(Photo source unknown. Please contact us if you
History: At the end of the
1940s, convinced that the existing training sequence of Percival Prentice to Harvard was
providing inadequate preparation to their jet pilot trainees to ready them for frontline
flying duty, the British Air Ministry issued Operational Requirement 257, defining the
need for a new, higher performance, piston-engine trainer. While speed was not a prime
concern of O.R.257, a cruising speed of 110 knots was required, along with an endurance of
at least two hours flying time. Of the 15 companies involved in the fierce competition for
design approval, Percival led the pack because it had privately developed a mockup trainer
that anticipated many of the RAF's requirements. Called the P.56,
the Percival entry also had the edge because their early start made them the only firm
able to meet the time limits specified by the RAF for delivery of a prototype. Thus, an
initial order for 200 of the aircraft was placed with Percival in May, 1951.
The Provost was a two-seat, side-by-side low-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear of the
tailwheel variety, powered by a 550hp Alvis Leonides 126 radial engine.
In 1953, the first production P.56s joined the Central Flying School's Basic
Training Squadron at South Cerney as the RAF's standard basic trainer, called the Provost T.Mk.1.
More than 330 of the aircraft were eventually delivered to the RAF over a period of 3
years, during which time (1954) Percival became part of the Hunting Group. The Provost
remained in service until they were replaced by a major revision of the design that
evolved the P.56 Provost into the Jet Provost trainer, which
eventually evolved into the BAC Strikemaster multi-role trainer
and light attack aircraft in 1967. A total of 461 Provosts were built by the time
production ended in 1959. [History by Kevin Murphy]
Engine: One 550-hp Alvis Leonides 126 radial piston engine
Weight: Empty 3,350 lbs., Max
Takeoff 4,400 lbs.
Wing Span: 35ft. 2in.
Length: 28ft. 8in.
Height: 12ft. 2.5in.
Range: 648 miles
Number Built: 461
Number Still Airworthy: Approximately 5
RAF Museum Percival
Swept Wings Site: Hunting
Percival Provost Gallery
Virtual Aviation Museum
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