Percival Vega Gull


The Percival Vega Gull was a 1930s British, four-seater touring aircraft built by Percival Aircraft Limited. It was a single-engine, low-wing (Folding), wood-and-fabric monoplane with a fixed tailwheel undercarriage.

Percival Vega Gull
Role Civil touring aircraft, military trainer and communications aircraft
Manufacturer Percival Aircraft Limited
Designer Edgar W. Percival
First flight November 1935
Retired 1945
Primary users Royal Air Force
Fleet Air Arm
Produced November 1935 – July 1939
Number built 90
Developed from Percival Gull
Variants Percival Proctor

Design and developmentEdit

Built by Percival Aircraft of Gravesend and Luton (after 1936 when Percival Aircraft became a Limited Company), the 'K-Series' Vega Gull was a development of their earlier 'D-Series' Gull. The main changes from the earlier design were the provision of a fourth seat, dual controls and flaps. The fuselage was widened and the wingspan increased. Increases in drag were compensated for by reducing parasitic drag from exterior fittings such as hinges and actuation horns. This work was largely attributable to the arrival at Percivals of the talented aircraft designer Arthur Bage.[1] Thus, the Vega Gull was very nearly as fast as the more svelte Gull Six. Payload, range and utility were all much improved. The prototype G-AEAB first flew from Gravesend in November 1935.[2]

The Vega Gull retained the de Havilland Gipsy Six air-cooled inline engine introduced in the D.3 Gull Six of 1934. Most examples were fitted with the optional DH Gipsy Six Series II engine in conjunction with the DH-PD30 VP airscrew. The final Mk II examples were fitted with a curved windscreen (the earlier examples had a multi-faceted windscreen of flat panels) similar in appearance to the early marks of the Proctor.[3]

Operational historyEdit

A Vega Gull named "Messenger" was used by Beryl Markham on her transatlantic flight 4–5 September 1936, the first non-stop solo crossing by a woman, and the first east-to-west solo crossing.[4]

Two early production Vega Gulls were entered into the Schlesinger Race from England to Johannesburg, South Africa. C.W.A. Scott and Giles Guthrie flying Vega Gull G-AEKE was the only finisher landing at Rand Airport on 1 October 1936.[5] The aircraft had left Portsmouth 52 hours 56 minutes 48 seconds earlier. With the publicity of the win, Percival set up a production line at larger premises at Luton. The new type was an immediate success with production running to 90, the last production aircraft having its maiden flight on 27 July 1939.

The Vega Gull was widely used by British and Commonwealth aviators during the later years of the "Golden Age" of record-setting aviation during the 1930s. Alex Henshaw, Jim Mollison, Amy Johnson, Beryl Markham, C.W.A. Scott and others, won races and broke records to South Africa, South America, Australia and New Zealand, to name but a few.

In addition to civil orders, 15 were ordered by the Air Ministry. Of these, 11 served with 24 Squadron Royal Air Force on communications duties and two were issued to the Fleet Air Arm, which was yet to come under Admiralty control.[2] The remaining two were used by the British air attachés in Buenos Aires and Lisbon. A third aircraft for use by the British air attaché in Berlin was seized by the Germans at the outbreak of the Second World War.[6] It remains unclear whether the Luftwaffe subsequently used this machine.

After the outbreak of war, Vega Gulls were requisitioned for military use. In the UK, 21 were impressed in 1939–40, 14 for the RAF and seven for the FAA. Two aircraft were impressed in each of Australia and India, while one other was "called to the colours" in New Zealand.[6]

By the end of the war, the Vega Gull had been largely supplanted by its younger sibling, the Proctor, of which more than 1,100 were manufactured. Most Proctors, especially the later examples, were slower and more cumbersome than the original Vega. Despite the obvious drawbacks of its wooden airframe in terms of durability, the Vega Gull compares favourably with more modern designs. To save hangar space, the wings could be folded to reduce the space needed for storage.


  • Type K.1 Vega Gull: Single-engined, four-seat touring aeroplane.


Civil operatorsEdit

Civil Vega Gulls have been registered in the following countries; Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.[7]

Military operatorsEdit

  Nazi Germany
  • Kenya Auxiliary Air Unit[7]
  New Zealand
  United Kingdom

Specifications (Vega Gull, Gipsy Six Series II)Edit

Data from British Civil Aircraft 1919–1972: Volume III.[8]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 3 passengers
  • Length: 25 ft 6 in (7.77 m)
  • Wingspan: 39 ft 6 in (12.04 m)
  • Height: 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m)
  • Wing area: 184 sq ft (17.09 m2)
  • Empty weight: 1,740 lb (789 kg)
  • Gross weight: 3,250 lb (1,474 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × de Havilland Gipsy Six Series II six-cylinder inverted air-cooled inline, drivin, 205 hp (153 kW)
  • Propellers: 2-bladed


  • Maximum speed: 174 mph (280 km/h, 151 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 150 mph (241 km/h, 130 kn)
  • Range: 660 mi (1,062 km, 574 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 17,000 ft (5,180 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,020 ft/min (5.2 m/s)

See alsoEdit

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ An Aviation Pioneer (Obituary). Archived 2 August 2012 at "A Record of the Bage Family History," 1987. Retrieved: 22 July 2008.
  2. ^ a b "Vega Gull." Fleet Air Arm Archive. Retrieved: 12 February 2012.
  3. ^ Ellison 1997, p. 30.
  4. ^ Lewis 1970, pp. 288–289.
  5. ^ "British Civil Aviation in 1936." Archived 19 March 2009 at the UK Government Web Archive Royal Air Force Museum, 2008. Retrieved: 22 July 2008.
  6. ^ a b "Percival Vega Gull." British Aircraft of World War II. Retrieved: 1 July 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gearing 2012, pp. 188–193
  8. ^ Jackson 1988, p. 103.


  • Comas, Matthieu (September–October 2020). "So British!: 1939–1940, les avions britanniques dans l'Armée de l'Air" [So British!: British Aircraft in the French Air Force 1939–1940]. Avions (in French) (236): 38–61. ISSN 1243-8650.
  • Ellison, Norman H. Percivals Aircraft (The Archive Photographs Series). Chalford, Stroud, UK: Chalford Publishing Company, 1997. ISBN 0-7524-0774-0.
  • Gearing, David. W. On the Wings of a Gull – Percival and Hunting Aircraft. Stapleford, UK:Air-Britain (Historians), 2012, ISBN 978-0-85130-448-9
  • Grey, C.G. Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1938. London: David & Charles, 1972. ISBN 0-7153-5734-4.
  • Jackson, A.J. British Civil Aircraft 1919–1972, Volume III. London: Putnam, 1988. ISBN 0-85177-818-6.
  • Lewis, Peter. British Racing and Record-Breaking Aircraft. London: Putnam, 1970, ISBN 0-370-00067-6.
  • Percival, Robert. "A Portrait of Percival." Aeroplane Monthly, Vol. 12, No. 9, September 1984.
  • Silvester, John. "Percival Aircraft 1933–1954 (Parts 1–4)." Aeroplane Monthly, Vol. 11, No. 1–4, January–April 1983.

External linksEdit

  • "Plane Fits into Garage When Wings Are Folded" Popular Mechanics, April 1936