VG-21 Squadron


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 Beery said it best when he sent an e-mail after I gave him the news.

"...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 shows up.


The next week, Doug went down to Tucson and bought the remains of the Varga (N78114) that crashed here in Chandler so we would have some spare parts. This immediately gave us the perfect horizontal stabilizer, elevator and lower right main gear that we needed.


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 com pletely rebuilt. I have some outboard spars for my project airplane (what was N4VK) and will have to make most of the outboard skins, rib tooling and ribs. I will have to search for someone who can do a good job of rolling leading edge skins. I can can straighten them out and use many of the damaged parts as templates for new tooling and parts. The left wing needs a new outboard leading edge skin (I have one from N4VK) and the rib tooling that I got from Rosemary DeAngelo will com e in very handy. I will have to repair the damaged fiberglass wing tips from both wings enough to use them as plugs to make new molds.

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).

The fiberglass nose bowl will need a little glass repair and I will have to make a new lower right hand cowl skin.

We were 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.

The engine 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 com ing Airworthiness Directive that must be com plied with in the event of a prop strike. This process will cost about $3,000 (if the crank is good, $6,000 plus if not). It should be done soon.

We will 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.

That's 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.

James D. Rast of Cameron , South Carolina has joined VG-21 after recently taking delivery of N5069V.

I don't know which airplane he has but Swan Person of Hilltop Lakes, Texas has just joined as well.


There is 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 com puter ask someone you know who does and have him show the site to you ( ). It's costing Doc to keep it up and running so send him a donation if you can.

Doc has sent information and several photos to me on airplanes that we shipped to Europe . I'm sure if you ask, Doc will also help you to find any internet related Varga stuff that he knows about. Doc also told me that information about Varga owner Phil Margo is highlighted at .

Doc also wanted to give a public "Thank you!" to Jim Corell for all his behind-the-scenes help on the web site.


The next event com ing up is the Copperstate Fly-In in October. I'll keep you posted about that one and if you have another that you want Varga owners to attend, please let me know and I'll list it in the next newsletter.


Link to Vendors / Parts / Service / Tools  

OIL TEMPERATURE GAUGE: We still need someone to com mit four more gauges and I can place an order.




Aircraft Windshield

3842 Catalina Street

Los Alamitos , California 90720

(213) 430-8108

[Windshield and windows]


Bandy Machining International

3420 N. San Fernando Blvd. Burbank , CA 91504

(818) 846-9020

[NAS40 Hinge]

Varga Enterprises

2350 South Airport Boulevard Chandler , AZ 85249 (602)963-0936

[Accessories, hardware, Aeroquip hose, batteries, instruments and instrument repair, tires, see Trade A Plane or call for catalog]


Century Spring Corporation

P.O. Box 15287

222 East 16th Street Los Angeles , CA 90015 (213)749-1466 (800)237-5225 (213)749-3802-FAX [Springs]


Dawley Aviation

Larry Dawley

40 Industrial Drive Burlington , WI 53105 (414)763-3113

(414 )763-3735-FAX [Exhaust Systems]




240 North 48th Ave.

Phoenix , AZ

(602) 233-2802

[Seat belts and Inertia reels]


Instrument Tech Corporation 15060

Beltwood Parkway East Dallas , TX 75224

(972) 458-8785

[Varga gauges, senders and instruments]

 Loren Perry

Varga Aircraft Com pany


Hephzibah , GA [Airframe parts]


Don Copeland

Arizona Aeropainting

4710 North Lear Drive Eloy , AZ 85231 (520)466-4336

[Varga Factory Paint Shop]


E.E. "Buck" Hilbert Hilbert's Funny Farm

8102 Leech Rd. Box 424 Union , IL 60180-0424

(815)923-4591 (815)923-4605-FAX

[Miscellaneous used parts]



Cockpit Fuel Gauge Tester

Lee Beery

7845 Soda Bay Road

Kelseyville , CA 95451 (707)279-0259



2150A Engine Mount Fixture

Rolf Lehman

P.O. Box 88

San Rafael , CA 94915 (415)457-1738





(saw horses)

Hartwell Jewell

5 Burrel Court

Tiburon , CA 94920



Main Landing gear Upper Strut Weld Fixture

Ken Harris

1613 Elder Avenue Greeley . CO 80631 (970)356-6041




Doc Adams passed on the following e-mail:


I have a Morrisey Shinn for sale.


5 hours on new engine.

If you know of anyone interested please have them email ( )

for a photo and more info.

I just sold my Varga also.

A few years ago I met Mrs. Varga at Oshkosh

Send to Frank

Thank you



In order to cover some of his expenses and help speed up the construction of my project airplane, Doug and I are going to com bine our parts and labor and build a second airplane. It will probably be called an AeroSpec 3150.

The new 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?).

On the 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.

On N78114, 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).

The N78114 wings both need some leading edge repair including new leading edge skins and some ribs.

Since I'll 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 be remade.

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.

