25 July 1999
ISSUE # 39
[August 2008 update]
No one was hurt. While departing Payson
airport on the morning of May 2nd, new partner, Doug Brown and passenger were
surprised by a wind gust and skidded off the runway into some trees. The
airplane was substantially damaged. The outboard half of the right wing was
pretty much destroyed and, while apparently sliding backwards, the main gear
collapsed. The right aileron sort of survived but suffered major skin damage.
The left aileron is slightly damaged and probably usable again and left wing got
some leading edge and skin damage. The elevator was destroyed and the horizontal
stabilizer sustained, what I hope is, repairable damage. The engine mount and
fuselage truss look good and engine looks OK but there was a prop strike and the
prop was very bent. Except for leading edge damage from the landing gear
collapse, the stub wing is mostly OK. The aft fuselage has got some serious but
repairable skin rash. The airplane didn't turn over but something caused the
bubble canopy to break.
Of course, Doug feels really bad but as I
told him "Sh-- Happens!". There is nothing to do now but pick up the
parts and put them back together. I think Lee
"...My logbook shows over 600 hours of
macho taildragger time but I'll be the first to admit that the wheel belongs on
the front of the airplane. I have had my share of what I call runway migrations
and they are very humbling, I assure you. ..."
Fortunately, although his ego had been
significantly bruised, Doug was able to organize the temporary storage of the
airplane and, with help from former partner, Dan Delany, we went up to Payson
the following Friday to disassemble it for transportation back to Falcon Field.
The salvagers from Payson that we left the
parts with did a real good job of returning the parts to us with no further
damage but even though the prop was badly damaged, somebody must have decided it
was worth something and picked it up from the Payson ramp area where we left it,
never to be seen again. I was told that the propeller model and serial number
were given to the police and reported to all the local prop shops in case it
The next week, Doug went down to
Believe it or not, there is a bright side to
all of this. Along with my project airplane, with a little extra time and money,
we can now make two airplanes from most of the parts of three airplanes and now
have formed another partnership to build that second airplane. We are shooting
to have N2103Z back in the air by Thanksgiving and with help from Doug Brown and
Dan Delany, I am hopeful to have the second airplane airborne by the original
projected date for my project airplane of Christmas of 2000 (see the Design
section of this issue).
Although we are still in the disassembly
stage of both airplanes, we are concentrating on N2103Z and are already making
good progress on the repairs.
The right wing will have to be almost
I will be
removing several wrinkled aft fuselage skins to be replaced and will have to
make a form block and related tooling to fabricate a new horizontal bulkhead
(underneath the horizontal stabilizer).
fiberglass nose bowl will need a little glass repair and I will have to make a
new lower right hand cowl skin.
lucky to still have a good left hand lower main gear and, with the purchase of
N78114, we also have a good right lower main gear. All the torque links and
attaching hardware appear also to be in good shape. I will have to make a weld
fixture and buy the materials to fabricate and assemble both the left and right
taildragger upper main gear struts.
was returned to Lycon for inspection and repair. They will tear it down to check
and see if the crankshaft is bent ($3,000 for another crank if it is). There is
also a Ly
have to purchase a new prop at somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000 (I haven't
got a quote yet).
I got a
quote for a new bubble canopy (without the windshield or rear window, which were
not broken) of $950 plus shipping.
about it. Six months or so of nights and weekends making and repairing parts,
reassembly and a lot of paint and we're flying again almost as good as new.
know which airplane he has but Swan Person of Hilltop Lakes, Texas has just
joined as well.
lots of activity on the VG-21 web site and through internet e-mail, so much that
it would take up every newsletter for the rest of the year if I just printed the
correspondence. You should visit the web site if you can. If you don't have a
sent information and several photos to me on airplanes that we shipped to
wanted to give a public "Thank you!" to Jim Corell for all his
behind-the-scenes help on the web site.
TEMPERATURE GAUGE: We still need someone to
I have a Morrisey Shinn for sale.
5 hours on new engine.
If you know of anyone interested please have
them email ( email@example.com
for a photo and more info.
I just sold my Varga also.
A few years ago I met Mrs. Varga at
Send to Frank
In order to cover some of his expenses and
help speed up the construction of my project airplane, Doug and I are going to
airplane that we will be building from N4VK (the wreck that I own) and N78114
(the wreck that Doug bought) parts will be an experimental airplane that will
incorporate many of the design changes that I didn't have time for on N2103Z.
