VG-21 Squadron


5 JULY 1998




ISSUE # 35


I got the photo album back and have sent it off already to Joe Chabel in Gibsonia, PA (N4631V) who then sent it off to Robert Hunt in Altoona, PA. Joe says he's making a few minor modifications to his airplane and will send copies of his 337 forms to me after he gets his approvals. He says he's getting unstable handling and wants to oscillate back and forth in roll. He says all his roll control parts are tight. I don't remember ever hearing of roll control problems in a Varga before so if any of you out there has a clue about what could be causing Joe's problem, please let us know. Call Joe at (724) 265-1306 if you think you can help.

Lee and Pat Beery now have e-mail ( ) and asked me to publish a list of Varga owners who have e-mail. The list is probably going to get too long to fit in every newsletter but I will include new addresses when I get them and I will send a complete address/e-mail list to you if you ask. Here are most of the latest e-mail addresses:

Robert Abend:

Pat and Lee Beery:

Chuck Buckley:

Rose Easley:

John Ellis:

Roger Fowler:

Kate and Tom Harnish: [ ]

Thomas Herr: [ ]

Tim Keith-Lucas: 

Don Ramm: 

Bob Slifka: 

Tom Stumpf: 

Bill Weaver: 

If I missed you and you want others to know your e-mail address just let me know.

If you have an internet web browser like Netscape, note the web sites like Tom and Kate's at Another web site of interest may be You can query all the Varga/Shinn/Morrisey accidents to learn what not to do in a Varga (or any other plane for that matter). Another good web site that I've mentioned in the past is which you can use to search for aircraft registration numbers as well as many other things.

Lee and Pat Beery are still looking for someone to fly along with them from the west coast to the Copperstate fly-in here in Arizona in October. Please call them at (707) 279-0259 [home] or (707) 263-0729 [hanger C1] to let them know that you want to hitch up with them along the way. Lee says he's gotten back into radio control model airplanes and just found out that Model Manufacturer and Shinn owner Tom Herr is planning to produce a Varga kit by this fall. I knew from his stationary and comments from a friend at work that Tom's company, Herr Engineering Corporation, made model airplane components but I didn't think to ask if he was considering a Varga model. In addition to his e-mail and web site above. Tom's phone in Titusville, Florida is (407) 264-2488 if you're interested in a Varga model.

Lee also reports that, although he expected about 8 Vargas this year, due to fog and low clouds, he and Lynn Peters were the only two Vargas that made it to their annual lunch get-together at Woodland. He says that Lynn went a good part of the way on the deck and Lee had to climb out of Clear Lake and go on top of the coastal layer to make it.

Bill McIntyre has been looking for months and has just bought Dennis Schafer's Varga 2150A, N8290J.

Robert Abend bought Tom O'Hara's airplane VARGA 2150A N8262J and then sold it as follows.


Without prior intent, I have sold the Varga (8262J) that I purchased from Tom Ohara. I am in the market for another one [VARGA], and I would appreciate your putting a comment to that affect in your next newsletter. While it is fresh in my mind, I thought I would try to put together what I have found to be the pros and cons of buying and owning a Varga. This might be good info for prospective buyers and maybe some owners. My Varga was a 1978 model VAC 108-78.


1. All controls, except the rudder are pushrods. This makes for nice crisp control action. Large ailerons make for a nice roll rate.

2. In general, the Varga is very nicely built. It has a chrome molly tube frame that would be good protection in a crash, and it just seems to be a quality built airplane.

3. Recessed, covered fuel caps on the wings are a nice touch.

4. The Varga is the easiest airplane to land that I have ever flown (haven't flown that many). The worst Varga landing you will ever make would be considered a greaser by Cessna jockey.

5. While the Varga has a two place tandem seating arrangement, the pilot enjoys lots of elbow room, and the rear seat is almost wide enough for two people.

6. The visibility in the Varga is simply outstanding in virtually all directions, and the rear view mirror works!

7. The take off roll and climb rate beat the pants off a 172. This airplane does not have a problem coping with high density altitudes.

8. The maneuverability on the ground is wonderful. You simply do not have to use the brakes, and the Varga will turn on the proverbial dime.

9. All the aluminum panels back to the trailing edge of the wing are removable and attached by screws. This makes for easy access to everything. Annuals should be a piece of cake.

