Varga Kachina 2150A
Updated: Jan 4, 2021
First Impressions: This is the poor man’s T-34 with a name that sounds like a medical diagnosis!
Design Features: Tandem fixed tricycle gear all-metal plane with an O-320 and fixed pitch Sensenich prop. The canopy looks like it’s from a military trainer but rather than sliding forward and back it slides up on a track and folds in. If the overhead vents don’t cool you down enough on a hot summer day you can actually open the canopy in flight below 80 mph!
Ergonomics: It takes a little more work to slide into the front seat than into the back, but once you’re in, there is enough head room even for guys a little taller than six feet. The rudder pedals are not adjustable. On the model I tested the leg room to the pedals was a bit awkward because of two added instrument panel extensions where your knees belong! This can be remedied by removing the seat cushion or perhaps just 1 getting a thinner custom made one. The stick is a bit short and the throttle is a lever action type mounted to the left wall that almost seems like an afterthought. The elevator trim is spring tension action only and moves the entire stick. The trim lever handle on the Kachina I tested looks identical to a window crank handle from a 1978 Chevelle! It is mounted to the left wall and more than once I grabbed it to adjust power because it’s located where the throttle should be! The flap handle is a two-position Johnson bar on the left side floor, only accessible to the front seat pilot. The back seat, larger and much easier to get into than the front seat, has foot wells for the back seater and a decent sized hat rack behind the seat. Also, behind the wooden back seat support there is a zippered canvas curtain that closes in a generously-sized baggage compartment. There is a stick, throttle, rudder pedals and brakes in the back seat, but everything else is out of reach. Visibility is great from both the front and back seat thanks to the bubble canopy.
Taxi/Takeoff: Nosewheel steering is direct linkage and effective enough to make tight turns with differential braking. Runups are standard for any O-320. Close the canopy, turn on the emergency fuel pump and away you go! Because of the direct linkage nosewheel steering, be careful not to over-control on takeoff or landing. Rotate at 60 mph and climb out at 80. The takeoff and climbout is one of the best features of the Varga. As the sole occupant, I noted a 1400 fpm climb rate at 80 mph on a slightly warmer than standard day. Even with two occupants, just under 1000 fpm was noted. Not bad for a 150 hp trainer!
Cruise/Maneuverability: The Kachina responds very kindly to all stick and rudder inputs and acts like a trainer should act. In level flight at 3,000 feet, I saw 117 mph at 2400 rpm. With a fixed-pitch climb prop the top cruise speed is limited; it would actually be difficult to overspeed the rpm, even in a significant dive. A power off stall with full flaps occurs at 55 mph indicated and results in a slight drop straight ahead with no wing drop. A power on stall requires almost full right rudder to keep the nose tracking straight and would buffet at 52 mph but not result in nose fall off, likely due to the small elevator. These benign, yet responsive characteristics are what make this aircraft a great choice for a primary trainer.
Landing: Use a 75-80 mph approach speed on final to ensure there is enough energy for the small elevator to effect a round-out. Keep the nose off the deck and allow the mains to kiss the deck. Try to keep the nose off the deck to prevent PIO resulting from overcontrol of the direct-linkage nosewheel steering.
Wrap-up: The Varga Kachina 2150A will certainly draw some curious looks and can be an inexpensive way to have a fun, two-seat plane with a bit of the fighter plane feel!