Percival Mew Gull G-AEXF in pre-war racing trim
Alex Henshaw's Percival Mew Gull G-AEXF in pre-war racing trim

The prototype of the Percival Aircraft Company E1 Mew Gull high-performance, single seat racing monoplane (G-ACND), was flown at Gravesend in March 1934. The type had been specifically designed for racing and long distance touring.  


A single, low-wing wooden construction, the Mew Gull was powered by a six-cylinder De Havilland Gipsy Six engine which eventually achieved 265 mph from its modest 205 hp powerplant.


It was developed into a number of sub-variants (Percival E2, E2H and E3H) although only six aircraft were ever built. The last of which (G-AFAA), was built at Luton after Percival Aircraft Ltd moved there in October 1936.


Percival Mew Gull G-AEXF in 1986 at Thruxton
Mew Gull G-AEXF in 1986 at Thruxton prior to King's Cup Air Race


The Mew Gull was said to be 'the holy grail of British Air Racing', and during the latter part of the 1930s they dominated meetings and competitions around the UK. Far and away the most famous Mew Gull was the E2H (G-AEXF), which was raced by Alex Henshaw (who later became Chief Production Test Pilot for Spitfires made at Castle Bromwich).


In addition to winning the 1938 Kings Cup Race, Henshaw recorded a speed of 247 mph during one flight. He then took the aircraft on many further adventures, including a record attempt on the England to Cape Town route in 1939, a round trip which he completed in 4 days, 10 hours and 16 minutes.


During all his exploits, Henshaw never damaged the aircraft and eventually sold it to Frenchman Victor Vermoral who, along with many successive owners, managed to hide it from the Germans during World War II.  


Percival Mew Gull G-AEXF at Old Warden in October 2014
Percival Mew Gull G-AEXF flying at Old Warden in October 2014

Despite a number of post war incidents which saw the aircraft written off at least twice, it (G-AEXF) still survives today. After over 80 years since its original construction, it is currently based at The Shuttleworth Trust at Old Warden, Bedfordshire.


In 2013, a replica aircraft (G-HEKL) emerged in private ownership and is now also airworthy in the UK.


Specification (Percival E.2 Mew Gull)

Powerplant One 205 hp DH Gipsy Six Srs II 
Span 24 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight 2,125 lb
Capacity  Pilot only
Maximum Speed 230 mph
Cruising Sped 205 mph
Range 800 miles


Variants & Number built

Mew Gull E.1
1 built
Prototype with Napier Javelin engine
Mew Gull E.2
1 built
Powered by DH Gipsy Six
Mew Gull E.2H
3 built          
Powered by DH Gipsy Six (later re-engined to Gipsy Six Series II)
Mew Gull E.3H
1 built
Often called the Super Mew, built specifically for Edgar Percival



Mew Gull (G-AEXF)
The Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden, Bedfordshire
Mew Gull (G-HEKL)
Amateur-built new-build aircraft first flown in 2013
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