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Trecker Aircraft Corp

Division of Kearney & Trecker Corporation which in early/mid-1960s assembled at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Italian Piaggio P.136L-1 s and L-2s under names Trecker Gull and Super Gull.


Brian Heath
28 Jul 13
Kearney & Trecker Milling Machine Company was — probably still is — located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the 1950’s and 60’s they leased 2 hangers on the west side of General Billy Mitchell Field in Milwaukee next to the Air National Guard with it’s F-86’s. The north hanger housed the business aviation division of the milling machine company. They had a DC-3, a Cessna 182, a Piaggio Royal Gull, and an aero-coupe. Hope I got the names right.

I was 10 years old in 1958 and my dad was the mechanic for the operation, co-pilot on the DC-3, and pilot on the others. They flew milling machine sales people and maintenance people around the eastern U.S. And they often flew the company owners and brass on vacations and fishing trips.

The south hanger housed Kearney & Trecker’s other business investment — a contract with Piaggio in Italy to assemble and sell Royal Gulls. Later the P-166 executive plane was added. My recollection is that the first P-166 at Mitchell Field was a prototype. It was the only one I ever saw, but I did ride in it several times. While the two businesses were legally separate, the mechanics/pilots often consulted with each other.

I recall being there one day when a lively discussion was held between 4 or 5 people about the length of the main forward hull that floats. Mid ship there was a step, and the rear part of the fuselage was not in the water. Some of them, including dad, thought the plane would take off and land better if the floating part of the hull extended back a foot or so. Not everyone agreed, but there was a consensus to try the idea by building a block (out of wood, I think) that would extend the floating hull back. They did that and tried it out. It worked and I think that Piaggio accepted the idea and modified the design.

I went to the airport with dad when there was a vague hope of getting a plane ride. Perhaps he was going to do a short test flight after doing some work. Or perhaps he was flying a low level company person that he knew would not mind a kid on the trip. Sometimes he had to deliver a milling machine part to a customer in, say, New York. On some of those trips I got the right hand seat — several times on the Gull.

I believe it was in the early 60’s that Kearney & Trecker sold a dozen or so of the Royal Gulls to Peru’s air force. They were looking for pilots to deliver the planes and for someone to teach Peru’s pilots and mechanics how to fly and maintain them. Dad volunteered and was selected to fly one plane from Milwaukee to Peru, and then spend a month or so teaching before returning. No, I was not invited. But I thought that what he did was cool. They bought the supercharged engines for going over mountain passes and landing on mountain lakes at over 12,000 feet. Neat planes. Sounds like Kearney & Trecker got out of the airplane business shortly after dad left.


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