1936 Percival Mew Gull

The Collection’s exhibit

Originally registered ZS-AHM, named ‘The Golden City’ and flown by Major A M Miller, it was one of three Mew Gulls intended to take part in the Schlesinger Race from Portsmouth to Johannesburg in 1936. Having run out of fuel just before the first control at Belgrade and being unable to obtain a suitable grade of spirit for refuelling, Miller retired and returned to England. Here, in 1937, the Mew Gull was sold to Alex Henshaw and re-registered G-AEXF.

Henshaw won the 1937 Folkestone Trophy at 210 mph with his new mount but suffered engine failure and force landed during that year’s King’s Cup. For the 1938 racing season G-AEXF was modified by Essex Aero at Gravesend. They fitted a Gipsy Six R engine in place of the former standard Gipsy Six and a Ratier variable pitch propeller taken from the Comet racer G-ACSS. Soon the Ratier was replaced by a de Havilland constant speed propeller and the fuselage was remodelled above the top longerons to give a lower profile – with the pilot seated on the floor. With these modifications Henshaw won the 1938 King’s Cup at 236.25 mph.

G-AEXF then returned to Gravesend where a Gipsy Six series II engine, radio and long-range fuel tanks were fitted in preparation for Alex Henshaw’s out-and-home Cape record flight. He took off on February 5th 1939 and returned from Cape Town 4 days 10 hours 16 minutes later, a record that stood for over 70 years! G-AEXF spent WWII hidden in France and was returned to England and refurbished overhauled in time to win the 1955 King’s Cup.

After suffering various vicissitudes, G-AEXF was bought in 1985 by Desmond Penrose who had the aircraft returned to its original 1939 configuration by AJD engineering – after which it was based at Old Warden. In 1991 it suffered a forced landing in a barley field, due probably to carburettor icing, in which it was severely damaged due to the crop jamming the wheels in the spats. It was again restored and later, in 2002, sold to the Real Aeroplane Company at Breighton in Yorkshire. It was then purchased by the Shuttleworth Collection and arrived back at Old Warden on 6th October 2013.

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