The engine from N78114 has a bent crankshaft but had only 126 hours on a
Mattituck overhaul. We will replace the crankshaft and put it back together. If
we have the money at assembly time, we may convert it to 160 HP by changing the
pistons and pins (and call the airplane a model 3160?).
N78114 airframe, the stub wing spars were trashed but most of the ribs survived
and as soon as I can get/make new spars we can rebuild the stub wing.
both upper and lower right main gear survived in tact but we will be
using the lower main gear on N2103Z in order to get it in the air quicker. The
N78114 upper right hand main gear can be used as a template to make a weld
fixture for the destroyed upper left main gear. I got good quotes on all of the
material needed for making upper landing gear and I think we can weld and
assemble them with no problems. The lower main gear are a small problem. The 1
7/8" x .083 wall tubing used to make the vertical strut is no longer
available. I was able to locate some 1 7/8" x .095 wall tubing but the
inside diameter is too small for the spring outside diameter. If not too
expensive, I will try to find a vendor who can hone or ream the I.D. of this
tubing to the right dimension. If that is cost prohibitive, I can easily grind
the spring O.D. down by .024" but that will reduce the spring rate a
little. I don't think that will matter but I'll have to do a little calculating
to figure it out (calculating at my age makes my head hurt).
wings both need some leading edge repair including new leading edge skins and
be using the N78114 horizontal tail on N2103Z, I'll be rebuilding N4VK's
horizontal stabilizer with new skins and flush rivets for this airplane. A new
elevator will be designed and built. The N78114 vertical stabilizer is in good
shape (I may flush rivet N4VK's stab and use it instead) and although I could
also use the existing N78114 rudder, I want to design and build a larger and
better rudder. Except for a small repairable ding, the N78114 aft fuselage is in
excellent condition and can be used as-is.
Most of the
fuselage truss side and bottom panel parts are bent or wrinkled and will have to
Once I have
all the broken parts fixed, from nose to tail, the following is a list of
changes I plan to make to the airframe that will make it an experimental.
fiberglass nose bowl will be redesigned to accept a prop (the old N78114 prop
was very badly bent) with a 3" extension and a 14 inch diameter spinner
(probably from a Grumman Cheetah). The engine mount will also be extended to
move the engine forward 2". Of course, a 2" stretch means that all of
the remaining engine cowl parts and the engine control parts will have to be
extended as well to ac
firewall will be dish panned in the rudder/brake pedal area to increase pedal
travel/adjustment a couple of inches for the pilot.
instrument panel will be moved 4" forward as on N2103Z. This allows a new,
5" deeper, instrument panel to be installed which gives a lot more space
for instruments and avionics.
forward pedals will be moved down and forward as on N2103Z except with even more
travel and perhaps some adjustability. The brake master cylinders will be moved
to the front pedals and fiberglass front floorboards with heel wells will also
be made and installed as on N2103Z.
5. A bubble
canopy will be installed. This will be the same design as on N2103Z except cut
down a couple of inches so it won't look so damn tall. I got a quote of about
$1700 from Aircraft Windshield for all that Plexiglas.
front seat will be modified to make the back a little narrower. I did this on
the Montanair airplane and it seemed to work well to give the passenger more
foot and leg room.
7. With the
instrument panel moved 4" forward, the pilots throttle can be moved forward
1 1/4" to a more
ball fuel valves will be installed to eliminate fuel valve maintenance.
will be actuated with push-pull rods instead of spring loaded cables. The flap
handle will also be modified to improve aft rudder pedal travel and passenger
foot room. Flap travel will be increased slightly.
larger (smooth skin) rudder will be designed and installed. The rudder control
system will be revised to reduce rudder pedal forces as on N2103Z. The rear
rudder pedals will be narrowed to allow for more travel and foot room.
12. A new
(smooth skin) elevator will be designed and installed.
on, gear fairings and wheel pants will be designed and installed.
be some things that I add or take away from this list but, based on my past
experience, this is probably about how the airplane will be configured when it
note, Howard Shaw asked if there is a crosswind limit on the Varga. The answer
is that, even though I've never personally found one the Varga couldn't handle,
I don't think we were ever required to demonstrate crosswind landings and I
don't know what the limit is.
