1932: Capt. Edgar Percival and Lt.-Cdr. E.W.B.
Leake form Percival Aircraft.
1944: Percival Aircraft becomes part of the
1954: Company name changed to Hunting Percival
1957: Company changes name to Hunting Aircraft.
1960: British Aircraft Corp. (BAC) purchases
1965: Cancellation of the TSR.2 leads to closing
of Hunter Aircraft.
Of N. Irish parents, he
was born in Albury, N.S.W. Maternal grandfather was Pontus Wikner, the
Swedish philosopher. Early childhood saw Edgar designing, making and
flying gliders. Then he joined the Light Horse for WW1 and in 1916 was in
the R.F.C. flying fighters in Billy Bishop's Squadron, in France, after
going solo in 20 minutes. He achieved the rank of captain. After service
in the Middle East and Greece the War ended and he returned to Australia
with two aircraft, to do film work, stunt flying and barnstorming plus
In 1921 he surveyed the Melbourne- Brisbane route in an Avro 504; and when
pilots licences were issued, he was disappointed that 'Melbourne based'
flyers obtained the lower numbers!
All this time he was trying to improve aircraft design and test fly others
like the Boulton Paul P9. In 1923 he won Keith Murdock's Melbourne to
Geelong race. In 1926 he was catapulted off the U.S.S. Idaho in a Scout
Fighters. In 1929 he preferred the larger pond of Europe for flying
development and became a test pilot for the Air Ministry. He was well
regarded, especially for testing amphibians and Schneider Trophy planes.
His first designed aircraft, in this period, was the Saro Percival Mail
Carrier, but he started his own
company at Gravesend, Kent in 1932 and
designed many of the air race winners. He flew a Gull from England to
Morocco to England (230 miles) in one day in 1935 and, for this he won the
Oswald Watt Gold Medal. In the Schlessinger England-South Africa Race in
1936 almost half the entrants were Percival's designs including the winner
(a Vega Gull).
Percival's aircraft were
noted for their graceful lines and outstanding performance.
Charles Kingsford Smith
flew a Percival Gull Four named 'Miss Southern Cross' from England to
Australia in the record breaking time of 7 days 4 hours and 44 minutes.
The New Zealand aviatrix,
Jean Batten, also used the Percival Gull to fly from England to Australia
in October 1936.
Over successive years he cornered a market in training aircraft with his
Proctor design which continued during WW2. As his war effort he tried to
increase engine performance of fighters with superchargers for Merlins but
could not persuade U.K. to sponsor this idea, so he went to the U.S.A. and
worked from there. After selling his part of the Company in 1944 he
settled in America and became a permanent U.S. citizen "by enactment in
1948 of a Senate Bill" especially for his benefit. In 1951 he went to New
Zealand and helped with pioneer aerial fertilizer distribution. Even in
1980 he was working on new ideas in U.K. and New Zealand while writing his