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The Percival P.56 Provost is a basic trainer aircraft that was designed and manufactured by British aviation company Percival.

P.56 Provost
Percival Provost NL.jpg
A Percival Provost T.1 preserved as part of The Shuttleworth Collection.
Role Military trainer aircraft
Manufacturer Percival
Designer Henry Millicer
First flight 24 February 1950
Introduction 1953
Retired 1969
Primary users Royal Air Force
Burma Air Force
Iraqi Air Force
Irish Air Corps
Produced 1950–1956
Number built 461
Developed into BAC Jet Provost

During the 1950s, the Provost was developed for the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a replacement for the Percival Prentice. Designed by Henry Millicer, it was a single-engined low-wing monoplane, furnished with a fixed, tailwheel undercarriage and, like the preceding Prentice, had a side-by-side seating arrangement. First flying on 24 February 1950, the prototypes participated in an official evaluation, after which the type was selected to meet Air Ministry specification T.16/48.

The Provost entered service with the RAF during 1953 and quickly proved to be more capable than the preceding Prentice. It was a relatively successful aircraft, being exported for multiple overseas operators. Various models were developed, both armed and unarmed, to meet with customer demands. The Provost later adapted to make use of a turbojet engine, producing the BAC Jet Provost. During the 1960s, the type was withdrawn from RAF service in favour of its jet-powered successor. It continued to be used for decades after with various export customers.



The origins of the Provost can be found in the issuing of Air Ministry specification T.16/48, which called for a single-engined basic trainer aircraft to meet Operational Requirement 257, seeking a replacement for the Royal Air Force's (RAF) existing fleet of Percival Prentice trainers.[1] A major priority of the specification was to introduce more direct supervision and observation of student pilots by instructors in order to reduce the rate of late-stage dropouts.[2] On 11 September 1948, this specification was issued, attracting the attention of various aviation companies; the Air Ministry ultimately received in excess of 30 proposals. Percival was amongst those companies that decided to produce a response, their design has been attributed to the Polish-born aeronautical engineer, Henry Millicer (Millicer later moved to Australia, where he designed the award-winning Victa Airtourer light aircraft).[1]

After reviewing the numerous submissions, the Air Ministry selected a pair of designs, the Percival P.56 and the Handley Page H.P.R. 2, and issued contracts for the construction of prototypes to both companies. On 13 January 1950, Percival was received its contract for a pair of prototypes, both of which being powered by the Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah engine. Additionally, the company decided to construct a third prototype, powered by the more powerful Alvis Leonides Mk 25 radial engine.[1][3]

On 24 February 1950, the Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah-powered prototype serial number WE522 performed its maiden flight.[4] Months later, an extensive evaluation was performed of the Provost prototypes, which was flown head-to-head with the rival H.P.R. 2 at RAF Boscombe Down; it also underwent tropical trials overseas.[3] Reportedly, feedback from trials was largely favourable, especially of its handling characteristics, with only minor refinements being recommended.[5] Ultimately, the Leonides-powered P.56 was selected for production as the Provost T.1; on 29 May 1951, an initial order for 200 aircraft was placed.[1] During 1961, production of the type was terminated, by which point a total of 461 aircraft had reportedly been completed. The Percival Provost eventually formed the basis for a jet-powered derivative, the Jet Provost, which ultimately succeeded the piston-engined Provost as the principle training platform of the RAF.


The Provost was an all-metal, single-engined, two-seat monoplane, featuring fixed conventional landing gear with a fully-castering tailwheel. It was developed to provide training that was better-suited to the increasingly-complicated operational aircraft that were then being brought into service. The main two seats in the cockpit were positioned in a side-by-side configuration, enabling the instructor to sit directly alongside the student, easing training by allowing for mutual close observation and for flight procedures to be more readily demonstrated; a third seat had been originally specified for use by an observer, but this position was later omitted following little use.[6] The cockpit was considered to be relatively bulky amongst its contemporary rivals, a feature that did not heavily impinge upon the aircraft's overall performance.[3] The type was designed to be easy to maintain; various components were intentionally interchangeable where possible and there was a generous provision of access hatches in the fuselage.[7]

Production aircraft were powered by a single Alvis Leonides 25 engine, capable of providing up to 550 hp (410 kW); the performance of this engine meant that Provost was roughly twice as powerful as the preceding Percival Prentice.[8] The engine operated smoothly across various speeds and produced relatively low noise levels from within the cockpit.[9] The Provost had a roll rate and handling similar to the best fighters upon entering service, it was also known for its rapid rate of climb and generous power provision from its engine.[10] Its performance level has been contrasted to that of aerobatic aircraft, which strongly appealed to some instructor-pilots, although it was deemed to be somewhat excessive for general flying purposes.[3] According to aviation periodical Flight International, the stall characteristics of the Provost were relatively gentle, it was also quite easy to recover from a spin.[9]