10. The Varga has a very large instrument panel for a tandem seated aircraft. There should be no problem finding room for all the goodies you want.

11. The general flight characteristics of the Varga are really nice. It is very docile at slow speeds, but quick on the controls. You can expect a few more knots than a 172 in cruise speed, but they are pretty close. I personally prefer the Varga stick to a yoke; it just feels nicer, and more intuitive.

12. There is no problem taxiing with the canopy open, and this is really nice in hot weather.


1. Probably the worst feature of the Varga is comfort. I am 5' 8" tall, and the rudder pedals are too close for me; I also have relatively short legs (29" pant leg inseam). The rudder pedals are not adjustable, and neither are the seats. The seats are a simple arrangement with the backs about 90 degrees to the seat bottom; again, there is no adjustment. Not everyone will fit in this airplane, and it is clearly not the choice for cross country trips unless you enjoy back ache.

2. The Varga is very noisy. This is probably due to the large Plexiglas area and the lack of insulation. Noise canceling headsets are recommended!

3. The rudder pedals are spaced fairly wide for both the pilot and passenger, and the passenger must put their feet in footwells. This is not necessarily uncomfortable, but your seating is kind of unusual as you fly along in kind of a spread eagle position.

4. The Varga tends to wallow a little in turbulence. This may be due to its short coupled tail.

5. The baggage compartment is rather small, and difficult to access. There is no external baggage door.

6. If you fill the tanks in your Varga, be prepared for several gallons to siphon out the vent tube onto the ground. You can mitigate this problem to some degree by closing one of the fuel shut off valves. Note:

There is one fuel shut off valve for each tank. This problem is caused by the vent lines being placed too low in the fuel tanks, and the tendency for fuel from one tank to flow into the other if the aircraft is not perfectly level.

7. My Varga was not equipped with a primer. The procedure for starting the engine is to turn on the electric fuel pump, and cycle the throttle several times. This puts fuel into the carburetor. A backfire coupled with fuel on the ground from the vent tube could make starting the engine in the fuel pit a warm and exciting experience!!

8. The maximum flap deployment speed is (if I remember correctly) 86 miles per hour. This is a comparatively low number. When the flaps are deployed, the nose pitches down and the airspeed increases, making it easy to overspeed the flaps if you are not paying attention. I am not an aeronautical engineer, but the hinging coupled with the flap mechanism configuration seems relatively weak, and there is a service bulletin to look for cracks in the inboard flap hinges. Some Varga pilots don't use the flaps at all, and this, in part, may be why.

9. The Varga takes almost full right rudder on the takeoff ground roll (almost like a taildragger). This may be due to its small rudder.

10. The rudder pressure is very light at small excursions making it difficult to "Feel" the rudder.

11. The static port for the pitot static system is on the bottom of the aircraft. This probably improves the accuracy of indicated airspeed in a slip, but a spot of mud or other debris kicked up during takeoff could block the port disabling all pitot static instruments.

12. I fly in Southern California where the sun always shines, but the canopy design could be prone to leaks.

13. The fuel gauges in the Varga are completely useless. Don't fly a Varga unless you look in the tanks and verify there is fuel.

14. The Varga uses a straight engine mount instead of a dynafocal mount for the O-320 making for a little more vibration than a typical 172.

15. There are numerous parts that were custom made by Varga for the aircraft. Many are difficult to find, or simply not available.

16. The springs that hold the muffler exhaust stacks in place near the bottom of the cowling are reported to break about every 50 hours. There are various mods that reportedly fix this problem.

17. My Varga was a 1978 aircraft and did not have the shoulder harnesses. The stick and intrument panel could cause serious injury in a crash. The stick is particularly beefy, and would probably fare better than your bod in a crash. I would have installed shoulder harnesses had I owned my Varga longer.

Bob Abend"


Steve Cerveny bought Varga 2150A , N8266J and is keeping it at Paso Robles where it was when Wally Nissan owned it.

Mike DiAmore and Jim Griskewicz just bought John Sheridan's Shinn, N531MB

Please note that I've added a couple of vendors to the Planes & Parts section and that ESSCO's area code has changed.



