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Sep 13, 2008, 05:58 AM
Expat Canuck
Milhafre's Avatar

Scratch Build-Off 3: Percival Gull 6

Growing up in a house filled with my uncle's aviation books from the 20's and 30's, I was familiar with this neat little monoplane, but it was only after reading Ian Mackersey's biography of Jean Batten (who flew a Gull) this summer that I considered building a model.

Edgar Percival started his aviation career in his native Australia, but moved to England in the 20's. He collaborated on designs for various companies, but he started his own company to build his first design: the Percival Gull (although the first batch were constructed by George Parnel & Son)

The first version of the Gull, which flew in 1932 and is usually known as the Gull four, was a very clean three-seater with a four cylinder in-line air cooled engine and was distinguished from later Gulls by the three-strut undercarriage legs. An improved version, the Gull six had a 200HP Gypsy Six engine and single-strut undercarriage legs covered by streamlined fairings. This is the plane Jean Batten flew, and this is the one I am modelling.

A further development was the Vega Gull. This was a four-seater with dual controls. It had a slightly wider fuselage, greater span, a balanced rudder and flaps.

A military development of the Vega Gull was the Proctor, built in large numbers during the war as a training and communications aircraft for the RAF, it continued in production as a civilian aircraft after the war.

Last edited by Milhafre; Nov 29, 2008 at 04:42 PM.
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Sep 13, 2008, 06:48 AM
Registered User
paulbw's Avatar
Hi Roly,
That is going to make a beautiful project and I'm looking forward to following your build. Any decisions on size and power plant as yet?
Paul W.
Sep 13, 2008, 09:23 AM
Two left thumbs
Delightful! You have a fine penchant for choosing aircraft with character to model!

Sep 13, 2008, 10:16 AM
Not now, Kato! Not now!
katobaggins's Avatar
I was only familiar with the Mew Gull. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I'll also be following this build. Distinctly Percival!
Sep 13, 2008, 10:36 AM
Registered User
vonJaerschky's Avatar
Roly, you have a real knack for picking classic subjects! I'm looking forward to seeing this one, too. I have seen the actual airplane G-ADPR hanging in the Auckland airport. We were leaving New Zealand, the family saying tearful goodbyes to friends, and there I was drooling over the Gull
Last edited by vonJaerschky; Sep 13, 2008 at 10:44 AM.
Sep 13, 2008, 10:36 AM
Student of Ivan
mountainman2442's Avatar
Signing up to watch this one also.

All these wonderful British designs just have me thing ya know, I'll be breaking for tea instead of coffee...

Sep 14, 2008, 03:49 AM
Expat Canuck
Milhafre's Avatar
Thank you all for your encouragement—

Originally Posted by paulbw
Any decisions on size and power plant as yet?
Paul W.
Paul, I was trying to string this out a bit as we have a while until the contest starts!
I am planning to go with one twelfth scale again, just like the Canuck and the Scion. This give a wingspan of just over 36 inches. For power I am thinking of one of the same motors I used in the Scion; this one .

Did you happen to notice the logo on the fin? On the rudder she has the New Zealand flag, the Brazilian air force roundel, the Uruguayan air force roundel and the Argentine flag, but there is a logo on the fin that I cannot make out in any of the pictures I have. If anyone is passing through Auckland airport could you have a look for me?! Also, on the nose above the Wakefield Castrol logo there is a coat of arms that I cannot make out.

next thing ya know, I'll be breaking for tea instead of coffee...
John, a little bit of trivia for you:
The only tea plantations in Europe are here in the Azores!

Roly—a fount of useless knowledge.
Sep 14, 2008, 04:35 AM
Registered User
Kiwi's Avatar
re the nose coat of arms, looks like the royal coat of arms as in Wakefield Castrol having the royal warrent for the supply of oils etc?

The fin one may be the Percival Gull Badge as shown in Ron Moultons book Flying Scale Models page 115.
(I can't afford to fly up to Auckland to have a look)
To confirm it email Brian Borland at Airsail. He built one.
You could also check
Otherwise I'll have a hunt for you, or I could put you in touch with the builder of this one.
Last edited by Kiwi; Sep 14, 2008 at 05:11 AM.
Sep 14, 2008, 03:09 PM
Registered User
Jugjock's Avatar
Very interesting subject, Roly. This one's going to be fun to follow.
Sep 15, 2008, 03:18 AM
Expat Canuck
Milhafre's Avatar

Jean Batten

Thank you for all the information Kiwi—now I look at it it does look like a stylized seagull. And that's a beautiful model in your picture; it even has the long-range tank in the back seat. Mine is going to be much more modest—strictly sport-scale.

The name Jean Batten has come up quite a bit already in this thread so this is for any who are wondering who she was.

In the nineteen thirties, when long-distance flyers received the same treatment that rock stars do today, the three most famous female fliers were Amy Johnson from England, Amelia Earhart from the United States and Jean Batten from New Zealand. Of the three, Batten was undoubtedly the best navigator and best pilot. Her records include: 1934 England to Australia in 14 days 22 hours 30 minutes in a De Havilland Moth; 1935 Australia to England in 17 days 16 hours 15 minutes in the Moth; 1935 England to Brazil in 2 days 13 hours 15 minutes in a Percival Gull 6; 1936 England to New Zealand in 11 days 45 minutes in the Gull; 1937 Australia to England in 5 days 18 hours 15 minutes in the Gull.