1. The 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 com modate this change. The oil cooler will be moved to the engine air inlet as on N2103Z. The battery may be moved forward of the firewall. All this will move the CG closer to the forward limit and reduce required trim forces on the tail when the airplane is loaded tail heavy. I will try to improve the engine cowl and exhaust system design aero-dynamically enough (a la Lopresti) to improve speed as well. A new light weight starter will be installed to help counteract the weight increases that I expect from all the other modifications that will be made.

2. The firewall will be dish panned in the rudder/brake pedal area to increase pedal travel/adjustment a couple of inches for the pilot.

3. The 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.

4. The 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.

6. The 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 com fortable position. Both pilot and passenger will be given full engine controls including throttle, mixture, carb heat, magnetos and starter. The airplane will be designed to be soloed from the aft seat if desired. As I said before, moving the instrument panel forward will also allow it to be extended down 5 or so inches to give room for more instruments and/or avionics. With so much extra panel space, Doug says he'd like to make this an IFR airplane so he can get his ratings.

8. A storage com partment will be built under the bottom of the aft seat as shown on an FAA 337 that I have.

9. Teflon ball fuel valves will be installed to eliminate fuel valve maintenance.

10. Flaps 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.

11. A 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.

13. Later on, gear fairings and wheel pants will be designed and installed.

There may 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 flies.

On another 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.


Doc Adams has made some useful additions to the "Maintenance" page on the web site.


PERSONAL NOTES: A personal history of Varga Aircraft (continued).

Continuing the story from issue # 36:

Eventually, 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 com plaining about our lack of quality control personnel and procedures so I began to act as Quality Control Manager. We started building airplanes at a higher rate and part time engineer, Dave Chelgren, couldn't always be there when the FAA came to sign off an airplane, so I began to act as the FAA liaison and prepared all the FAA paperwork required for airworthiness approvals.

I lived near downtown Phoenix and drove 25 miles each day to the Varga factory in Chandler . Many production parts were purchased and production processes were obtained from downtown vendors and, since I was close, I was often asked to pick up or deliver parts on my way to work. This eventually became a regular part of my job and took up a couple of hours each day that I had to make up by staying late and working Saturdays.

As I 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 Com pany (now Varga Enterprises) business in the southwest and northwest corners of the hanger, the airplane factory was divided up into two major areas. The part fabrication and machine shop area took up about a third of the hanger on the east side of the building. There was a large roll up door in the northeast corner that was used for bringing in materials. An outside service door, bathroom and the tool/parts crib were in the southeast corner. Employees parked on the east side and came in through that service door.

The machinery in the fabrication area was tightly spaced in order to have room for everything we needed to build airplanes.

The 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.

The fabrication and assembly areas were loosely divided by a row of north to south parts shelves. There was no well planned assembly layout area. Com pleted and nearly com pleted airplanes took up most of the central area of the hanger with subassembly parts (flaps, ailerons, wings, etc.) and their assembly fixtures scattered in convenient places around the assembled and partially assembled airplanes.

Beechcraft, 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.

At Varga 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 flight.

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.) com e in one door and, at the same time, watch an airplane being pushed out another door for its' first flight.

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 com pare an off-the-shelf part with its, supposedly, FAA approved drawing, they could find a drawing discrepancy. The discrepancies rarely involve a safety-of-flight issue so I would usually be told to fix the drawing and submit the change to the FAA for approval by the time they returned to inspect the next airplane. The problem with this was that, before the FAA returned, several other, seemingly more important, design problems would crop up and would take a priority over what the FAA had asked for. Fortunately, to most of the FAA Manufacturing Inspectors and Flight Test Pilots, it was obvious, in spite of our technical problems, that we were building a very good product and doing the best we could to keep up. For a long time our excuses and promises to do better were acceptable.

Speaking of 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 com pleted FAA forms, a cursory inspection of the plane and a flight test by an FAA or FAA designated test pilot. Good paperwork appeared to be the most important part of the FAA sign-off process. If the airplane wasn't ready or I wasn't ready, the paper shuffle could be anywhere from a one hour to several hour affair depending on how far behind we were when the FAA showed up. Bob Copeland, who did most of our production flight tests, took care of most of the airplane's flight squawks and, once the paperwork was in order, FAA flight tests were usually only quick half hour flights with few, if any, remaining discrepancies.

In any 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.

In the August 1976 issue of Private Pilot magazine a nice cover article on the Varga generated a lot of interest and probably many sales.

My records 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 Com pany, were supporting production and, because we weren't building airplanes at a profitable rate, Varga Aircraft was going into the hole a little deeper with each airplane that went out the door.

In early 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 com mend the changes that would make us profitable. Mario was quick to understand what we needed to do and in early April gave Mr. Varga a briefing and a report that listed several suggested actions. Although he knew it was a risky thing to say, one of Mario's re com mendations was that Mr. Varga go away and let someone else run the com pany. This was a little too much for Mr. Varga to hear and it was Mario who went away. None of his re com mendations were implemented and things continued as they were.

To Mr. 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 successful airplane com pany.

Unfortunately, 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.

In 1979 another consultant came along who promised to work for free until he made the com pany profitable. He convinced Mr. Varga to borrow some money to increase the production rate and to start the Model 2180 certification process. I'll tell you about that in the next installment.