Link to Vendors / Parts / Service / Tools  

John Ellis (573) 243-3504[w]) has the following miscellaneous parts for sale but didn't give me any prices:

1 canopy complete

1 elevator

1 Interior complete including seats (scale 1-10 at least 9+)

1 R H fuel tank

1 front control stick assembly

1 rear control stick assembly

2 side panels

1 left flap with light repairable damage

1 right flap with light repairable damage


Andy Rosenberg's new address and phone are:

4833 Darrow Rd.

Suite 106

Stow, OH 44224

(330) 342-4498

Tom Stumpf just paid $65 +postage for a new OIL TEMPERATURE SENDER from Bill Pruitt at INSTRUMENT TECH in Dallas. The sender part number has changed from 3080-0010 to 3080-0037. Bill's phone number is (800) 229-9078 and he has always been very helpful with instrument and gauge problems.

At the risk of this sounding like an ad, George Varga, (602) 963-6936, also wanted me to remind you that VARGA ENTERPRIZES has a catalog and sells a variety of aircraft parts and accessories (instruments, batteries, tires, headsets, etc.). He also has a hose shop for Varga fuel and oil lines and an instrument repair shop. When you call, tell them you're a Varga owner and ask to speak to George. He always enjoys talking about his namesake.


Member Timothy Williams says that he needs to sell his Varga. Specs are as follows:

1979 Varga 2150A, serial no. 134-79 TTSN 1560 Bendix King KLX0135A-12 GPS/COMM, Bose Headset, Transponder/Encoder, Pointer 3000 ELT. Complete glider towing package installed. Post lights, strobes. Purchased new and maintained by US Air Force (100 hr. inspections). Never damaged. New interior last 2 years. Black and silver stripes on white. Tim Williams, Provo Utah airport. $34,000. (801) 756-1994, or *801) 756-6531.


TRADE-A-PLANE, 2nd June ISSUE, 1998:

SHINN 2150A. CLEAN, low time, well equipped,

$30,000. 417,926-4221. See pictures @



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).



Roger Fowler asked if anyone had an external power plug installed on their Varga. I don't understand why because I'm not familiar with glider tow operations but he says he has to jump his airplane "...more often than we would like." If you have done this modification and can help him please call him at (919) 362-5498.


As I mentioned in the last newsletter, Len Peters sent some photos, a sketch and instructions for a refueling indicator that he designed to preclude overfilling the fuel tanks and I have included the sketch and instructions here. If you want to make one of these devices, please let me know and I will send the photos.

MAINTENANCE: In newsletter #21 I included, in Maintenance Item #15, instructions on how to replace the "O" ring seals in the shimmy dampener. Unfortunately, as Roger Fowler pointed out to me, I gave the wrong "O" ring part number. The AN6227B-8 "O" ring that I called out is too big and should be an AN6227B-7. I've overhauled at least 3 shimmy dampeners with "O" rings that I think I must have gotten from George Varga who (without my knowing it) apparently protected me from making a mistake by giving me the right "O" rings. I will correct the error on Maintenance Item # 15 before I print it again but please correct your copy if you have one.


Bob Abend says that although it steers fine, his airplane seems to track a little nose left and asked about wheel alignment procedures. Figure 6.4 in the Maintenance Manual and Figure 3.4 in the Parts Manual show the correct torque link installation for the left main gear and Figure 6.6 in the Maintenance Manual shows the correct torque link installation for the right main gear. The upper link on both main gear should have the "arm" on the inboard side. Installation position doesn't matter on the nose gear as long as the drain holes in the links at at the bottom of each "pocket". "Toe-in" adjustment is accomplished by varying the number and/or thickness of the AN960-516 (or AN960-516L) washers between the upper and lower torque links. Thicker or more washers gives more "toe-in" and thinner or fewer washers give less "toe-in". The only limitation is that there needs to be at least one washer (thick or thin) between the torque links to act as a bearing surface. If I remember correctly, the ideal toe-in is "0" degrees but a little toe-in is probably better than any toe-out. If I remember correctly, the way we used to measure and adjust toe-in/toe-out at the factory was to clamp a long aluminum bar to each brake disk so that it stuck out an equal distance in front of and behind the wheel and then measure the distance between the bars at the front and the back. After adding or removing washers as required, the wheels were considered aligned when the measurement was the same at both the front and the back of the bars. The thing to note about the 1/8" drain holes when looking at the torque links in the main gear is their position. No matter which position the link is in, the drain holes should be at the bottom. If your drain holes are in the wrong place, rather than swap the links around, I'd take the easy way out and drill extra drain holes. If cleanly drilled and deburred, extra drain holes won't hurt the parts structurally, but you should check with your A&P or AI first if you decide to do it or have it done.