The self-centering stick is relatively sensitive during flight, flying pilots had to be aware of this during landing to ensure that the tail is not raised too high for the propeller arc; however, it could be readily trimmed for hands-off flight.[9] Recovery from a spin was achieved by a combination of pushing forwards on the stick and applying full rudder, while a spin could be deliberately induced by pulling hard back on the stick and applying opposite force using the ailerons. The ailerons are used to perform various manoeuvres; a full loop can be performed in four seconds via full aileron deflection.[11] Both the ailerons and elevators are relatively light compared with contemporary peers; the controls are reportedly well-harmonised in general. Landing the Provost is also relatively easy, being aided by a high level of external visibility for the pilot, a low tendency to float prior to round-out, and fairly low viable approach speeds; it also possesses good side-slip capabilities.[12]

The three-piece canopy was designed for good crashworthiness and to facilitate instrument flying training in daylight, via extendible amber screens and blue-tinted goggles to prevent the pupil seeing outside the cockpit, while the instructor (wearing no goggles) could see through the amber panels. The Provost was also equipped with then-modern very high frequency (VHF) radio aids, which enabled pilots to conduct landings through cloud cover using a Ground Controlled Approach; this better enabled the training of pilots to fly in cloudy conditions and to navigate at night.[7] The majority of controls are logically grouped together, the majority of which being set on the central console positioned between the two seats.[13] According to author David Ogilvy, the complexity of the cockpit was a deliberate design choice; contrary to earlier trainer aircraft, which were typically simplified so students would find them easy to fly, the Provost intentionally exposed beginners to an advanced environment more representative of the varied tasks of aircraft operations.[14]

Operational historyEdit

Royal Air ForceEdit

Operational Provost T.1 of the RAF Central Air Traffic Control School in 1967

During 1953, the Provost entered service with the RAF, the first batch of aircraft were delivered to the Central Flying School (CFS) at RAF South Cerney. The CFS carried out intensive flight trials in May and June 1953 prior to instructor training commencing. The Provost was more capable than the Prentice it replaced, which allowed students to move straight on to the De Havilland Vampire after completing training on the Provost. On 1 July 1953, 6 Flying Training School at RAF Ternhill started to re-equip with the Provost. The first pupil training course to use the Provost started in October 1953. No. 22 Flying Training School at RAF Syerston was the next to convert and it was followed by 2 FTS at RAF Cluntoe, Northern Ireland, 3 FTS at RAF Feltwell and then the Royal Air Force College at RAF Cranwell.[15]

By September 1954, the Provost had replaced the older Prentice in RAF service entirely.[16] Starting during 1956, the type began to be issued to several University Air Squadrons, the first of these being the Queen's University Air Squadron, Belfast in January 1956. The last RAF production aircraft was delivered in April 1956. The aircraft served with the RAF until the early 1960s, when it was replaced by the newer Jet Provost. A few Provosts continued in service throughout the 1960s with the Central Navigation & Control School (later Central Air Traffic Control School) at RAF Shawbury, the last example being retired during 1969. Several retired airframes were renumbered with maintenance serials and used for training of airframe and engine tradesmen. At least five Percival Provost have survived as civilian aircraft.[citation needed]

Export customersEdit

Provost T.53 of the Irish Air Corps at Baldonnel airfield Ireland in 1967

The first export order was placed in May 1953 by Southern Rhodesia, for four T.1 aircraft which were designated the T.51. Later, the Royal Rhodesian Air Force followed with an order for twelve armed trainers, designated the T.52, which were delivered in 1955.[citation needed]

In January 1954, the Irish Air Corps ordered four T.51 aircraft and in 1960, a further order for six armed T.53 variants.[citation needed]

In 1954, the Burmese Air Force also ordered 12 armed T.53 variants and eventually operated a total of 40 aircraft.[citation needed]

In May 1957, the newly formed Sudan Air Force ordered four T.53 armed variant; two were lost in accidents shortly after delivery, a further three were bought in 1959, followed by five former RAF aircraft.[citation needed]

Former RAF aircraft were delivered to Royal Air Force of Oman as armed T.52 variants. In 1955, the Royal Iraqi Air Force ordered 15 armed Provost T.53s, with the first delivered in May 1955. The final export customer was the Royal Malaysian Air Force, who obtained 24 T.51 trainers between 1961 and 1968.[citation needed]

In 1968, Rhodesia obtained further aircraft using a convoluted route to circumvent an arms embargo.[citation needed]


Percival P.56 Mark 1
Two prototypes with Cheetah engines for evaluation; both later fitted with Leonides engines.
Percival P.56 Mark 2
One Leonides-engined prototype for evaluation.
Provost T.Mk 1
Two-seat, Leonides-powered basic trainer for the Royal Air Force.
Provost T.51
Unarmed export version for the Irish Air Corps.
Provost Mk 52
Armed export version for the Rhodesian Air Force and Sultanate of Oman.
Provost Mk 53
Armed export version for Burma, Iraq, Ireland and Sudan.


