Percival P56 Provost
Designed by Percival Aircraft before it became part of the Hunting Group in 1954, the Provost was selected as the standard RAF trainer in the early 1950s having been designed to fulfil the requirements of specification T.16/48. A cantilever low wing monoplane with fixed tailwheel landing gear and powered by an Alvis Leonides 126 engine, it provided side by side seating for instructor and pupil.
The Percival P.56 Provost was the last piston-engined basic trainer used by the RAF. The prototype WE522 first flew on 23 February 1950 and was powered with a Cheetah 17 radial engine, as was the second prototype.
The third pro-totype was powered with the tightly cowled Alvis Leonides nine-cylinder radial. Both the earlier aircraft were re-engined and all the production T Mk 1 aircraft used the Alvis engine. This 11.9-litre supercharged engine is a smaller than usual 550-hp radial; the higher power is achieved by run-ning at high revolutions (3,000 rpm) and +8 lb/sq inch of boost. Cruise power of 330 hp is at 2,600 rpm at 11,000 ft (RAF set-tings). A three-blade constant speed propeller is driven through a reduction gear, and it has side-by-side seating under a sliding canopy.
In 1953, the RAF introduced two new trainers into service, the piston-engined Percival Provost T.1, which replaced the Prentice, and the jet-powered DH Vampire T.11 which replaced the Harvard and the Meteor T.7 with the Advanced Flying Schools. As the RAF Prentice replacement, the Percival P.56, which became the Provost, powered by a 240 hp Cheetah 18 engine, its top speed was 178 mph at 2,500 ft. Entering service under the designation Provost T Mk 1, the aircraft were first delivered to the Basic Training Squadron of the Central Flying School of the RAF at South Cerney.
In armament training form it is fitted with two 7.9 mm. machine guns with 1,200 rounds of ammunition and a camera gun, and carrying three 60-lb rocket projectiles beneath each wing. Despite this load the Provost was rolled with abandon and climbed inverted under the continuous running of its Alvis Leonides engine. Alternative armament of the Provost is two 250-lb. bombs or eight 25-lb. bombs on light series racks or eight 25-lb. bombs plus four 60-lb. R.P.s.
T.Mks.51, 52 and 53 are export versions serving with six air arms. Mks.52 and 53 carry light armament. As the T.53, the type was also supplied to Burma, Iraq and the Sudan, while the T.51 and T.52 were used by Eire and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe.
When production ended in 1959, a total of 461 had been built, including a number armed with machine guns and bombs. They also served in the air arms of Sudan, Malaysia and Muscat.
The last active RAF Provost was retired in 1969, some going to train-ing establishments as instructional airframes, with only a few of these eventually reaching civilian operators.
T Mk 1
Engine: Alvis Leonides 126, 550 hp / 410kW
Span, 35 ft 2 in (10.9 m)
Length, 28 ft 8 in (8.8 m)
Height: 3.70 m / 12 ft 2 in
Wing area, 214 sq.ft (19.8 sq.m).
Empty weight, 3,350 lb (1521 kg)
Max take off weight, 4,400 lb (1996 kg)
Max speed, 174 kt / 200 mph / 322 kph at 2,300 ft (700 m)
Cruise, 177 mph (283 kph) at 11,500 ft (3510 m)
Initial climb, 2,200 fpm (11.18 m/sec)
Service ceiling: 7620 m / 25000 ft
Range, 650 mls (1046 km)