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Percival Provost, Royal Rhodesian Air Force, 1960

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Percival Provost, Royal Rhodesian Air Force, 1960

 

The Percival P.56 Provost was a British basic trainer that was developed for the Royal Air Force in the 1950s as a replacement for the Percival Prentice. It was a low-wing monoplane with a fixed, tailwheel undercarriage and like the Prentice had a side-by-side seating arrangement.

 

The Provost was later adapted to make use of a turbojet engine, producing the BAC Jet Provost. The type was withdrawn in the 1960s, in favour of its jet-powered successor.

 

The Provost design is attributed to the Polish-born Aeronautical Engineer, Henry Millicer. Millicer later moved to Australia where he also designed the award-winning Victa Airtourer light aircraft. The Provost was designed to Air Ministry specification T.16/48 for a single-engined basic trainer aircraft to meet Operational Requirement 257 for a Percival Prentice replacement. The specification was issued on 11 September 1948 and the ministry received over 30 proposals. Two designs were chosen for prototype construction, the Handley Page H.P.R. 2 and the Percival P.56. Percival was given a contract dated 13 January 1950 to build two Cheetah-powered prototypes. The company also built a third prototype with an Alvis Leonides Mk 25 engine.

 

The Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah-powered prototype serial number WE522 first flew on 24 February 1950. After evaluation against the H.P.R. 2 at Boscombe Down, the Leonides-powered P.56 was selected for production as the Provost T.1, with an initial order for 200 aircraft being placed on 29 May 1951. In 1961, production of the type ended with a total of 461 aircraft having been completed.

 

In 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.

 

From 1956 the Provost was issued to some University Air Squadrons, the first 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 Jet Provost. A few Provosts continued in service during the 1960s with the Central Navigation & Control School (later Central Air Traffic Control School) at RAF Shawbury until the last example was retired in 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.

 

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.

 

Provosts of the RRAF saw action against the various Black insurgent groups throughout the 1960s. Armed with 2 x 7.62mm machine guns, four 5 inch rockets or two 250 lb bombs, the aircraft flew light strike and observation missions deep into the Rhodesian bush, several being holed and two being downed by anti-aircraft fire.

 

 

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The Model

 

The model is a venerable Matchbox 1/72 Percival Provost. It has been spray painted with silver paint and touched up by brush. It has had rockets added from the spare parts bin and the decals are courtesy of Kit’s Decals.

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