The subject of elevator trim came up again recently. Dale Lewis complained that he has never been able to get enough nose down trim when he has someone in the back seat. His airplane was apart for an annual inspection so his mechanic and I inspected the elevator control and trim system for improper travel or discrepencies that might be causing a problem. He already has about 1/8" of shim under the front stabilzer attachment. With the airplane leveled (a bubble level on the window sill) travel was good (using both an electronic and a mechanical measuring device to be sure) at 16 degrees up and 18 degrees down with a total of 34 degrees. The bungee springs were the right ones in the right places and didn't appear to be stretched. The elevator stops were set correctly and the sticks didn't seem to interfere with the seats when pushed full forward and pulled full back. The trim handle moved smoothly through it's travel, didn't have too much play and didn't appear to slip when I cranked in hard nose down trim and pushed up forcefully on the elevator. The trim chain was correctly positioned on the sprocket in the neutral position and didn't run out of travel when moved from full nose down to full nose up positions. On the ground, I was able to turn the trim crank handle almost 270 degrees both forward and aft of it's neutral position before it got too hard to turn.

As I mentioned to Dale, I've never flown a Varga that wouldn't trim. Dale's complaint is not unusual. While we were still building airplanes, owners would sometimes get in their brand new airplanes and complain about the inablity to trim the airplane until someone familiar with the problem would get in the plane with them and show them that they just needed to turn the crank a little harder. In my first newsletter (issue #21) I made a design comment and included a letter from Bill Morrisey, the original developer of your airplane, that gave an excellent description of the Morrisey/Shinn/Varga trim system and discussed chain travel as a possible problem. I also discussed the problem again in issue #29 where I also mentioned the addition of shims to the forward horizontal stabilizer attach points and included a sketch of a 10 tooth sprocket.

Perhaps it's just that the FAA and our production test pilots had very strong hands but none of us ever had any trouble demonstrating that a Varga was trimmable in all approved CG configurations. I don't mean to minimize Dale's complaint because the force required to give adequate nose down trim in aft CG conditions IS a problem. The force shouldn't be so high that there would be even one complaint. The main reason that it wasn't changed is that the problem could be overcome with an explanation and a little extra muscle and the FAA never considered it a problem or a safety-of-flight issue. I personally considered it enough of a problem that I modified my trim clutch mechanism by replacing the 14 tooth sprocket with a 10 tooth sprocket and installing a 6" diameter trim wheel in place of the short General Motors vent window trim crank that you probably have installed on your airplane.

None of this is to say that there can't be a serious safety problem with the elevator trim system. Bob Stambovsky found that his elevator travel was significantly maladjusted to give way too much up travel (which may cause stall/spin problems) and way too little down travel (which was causing a real inability to trim nose down). In a recent conversation with Dave Miner who just got his airplane back in the air after an overhaul and restoration, Dave said he found that replacing badly worn engine mount grommets seems to have made it easier to get nose down trim and now he doesn't appear to have a problem. Although most of the comments are about the trim and speed improvements that owners have gotten by adding shims to the horizontal stabilizer, the Beery newsletters and maintenance items also have a few comments about trim and speed improvements made by installing new rubber engine mount bushings.

If Varga was still in business, the solution may have been as simple as relocating the elevator attachments and installing a larger trim handle/wheel or smaller trim sprocket but that isn't gonna happen any time soon, no one I know is going to spend the time and money required to make these changes and most owners would probably not want to spend what it might cost to buy an STC for these changes. Unfortunately, like many of the CONS in Bob Abend's comments, this is one of the CONS that some Varga owners will have to live with. I hope that, even with the problems that we all know about, the PROS will significantly tilt the scales in favor of owning and flying a Varga for most pilots.


