Owner of Varga Enterprises
Interviewed by Jean Reynolds
Summary by Adiba Rehman
A worthy son of an enterprising father, George Varga III took over the family business and made it better. It all started when the elder George Varga created a business in the late 1940s of buying and selling surplus aircraft parts in California. Born in California in 1946, George lived there for sixteen years. In 1954, his dad became a partner in his uncle’s hardware business in Phoenix, Arizona and moved some of the expensive parts into the store. After several visits, the family decided to move to Arizona in 1962. George attended Scottsdale High School and graduated in 1964. He enrolled in Arizona State University and also worked full time in the family business. He graduated in 1968 with a degree in General Business.
By the time the Varga family fully relocated their business to Arizona in 1969, they began looking into the idea of manufacturing airplanes, particularly a little plane called the Shin 2150A. They built a large metal hangar at the Chandler Airport and launched into aircraft manufacturing as well as selling general aviation aircraft parts. George’s uncle retired and sold off the store. The family moved all their aircraft parts to the airport location.
In 1974, they built their first certified airplane, naming it the Varga Kachina. Eventually they manufactured 150 Kachinas. The Vargas sold planes to flight schools and private owners. George recalls that Bob Copeland bought a couple of airplanes from them. He was also their first test pilot. Bob’s son, Don, operated a paint shop at the airport and painted nearly all the Kachina planes. George learned to fly in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in the summer of 1968. He enjoyed flying as much as building planes. He worked long hours as the test pilot, salesman, interior and paint designer. By 1980, the parts business moved to its present location to make more room for aircraft manufacturing and the entire business was renamed Varga Enterprises. But an economic downturn and defective parts from a supplier ended the manufacturing of the Kachinas in 1982.
George took over from his father in the 1980s and aggressively started to develop the parts business. He took on more product lines and inventory and worked hard at attracting more customers. He also added an aircraft engines overhauling business.
Today Varga Enterprises is mainly wholesale, catering to fixed base operators who sell to private aircraft owners; and airlines like Southwest and U.S Airways.
George remembers that in the 1980s the airport was in the midst of cotton fields. It was not very attractive, with only one runway. He recalled that the handful of business operators tried to improve the airport by making money through air shows. George is amazed that many people do not know where the airport is located. He comments that extending the runway beyond the designated 4,850 feet would ultimately make flying safer and allow pilots to achieve a higher altitude more quickly, thus reducing noise concerns for nearby neighbors. Overall, George is proud of the successful business he has developed at the airport, and believes his father would be surprised to see what it has become.