Percival aircraft history, performance and specifications
1932: Capt. Edgar
Percival and Lt.-Cdr. E.W.B.
Leake form Percival Aircraft.
1944: Percival Aircraft
becomes part of the Hunting
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
Edgar Wikner Percival (1897 -
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 charter flights.
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 memoirs.