VG-21 Squadron


Gene Salvay is an engineer that was involved in the design of Bill Morrisey's Nifty which was the precursor to all Morrisey/Shinn/Varga airplanes. I found on the internet that Gene's address hadn't changed from the time I met him when I worked at Varga so I wrote to ask him for permission to reprint this letter to George Varga. A few days later I got a call from Gene who said it was OK to reprint the letter and he added some information about what he's been doing since he wrote the letter in 1979. I'm not very good at taking notes on the phone but I',ll try to summarize what he told me. After he retired from Rockwell, He went to work for Lockheed at the "Skunk Works" and although he couldn't give a lot of details about what he did, while he was there, there were published reports of the development of a spy plane and a space plane. Somewhere in there he spent about a year in Israel helping to develop the KFIR fighter. Needless to say, he's had an interesting career that we are the beneficiaries of.

He also sent a reprint of a 1958 article from an EAA magazine and a 1987 article from Pacific Flyer and some pictures and copies of the 3-View drawings that I have included in this issue.

I also have a copy a May 1981 article about Gene's Skyhopper from a publication called "Kansas City Aviation". The article is titled "The K.C. SKYHOPPER" and repeats much of what Gene says in the following typed copy of his 1979 hand written letter. I can't reprint them well here so if you want a copy of the magazine article or photos just let me know.


History of the Morrisey Nifty

(Varga Kachina)

A bit of background, going back to June, 1940, is in order to understand what led up to the arrangement for the design of the "Nifty". This writer arrived at Rearwin Airplanes in June of 1940, fresh from aeronautical school and anxious to try his hand in the engineering field. I met a fine young engineer by the name of George Stark, who had started at Rearwin, several years earlier, and as aviation was progressing very rapidly in those pre-war years, offered me considerable guidance. Before long, George and I were creating the next version of the Rearwin "Skyranger", which subsequently was manufactured in 1946 and 1947 as the Commonwealth 185. With war signs all around, I went to work for North American on the airport in Kansas City, Kansas and Mr. Stark joined me. We participated in the growth development of the B-25 Bomber through all its variants. However, by 1944 we were anxious to get back into small airplanes. It was decided in the spring of 1944 to design and build a small single seat general aviation airplane and with the help of the local CAA branch, obtained the necessary priorities for material and tools. In the spring of 1945, the "Skyhopper" flew and was properly documented as a historical fact in all the aviation trade journals. It became obvious that financial backing was going to be a difficult proposition. By March of 1946, it was dropped as a business venture and George Stark and I split up. The plane was retained by myself and subsequently flown to Los Angeles where I was now a senior engineerinig executive on a Navy Bomber being designed by North American Aviation. The Skyhopper received considerable attention in local aviation circles, since experimental small planes were nowhere as abundant as today thanks to the efforts of the EAA.

One Saturday I was repainting the Skyhopper in the "Navion" delivery hanger at the LA airport when in strolled Bill Morrisey. I noticed the he had flown in with a "Cub". I chided him about his J-3 and in the course of the discussion discovered that he, too, was from Kansas City, and we had mutual friends. Bill was a former CAA test pilot and currently was a test pilot at Douglas Aircraft. It was the start of a very pleasant but sometimes difficult relationship. Bill approached me a short time later, with the idea of designing and building a modern trainer to replace the Cub's and Aeronca's currently in vogue. It had to be tandem but tricycle gear, snappy in performance and attractive. Tailored around the Continental C-85 engine could I come up with a good idea and would I design the plane and oversee the construction? After several meetings in Bill's apartment in Long Beach we signed a mutual assistance pact and I rented space in an engineering office and started the project as an evening venture. Not being encumbered with a family made the situation easy for me. I spent 3 evenings a week and Saturday at the task and within 6 months had completed the preliminary design, the Aerodynamic report, the Basic Loads report, enough drawings to start fabrication and had done my work well with the CAA, so that they "blessed" everything to date. Morrisey assembled a crew and space to build the prototype at Long Beach airport and the parts started showing up. Many hours were spent driving to Long Beach keeping track of construction and assuring compliance with the design. My memory tells me that Wayne Flannery was a fantastic craftsman, who fabricated the majority of the plane. Bill gave impetus and leadership to the program and was the financial father of the effort. It is difficult to evaluate the teamwork necessary complete an undertaking of this magnitude. This was not a "homebuilt", but a full fledged type certificate undertaking. Peoples personal lives were involved as well as their families and these suffered, too. The prototype was a beauty and flew just like Bill wanted it to, thanks to a good basic aerodynamic configuration. The help received from several of my aero friends a North American payed off quite well. The original prototype called the "Nifty", had elliptical wings and tail with steel, wood and fabric construction. Bill gave the plane a very thorough flight test, at which he certainly was well qualified to do. Minor changes were made and finally the project was identified as ready for the next phase. "Money". What a difficult object to induce out of banks. The task that Bill undertook was time consuming and nerve wracking, and more than I was interested in being involved with. Time was getting on with me to stop being an airport "rat", and to latch on to one of the lovely girls I was seeing between evenings at the office, factory or airport. My involvement with Bill Morrisey ended around 1950, about a year after first flight. The Nifty was considerably ahead of its time in concept but good enough to withstand the change in times in aviation. The fact that it is still around attests to its good approach to flying qualities and details design. Unfortunately I failed to make copies of all the drawings and reports I prepared on the Nifty, so have no record of the original design. However I did save all the layouts and sketches which I have stored away for some historical fact that as yet has not matured to date.

Gene Salvay

17201 McCormick

Encino, CA 91316

Mr. Varga

Much water has gone over the dam since 1950. My two most formidable projects were yet to come, Chief Engineer of the Sabreliner and Director of Structural Design for the B-1. So you see the "Kachina" did have a very good "family tree". After the Nifty, I brought out the plans to build the single seat Skyhopper in 1958 and in 1962 I brought out a 2 place Skyhopper. By 1963-64 I was too deeply involved with the Sabreliner and had to forego my love relationship with small planes.

Gene Salvay