In Profile: The Percival Piston Provost

The Percival Provost (commonly known as “Piston Provost” thanks to its well known jet powered development) first flew in February 1950 and was designed as a training aircraft for the Royal Air Force. The Provost featured all metal construction and a tailwheel configuration. A notable change from the iconic trainers of the interwar and war years was the inclusion of side by side, rather than tandem seating arrangements.

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The airframe itself was designed by Henry Millicer. It was powered by a 550hp Alvis Leonides engine which provided impressive performance with ideal handling characteristics to emulate the aircraft that trainees would follow on to. The new design could achieve a maximum speed of 195mph and cruise at a respectable 177mph.

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Following early development the Provost joined the RAF in 1953 and amazingly took over from the far less energetic Prentice.

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It wasn’t just the Royal Air Force that made use of the Provost, examples saw service with a number of international air forces including Ireland, Burma and Oman. The Collection’s airframe actually wears Omani camouflage, with RAF Roundels applied. This represents how the export airframes would have appeared as they were flown out for delivery and presents a different look from the history of this airframe. These export airframes led interesting lives with some even being modified to carry bombs and rockets.

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Building on the success of the Provost the airframe would eventually be modified to incorporate a jet engine alongside a move to tricycle configuration. This would go on to become known as the Jet Provost and continue to train the next generation of RAF pilots for years to come.

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The Provost may have only had a short run in service with the RAF, being withdrawn from service in 1960, but its legacy, in the form of the Jet Provost, was remarkable. You may be wondering what place this type has in a racing themed show. Well the Provost did see some post-service use in air shows. One example, registered G-AWPH took place in the 1971 Goodyear Trophy at White Waltham. When racing, this Provost wore a distinctive black and red scheme with racing number 33.

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The Provost offers “warbird” like performance and display presence in a well refined, “modern” airframe and makes for a great airshow performer. It represents one of the final links of tailwheel, piston powered instruction within the Royal Air Force (alongside the DHC Chipmunk). Like so many Shuttlewprth collection aircraft, the Provost tells an important story.

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