him. He finds out that, for FAA approval to get a production certificate, he can do all the sales, production and administrative duties himself but he'll need a $50,000 a year engineer, a $50,000 a year quality control manager and 3 $25,000 a year skilled aircraft workers. Let's see that's uh.....$175,000 for $99,999 in sales. Oops, can't do that! What else can he do?
He finds out that the FAA will accept the use of an FAA engineering DER and quality DER who will work for an hourly fee of $100 and that, if furnished with FAA approved design data and exclusive rights, Omnivair Parts and Supplies will make the parts with an FAA PMA for $2500 a set. He's also found a local FBO who will do the conversion installation in 80 man hours at $40 an hour ($2400). A couple of problems are that the DER's guess about $10,000 each but can't say for sure how much time it will take to do their work and Omnivair want's full payment for 10 sets of parts ($25,000) up-front. Also, Smallrate Insurance is the lowest bidder but still wants $1000 per aircraft for product liability. He knows there will also be some shipping and handling costs, advertising, phone bills, travel expenses, bookkeeper, secretary and other overhead costs.
Let's see, so far, that's $20,000 for DER work + $25,000 for parts + $24,000 for labor + $10,000 for insurance + unknown overhead expenses = more than $79,000 in estimated costs for $99,999 in sales minus taxes on any profits. Should he do it? What the heck, why not!
So...it takes 6 months to get his first complete set of parts and owner number one is chomping at the bit but owners number 6 and 9 are tired of waiting and want their deposit back. One year later and 3 airplanes behind on production Loren has picked up a couple more buyers but the 2nd owner has ground looped and his insurance company is sueing for faulty parts even though the instructor's deposition says pilot error. Your insurance company picks up the legal tab but their rate doubles and The DER's now have to deal with the FAA accident investigators and some lawyers and their hourly charges are up accordingly. 18 months after he started, he still hasn't recovered his investment money and his costs are going up. Perhaps all this may sound a bit too doom and gloom but they are all real events in the life of any aircraft manufacturer. Hard work and good luck might still bring a happy ending! Should I continue the story next time or tell another one?
When I had to explain to Carl Sigg why he hadn't gotten a newsletter in awhile, I was reminded that it might be a good idea to tell you how I keep track of memberships. I enter and keep aircraft, member and owner information in a computer database called Address Book. I have over 200 entries of aircraft and past and current owners and members. When I get a $20 donation from someone in 1997, I check boxes in the database called "1997 member" and/or "1998 member". To keep it simple, I haven't broken the catagories down by month. When I print address labels from the database for a 1997 mailing, I sort on the "1997 member" catagory which will only print labels for the current 40 to 50 members. I usually print up about 60 copies so I have some extras on hand and it costs about a dollar an issue for printing and postage. The money that I don't use for printing and mailing usually gets eaten up by return phone calls. If you haven't sent a donation in the last year or two you may drop off of the list. If someone asks about it, I will always send a sample copy of the last newletter for free. Since this is a hobby and not a business and I don't want to pay taxes on the money that I get, please consider the money that you send a donation and not a subscription. Because it is a donation, I will send the newsletter to anyone who asks whether they send money or not. I sometimes make a mistake and don't enter a donation or enter it incorrectly. I apologise ahead of time so please let me know if you think I've forgotten you. If you're interested, I also found out that if I make it more than 10 pages long, it takes more than one 32¢ stamp, so it's always only 10 pages. To make my job easier, I encourage you to write and sent things that may be of interest to other owners and I don't charge for advertising so, if it's airplane related, you can include that too. If I can fit your stuff all in those 10 pages, I will. If it doesn't fit and it's not time sensitive, I may put it a later issue.