PERSONAL NOTES: A personal history of Varga
Continuing the story from issue # 36:
even though I started out as just a draftsman, I began to take on more and more
other duties by default (there was no one else to do them). Every airplane part
needs a manufacturing record and Al Wilson was hand writing a new triplicate
work order for each and every part number. This took an enormous amount of time
from his job as shop manager. To help him out, I created a standard form and
began writing the work orders for him so that they could be duplicated on a copy
machine. The inspection and part layout area was in the drafting room so I got a
chance to observe how tooling was created and parts were inspected. The FAA was
mentioned in newsletter #36, the Varga factory was a 125' x 128' metal building
with a 30' x 75' block office area at the front. The office area was on the
south side of the hanger with the 040 end of the runway on the north side of the
building. With such close access to the runway, it was an ideal location for the
factory. Excluding the Powerplant Supply
machinery in the fabrication area was tightly spaced in order to have room for
everything we needed to build airplanes.
assembly area took up the remaining west two/thirds of the hanger. There was a
large rolling hanger door on the west side facing a dirt ramp that we used for
temporary parking and run-up. There was also a small out-building near the
northwest corner of the building that was used for storage.
fabrication and assembly areas were loosely divided by a row of north to south
parts shelves. There was no well planned assembly layout area.
Mooney, Piper and other factories must be long and large because the wings need
to be installed fairly early in the assembly process and, once the wings are
attached, the airplanes take up a lot of space.
Aircraft, we could get by with such a small building because space requirements
for the assembly are better than for most airplanes due to the Varga's
detachable wings. The outer wings can be left off for about 95% of the assembly
work and then installed just a few hours before the airplane is ready for
One of the
unique things about Varga Aircraft was that, even though the factory was very
small (as airplane factories go), we had all of the equipment and the ability to
build every airframe part on the airplane. From 1967, when he bought the Varga
tooling and Type Certificates, until 1975, when I got there, Mr. Varga had been
accumulating the important machinery and tools necessary to build airplane
parts. He had bought a Shinn 2150A to use as a sample part and started out by
hiring a few very capable and very dedicated people to begin the work. If you
stood on top of the tool crib on the south side of the building (which I did
occasionally to retrieve parts or tools stored there) you could, literally,
watch raw materials (sheet metal, steel tubing, etc.)
One of the
reasons why I was hired as a draftsman was that, although adequate to get the
airplane certified in the first place, the drawings did not quite keep up with
the changes that happened to the airplane as it passed from Morrisey to Shinn to
Varga. Morrisey and Shinn had made very good tooling so it wasn't hard to build
good airplane parts, but many times when the FAA came to
the FAA, we actually had a pretty good relationship with most FAA personnel. The
FAA test pilots really liked the airplane and were always very helpful. The FAA
procedure for getting an airplane certified as "airworthy" was really
fairly simple. It only involved a thorough review of the assembly records
accumulated during the construction of the airplane, a few appropriately
event, at that point in time, sales were never a problem. From the time I got
there in 1975 we gradually increased our production rate to just over 2 per
month. Relatively high demand and such a slow rate kept a constant backlog of 20
to 30 airplane orders and we didn't even need to advertise.
August 1976 issue of Private Pilot magazine a nice cover article on the Varga
generated a lot of interest and probably many sales.
show that in 1977 we made 26 airplanes. Even with such a rosy sales outlook, the
profits from Mr. Varga's personal business, Powerplant Supply
1978, in an effort to get some financial help, we contracted with a consultant
named Mario Trenti. From February through March, I worked with Mario to gather
as much production and financial data as we could in order to give him enough
information to re
Varga's credit, I don't think many people can imagine what kind of resources it
takes to put an airplane factory together and I seriously doubt if there were
many people besides George Varga who could have gathered those resources the way
he did to get the Morrisey/Shinn back into production. He (and son George) had
the desire and strength of will that few people might have to try and create a
the ability to create an aircraft factory and the ability to run one are two
different things and we were often taking two steps back for every one step
forward. With much effort by Mr. Varga's son George, Al Wilson and a few others
we continued to slog along from crisis to crisis.
another consultant came along who promised to work for free until he made the