Why is she not better remembered today? With the outbreak of war she quit flying and spent most of the rest of her life as a recluse until her death in 1982. Ian Mackersey has done some masterful detective work to put together the story of her life in his book Jean Batten, the Garbo of the Skies. I can't do better than quote the cover blurb:

Jean Batten was one of the great aviation megastars of the 1930s. Her spectacular flights ranked with those of Britain's Amy Johnson and America's Amelia Earhart. Yet, despite her brilliance as a pilot, she remained the least well-known of them all. For the dentist's daughter from New Zealand built an impregnable wall around her private life—which was dominated, though few ever knew it, by the formidable influence of her mother.
Drawing on secret memoirs found after Jean Batten's death and on hundreds of interviews with people who knew her, this biography of Jean's sad and elusive life explodes the enduring myths of happiness and perfection that she created for herself. It also finally solves the mystery of her bizarre and lonely end. The real Jean Batten emerges as a fascinating woman, who combined bravery and ruthlessness with the stunning and seductive beauty she used so effectively to fulfil her great ambitions.
There are inexpensive copies of the book at Abe Books .

Sep 15, 2008, 03:31 AM
Registered User
Kiwi's Avatar
Notice also in that model there is Jean with her white helmet
Sep 15, 2008, 04:43 AM
Registered User
JoseLG's Avatar
Hi good selection. The Percivals are the most beatifull planes of the 30`s. I`ve been colecting information about the Gull Six and Four. I`m currentle working over a Traplet plan of the Six, more bigger that yours, with folding wings.
Good winds.
José L.G.
Sep 16, 2008, 03:56 AM
Expat Canuck
Milhafre's Avatar
Thank you José

Kiwi, I did notice the pilot figure. I have a white-helmeted pilot rescued from a now defunct model. Unfortunately it has a moustache…
I'll have to start over.

Sep 17, 2008, 03:28 AM
Expat Canuck
Milhafre's Avatar

The Model

I have been busy on a couple of non-scale projects this summer—a dedicated camera-plane and a new slope soarer for the coming winter season. The camera plane is just a version of a 32 inch sport-plane I designed some years ago scaled up to 48 inches—I'm at the covering stage now. The slope soarer is a replacement for my trusty Ridge Runt that I totalled last year when I launched it into a gusty wind without first turning on the receiver—duh—it did 270 degrees of a Very Large Loop before impacting the ground!

In between times while waiting for inspiration, or for glue to dry I have started sketching out the Gull in CorelDraw.

This plane will be my first attempt at a low wing design and I have decided to build it at one twelfth scale again, just like the Canuck and the Scion in the last two Build-Offs. This gives a model of just over thirty-six inch wing span. I was originally thinking of elevator/aileron control, but as I need to be able to steer it on the ground, I guess it will need a rudder servo too. The number one priority will be to keep it light.

I have already changed my mind twice about the basic construction! The full size Gull has a plywood sheeted fuselage and my first sketches were for balsa sheeting over a standard frame. As I went further it seemed to be getting a little heavy, so I re-drew it as a stick-and-tissue build. Didn't like the look of this as much, so now I am trying it a third time as a sort of monocoque construction where the outer sheeting is structural, with a minimum of internal framing.

On the first Build Off I took advantage of Charlie's generous offer of laser cutting, mainly because I had never seen laser cut parts before. As it happened design changes meant I could only use about 60% of the fuselage parts and with an un-tapered wing I could probably have cut the wing ribs (around a ply template) just as fast as the laser. The Scion was pretty much design-as-you-build; build one part and then design the next part to fit it. No real scope for laser cutting there. This time, though, I hope to get the whole thing nailed down and clear enough in my head to have another go at having it pre-cut.

As we have a while until we can actually start building I thought I would put some notes here on the design process. I notice that there are several builders who want to try CAD for the first time in this contest so I thought I'd put in a little on how I work. CorelDraw is not technically a CAD program, it is a Graphic Design program and as I came to computers from the graphic design end, I am more comfortable with it. I find Graphic Design programs a little more intuitive as they seem to be aimed at artists rather than at engineers (and there should be as much the artistic as there is of engineering in a good aircraft design) Charlie at Manzano Laser and Callie can both read CorelDraw files so why shift to anything else?

Vintage1 did a masterful thread on designing in CorelDraw a year or so ago, I just thought I'd add some hints and tips on the way I use the program to help a beginner get started.

Stay tuned,

Sep 17, 2008, 04:00 AM
Registered User
paulbw's Avatar

A beginners guide to Corel Draw...

Hi Roly,
I am very much at the ab initio stage with Corel draw, having recognised that it is more friendly than other CAD programs that I have tried, so I'm very pleased to hear that you are going to post some notes on its use. Can I vote for plenty of detail on the absolute basics please - as in 'adapted for the meanest of understandings' - mine!
I smiled when reading your design-decision process which I recognised from a recent build that I've done (but not posted). 'Only just strong enough' took some achieving and I found that it started with balsa density choices - and having to leave the 'belt and braces' approach to structures behind as well!
I recognised the crest on that earlier post of yours as from an old Wakefield Castrol Oils tin that I had found and kept for years - a company started by a namesake of mine though I've yet to find any connection!
Paul W. (CorelDraw keys poised!)

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