Privately owned Percival Provost P.56 T1 in 2007
Piston Provost T1 and Jet Provost T.5a in formation
Retired Provost T.52 of the Rhodesian Air Force.
  United Kingdom



On display
  • Provost T.53 UB211 on display at the Defence Services Museum, Naypyitaw.[17]


On display
  • Provost T.51 183 on display at the Irish Air Corps Museum and Heritage Centre, Baldonnel Airfield, Co Dublin.[18]
  • Provost T.51 184 on display by the South East Aviation Enthusiasts Group at Dromod.[19]


  • Provost T.51 FM-1037 on display at the Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum in Sungai Besi Airport, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.[citation needed]

New ZealandEdit


On display
  • Provost T.1 WV494 displayed as XF868 of the Sultan of Oman Air Force at Muscat.[citation needed]

United KingdomEdit

  • Provost T.1 G-BKFW with CAA permission to fly as XF597, Owned by Provost Preservation in the Cambridge area.[20][21]
  • Provost T.1 G-KAPW with CAA permission to fly as XF603, owned by the Shuttleworth Trust and based at Old Warden, Bedfordshire is airworthy as of 2017, and is displayed to the public at airshows during the summer months.[22]
  • Provost T.1 G-MOOS with CAA permission to fly as XF690 is owned by a private operator in Somerset.[23]
On display
  • Provost T.1 WV605 on display at the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, Flixton, Suffolk.[24]
  • Provost T.1 WV606 on display at the Newark Air Museum, Winthorpe, Nottinghamshire.[25]
  • Provost T.1 WV679 on display at the Wellesbourne Wartime Museum, Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield, Warwickshire.[26]
  • Provost T.1 WW421 on display at the Bournemouth Aviation Museum, Bournemouth, Dorset.[27]
  • Provost T.1 WW442 on static display at East Midlands Aeropark.[citation needed]
  • Provost T.1 WV493 on display at the National Museum of Flight Scotland, East Fortune, Scotland.[28]
  • Provost T.1 7607M on display at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford, Shropshire.[29]
Stored or under restoration
  • Provost T.1 G-AWRY stored in the Cambridge area after being damaged in 1987, marked as XF836. Owned by Provost Preservation.[20]
  • Provost T.51 G-BLIW painted as WV514 under restoration at Shoreham Airport, West Sussex following an accident in 2010.[30]
  • Provost T.1 WV499 stored at Weston Zoyland Aerodrome, Somerset.[31]
  • Provost T.1 WW388 stored in the Cambridge area owned by Provost Preservation .[32]
  • Provost T.1 WW444 stored in the Rugely area of Staffordshire.[33]
  • Provost T.1 WW447 stored for spares use at Shoreham Airport, West Sussex.[30]
  • Provost T.1 WW453 stored at Weston Zoyland Aerodrom, Somerset.[31]

Specifications (T.1)Edit

Percival Provost T.1

Data from World Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft,[34] Military Aircraft of the World[35]

General characteristics



  • for T.52 and T.53 - 2 x 7.62mm machine guns, 500lbs. of bombs or rockets.[35]

See alsoEdit

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists



  1. ^ a b c d Meekcoms and Morgan 1994, p. 380.
  2. ^ Cross, Roy. "New RAF Trainer." Flying Magazine, September 1952. Vol. 51, No. 3. pp. 34-35. ISSN 0015-4806.
  3. ^ a b c d Flight International 1951, p. 353.
  4. ^ Thetford 1957,[page needed].
  5. ^ "Schooling the Provost." Flight International, 31 August 1951. p. 251.
  6. ^ Cross 1952, pp. 34–35, 59.
  7. ^ a b Cross 1952, p. 59.
  8. ^ Cross 1952, pp. 35–58.
  9. ^ a b c Flight International 1951, p. 354.
  10. ^ Cross 1952, p. 58.
  11. ^ Flight International 1951, pp. 354-355.
  12. ^ Flight International 1951, p. 355.
  13. ^ Flight International 1951, pp. 353-354.
  14. ^ Ogilvy 2007, pp. 38, 41.
  15. ^ Ogilvy 2007, p. 38.
  16. ^ "Hunting Percival Provost 53 and Mk 1." Flight International, 10 September 1954. p. 406.
  17. ^ "Preservation Notes - Myanmar". Air-Britain News. Air-Britain: 380. March 2014.
  18. ^ Ellis 2012, p. 309.
  19. ^ Ellis 2012, p. 311.
  20. ^ a b Ellis 2012. p. 15.
  21. ^ "Civil Aviation Authority Aircraft Register G-BKFW." Civil Aviation Authority, Retrieved: 19 January 2017.
  22. ^ "1950 Hunting (Percival) Piston Provost T.1." Shuttleworth Collection, Retrieved: 28 February 2017.
  23. ^ "Civil Aviation Authority Aircraft Register G-MOOS." Civil Aviation Authority, Retrieved: 19 January 2017.
  24. ^ Ellis 2012, p. 203.
  25. ^ Ellis 2012, p. 173.
  26. ^ Ellis 2012, p. 260.
  27. ^ Ellis 2012, p. 45.
  28. ^ Ellis 2012, p. 286.
  29. ^ Ellis 2012, p. 179.
  30. ^ a b Ellis 2012, p. 221.
  31. ^ a b Ellis 2012, p. 194.
  32. ^ Ellis 2012, p. 185.
  33. ^ Ellis 2012, p. 200.
  34. ^ Angelucci 1981,[page needed]
  35. ^ a b Taylor & Swanborough 1971, p. 197.


External linksEdit