AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 56

ground, and its main landing gear
is mounted far forward of the
center of gravity so raising the
tailwheel requires firm forward elevator pressure.
We're off the ground in
about 10 seconds and 800
feet of ground roll at 80
miles per hour, raise the
gear, and accelerate to 100.
Mohr reduces engine rpm
to 3,000 at pattern altitude
and accelerates to 120 for a
cruise climb.
Control pressures are light
and remarkably well balanced.
The Gull is stable in roll thanks to
its pronounced dihedral, and there's
a substantial adverse yaw, so pilots must
keep their feet active to coordinate turns.
Stalls are preceded by mild airframe buffeting
with or without flaps, and the right wing drops at the stall break
(and the break itself is sharper with flaps down). Recovery is normal (reduce angle of attack and add power) but not instantaneous,
and it takes a few seconds for the ailerons to regain effectiveness.
Approaches to water landings typically use full flaps and partial power until touchdown. Mohr deploys the flaps at 120 miles
per hour and flies water approaches at 100, then slows to 85 on
short final. Touchdowns take place at about 82 mph and the keel
skims the surface for a few seconds before settling in at about 65
mph and rapidly decelerating.
With both a water rudder and two reversible propellers, the
Gull handles with precision on the water. The right side of the
canopy can open forward, enabling a crew member to tie up to the
cleat on the bow or use an anchor. When approaching a dock, the
pilot can control speed easily and turn with authority (and a very
small radius) using any combination of differential power, water
rudder, or reverse thrust.
Water takeoffs are astonishingly short at about 12 seconds-
roughly the same amount of time (and a little more distance) than
an amphibious Piper Super Cub. And there's virtually no pitch
change during the transition from watercraft to aircraft. The Gull's
windshield stays dry as it accelerates onto the step.
" The pilot can literally keep his hands off the yoke throughout
a water takeoff, " Mohr said. " The airplane has very little tendency
to porpoise. "
Runway landings are typically three-pointers. Full flaps, gear
down (three green indicator lights on the panel and confirm with
the mirrors on the pontoons). Approach at 90 mph, carry some
power into ground effect, hold a 5-degree nose-up attitude, wipe
off the power, and work the yoke aft.
The locking tailwheel keeps the airplane tracking straight
ahead after touchdown, and the airplane rolls out in about 1,000
feet in calm wind with light braking. But don't unlock the tailwheel too soon.
" The big vertical stabilizer and long moment arm make it easy
to ground loop when the tailwheel is unlocked, " Mohr said. " Wait
56 | AOPA PILOT May 2021

until you're almost stopped before
you unlock it. "
'CAN'T TOUCH IT'

The Piaggio Gull (P.136) first
flew in 1948 but the prototype's Franklin engines
didn't produce sufficient
power. Subsequent versions with Lycoming
GO-435 and GO-480 versions increased power
output, and a supercharged
GSO-480 on a few airplanes
raised their ceiling beyond
25,000 feet.
The Italian military was an
early Gull customer-but an American
machine tool magnate, Francis J. Trecker,
also saw promise in the design. Trecker
wasn't a pilot, but he saw the airplane during a 1954
trip to Italy and was convinced it was an ideal aircraft to whisk
hunters, fishermen, and guides to wilderness lodges, and to shuttle luxury customers among metropolitan airports, islands, yachts,
and vacation destinations.
He launched the Trecker Aircraft Corp. in Wisconsin,
rebranded the airplane as the Trecker Royal Gull, and up to 35
U.S. workers installed avionics and engines in aircraft shipped
from the factory in Genoa, Italy. From 1956 until 1961 about 30
Gulls were imported and sold at list prices of more than $75,000
(or about $275,000 in adjusted dollars).
The name Royal wasn't an exaggeration, either. King Farouk of
Egypt owned one, and Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis
bought three.
Yet the Gull never caught on in a big way, and manufacturer
Piaggio saw more promise in a land airplane version (the P.166).
Eventually, it morphed into a turboprop and that began a series
of larger, faster versions that evolved into the company's flagship
P.180 Avanti.
The Gull has always been a pilot's airplane-but today it takes
a special pilot to make it work. Mohr is one of the very few with
the skills, commitment, and the technical savvy to operate and
maintain it-and it's a big job.
The Gull that Mohr first saw as a boy? It was subsequently
wrecked in a lake in New York, submerged, and then recovered.
Mohr owns the parts, and they're stored in his hangar where
they'll eventually be refurbished and fly again in the airplane he's
restoring.
" The Gull was way ahead of its time, " he said. " The reason
I've had mine for so long is that nothing else can do the things
that it does. It's as fast as a Caravan on floats. It takes off and
lands on the water like a Super Cub. An amphibious Beaver or
Cessna 185 can't touch its range or endurance. The Gull is one
of those rare airplanes that, the more you're around it, the more
you appreciate it. " 
AOPA
EMAIL dave.hirschman@aopa.org



AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 4
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover4
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