Varga Kachina, Military Type Civilian Trainer



The owner of this Kachina painted his in military colors. Note large canopy and easy access to engine.

By:       Norm Goyer

During the years our company had four flight schools in SoCal, our mostly ex-military instructors kept looking for a “perfect trainer.” In their opinion, the four-place Skyhawks and Warriors were a waste of space and horsepower. Of course, they were right. They all considered the Cessna 150/152 to be the best compromise, but all complained of the cramped cockpit, except Sam, our 135 pound flight instructor, he fit just fine. We also tried teaching in Citabrias, but the ground loop accident rate was too high.

Years earlier, the US Air Force and the Navy flying programs also came to the same conclusion, get rid of the tail draggers. There were simply too many ground looping accidents, which were counter-productive to a tightly scheduled, primary flying programming. The new primary trainer of choice, by both services, was the Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, a tandem two-place, tricycle gear trainer.

Many Varga Kachinas were sold overseas. Note the top painted canopy to reduce the heat from the sun.

The configuration of the very successful T-34 caught the eye of Morrisey who immediately designed a much smaller T-34 look-alike in the form of what would later become the Varga Kachina, Wikipedia carries this information on the history of the Kachina.

“In 1958 William J. Morrisey re-engineered his 1948-designed wood and fabric Model 1000C as the all-metal Morrisey 2000. A further improvement came with the Morrisey 2150 with a 108-hp Lycoming O-235 engine, two of which were built by 1959.

The instrument panel of the Varga Kachina is very well laid out with flight instruments in the proper pattern directly in front of the pilot and the engine gauges on the left. Note the control stick and military style rudder pedals.

The design rights were then sold to Shinn Engineering Inc., which built 35 improved Shinn 2150A aircraft with a 150-hp Lycoming O-320-A2C engine, before ceasing production in 1962.

The 2150A design rights were sold to the Varga Aircraft Corporation in 1967, which built the Varga 2150A Kachina at Chandler, Arizona between 1975 and 1982. One hundred and twenty one 2150A Kachinas were completed in addition to 18 examples of the Varga 2180, with a 180-hp Lycoming O-360-A2D engine. A tail wheel option version was available as the Varga 2150TG.

One day a student flew a Varga Kachina into Apple Valley Airport. It appeared that our instructors had finally found the perfect primary trainer, that is from their perspective. The pretty little plane had a high visibility canopy, the student sat on the center-line of the aircraft, the rear instructor’s seat was elevated so the instruments could be monitored more easily. It was a great idea, but as we were both Cessna and Piper dealers (different FBOs) we were discouraged from introducing a competitive brand into our mix of trainers. In retrospect, the Kachina wasn’t really the most ideal trainer for pilots who intended to move up to more complex Piper or Cessna aircraft. The 150-hp engine was really too much power for a primary trainer, tandem seating is not the best teaching environment, side-by-side is. And finally our mechanics were well trained in the maintenance of the major brands. Those reasons are all true, but, you know I always wanted a Kachina for my own use as a “gofer” airplane, they sure were a lot of fun to fly.

Specifications Varga Kachina

  • Crew: One pilot
  • Capacity: 1 passenger
  • Length: 21 ft 3 in
  • Wingspan: 30 ft 0 in
  • Height: 7 ft 2 in
  • Wing area: 142 ft²
  • Empty weight: 1,130 lb
  • Gross weight: 1,820 lb
  • Engine: Lycoming O-320-A2C, 150 hp

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 148 mph
  • Range: 525 miles
  • Service ceiling: 22,000 ft

Rate of climb: 1,450 ft/min

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