I've had several calls about broken Oil Temperature Gauges lately. George Varga's instrument shop has repaired fuel gauges for me (my airplane is experimental and I don't need a yellow tag) in the past and they have worked well but his shop has been turning away Varga customers lately. I talked to George about it and he said that Rochester Gauges can't or won't furnish Repair Manuals or Specifications and, although these gauges are relatively easy to repair, the FAA appears to be getting more strict about overhauling instruments without design data and George doesn't want to risk his repair station certificate. I was also told that AIR PARTS was willing to repair an Oil Temp Gauge but may not provide yellow tag. I talked to Bill Pruitt Sr. at INSTRUMENT TECH and he said ROCHESTER GAUGES never had a repair manual and wasn't willing to provide data or to make one gauge at a time but that they might be willing to make a production run of at least 10 gauges with a delivery of 12 to 16 weeks. Bill said he would request a quote from ROCHESTER for me. I don't know what the price will be but I expect somewhere between $100 and $200 each. I can't afford to inventory $1000-2000 worth of gauges but if I can get at least 9 of you who are willing to buy a gauge just for insurance that you'll have one when you need it, we can give the order to Bill Pruitt after he gets a quote. I will buy at least one gauge to have on hand for others but I can't make the rest of the order without your help. Please let me know as soon as possible if you can buy a Oil Temp Gauge. In any event, although Bill may not have a replacement gauge for you, I would call INSTRUMENT TECH first to see about getting your old one repaired.

As I've said to some Varga owners with gauge problems, I have a complete engine cluster that I've been saving for the airplane that I am building. I won't need it for a while so if you have a real emergency, although I am reluctant to break up this set, I will loan you one of the gauges from this cluster until you get yours fixed and can sent your repaired unit back to me.


Most of the slow progress I've been making on my next airplane is just continuing disassembly work. I had originally intended to start building landing gear and stub wing parts but those cost money and my wife and daughter seem to find quicker and easier ways to spend the money I'd like to spend on an "old wrecked airplane". So far I've taken apart both outer wings, the aft fuselage, stub wing vertical stabilizer, elevator, rudder, front seat, one aileron and a flap. I've got enough disassembly and clean-up work to keep me busy for quite a while which also helps me avoid spending large amounts of money on tools, sheet metal and steel tubing.


In July 1978 the FAA required that all new aircraft be equipped with shoulder harnesses. Over the last few years I've been asked several times about retrofitting shoulder harness installations on pre-July 1978 Vargas. Some of what follows is a repeat of what I said about shoulder harnesses in issue #24.

In an Advisory Circular, AC43-13.2 I think, the FAA provides provides some guidelines for installing shoulder harnesses on older airplanes. I also used these guidelines for the design of original Varga harness installation.

We used an inertia real type harness from American Safety (now AM-SAFE, Inc.) because, at the time, they were relatively inexpensive and the inertia real allowed the pilot unrestricted movement to reach the flaps, fuel valves and stuff laying on the floor.

On the Varga, regardless of whether we used a fixed harness or inertia reel, the most difficult design problem was getting the harness attach point far enough above average shoulder height to reduce the possibility of what is called "spinal compression" (a broken back?) in a crash. The only other major problem was to make the attach point strong enough to support a 500 pound load. Other design considerations were to make the pilot harness support narrow enough so that the passenger could still see around it well enough to look at the instruments, attractive enough so it didn't look like a "roll bar" and, as always on an airplane, to keep the weight down.

The back seat harness installation was fairly simple and only required that a doubler be installed on the turtle deck. I have included a drawing of the doubler that we used to reinforce and stiffen the attach point. With this doubler, the aft harness attachment easily passed the 500# load test.

But, on the pilot seat, in order to raise the harness to above shoulder level and provide the torsional stiffness to support the 500 lb. load that the FAA required, a doubler was added to the seat and a small roll bar and torsion box was welded to the fuselage cross tube.

In order to use the same inertia reel on both the front and rear seats (the aft harness being longer to span the hat shelf), on the front seat, I needed to attach it behind the seat to create a loop.

Although I think we did install shoulder harnesses on a few older Vargas for customers who brought them back to the factory,, the design required welding new parts on the fuselage and wasn't easy to kit for field installations so we didn't sell parts to other owners of older airplanes.

If I were to do it all over again, I would design a simpler front seat installation. It would have been an easier retrofit if I had attached the harness support either entirely to the seat or entirely to the fuselage. That way, only the seat or the fuselage would have to be modified but not both.

If you have a pre-harness airplane and really want to install the harness (and can afford to deal with the FAA) I have included some sketches and notes that might help you get started. No matter what design you use (my suggestion or your own pipe dream) you should, and the FAA will probably expect you to, load the harness to 500 lbs (or to whatever the current load requirement is). We had a partially assembled fuselage so ithe load test was fairly easy for us to do at the time. It may not be as easy for you but I have included some sketches anyway to show how we did it.