WE522 the Cheetah-engined prototype Percival Provost
WE522 the Cheetah-engined prototype Percival Provost.


The Percival Aircraft P.56 Provost (often referred to as the 'Piston Provost') was designed to Air Ministry Specification T.16/48, issued in 1948 calling for a single engine basic trainer as a replacement for the Percival Prentice.  It was one of 30 proposals submitted and was one of only two aircraft that were finally chosen (the other being the Handley Page H.P.R.2).


It was an all-metal, 2 seat monoplane with a conventional fixed landing gear and it replicated the handling characteristics and roll-rate of the modern jet fighters entering service at the time.


The prototype (WE522) was designed by Polish born aeronautical engineer Henry Millicer and it flew for the first time on 23rd February 1950. The first two prototypes (WE522 and WE530) had been ordered in January 1950 and they were powered by the Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah engine, this engine being replaced in production aircraft by the Alvis Leonides on a third prototype.


After evaluation at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (AAEE) at Boscombe Down, the Leonides-powered Percival P.56 Provost was selected and an order for 200 aircraft (designated Provost T.1) was placed on 29th May 1951.


The Provost entered service with the RAF in 1953, the first batch of aircraft being delivered to the Central Flying School (CFS) at RAF South Cerney. The first training course to use the Percival P.56 Provost started in October 1953 and allowed students to move straight into training in the De Havilland Vampire.


From 1956, the Percival P.56 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.


Percival P56 Provost WW397 air to air
Air to air photograph of Percival P56 Provost WW397 in RAF service.


The Percival Provost served with the RAF in a training role until the early 1960s, when it was replaced by the Jet-powered Percival Provost.


A small number remained with the Central Air Traffic Control School at RAF Shawbury, until the last example was retired in 1969.


In addition to 391 aircraft built for the RAF, the Percival P.56 Provost was exported to Rhodesia, Ireland, Malaya, Burma, Iraq, Muscat and Oman, and Sudan, total production being 461 aircraft.


Export variants had provision for the carriage of bombs or rockets below the wings and production was completed in 1960.


Although the Percival P.56 Provost served for a relatively short time with the RAF, it led to the development of the Jet Provost, which introduced ab-initio jet training to the RAF.


Percival P56 Provost XF836 ground
Percival P56 Provost XF836 on the ground at Compton Abbas airfield.



Powerplant               One 550 hp Alvis Leonides 126
Span 35 ft 2 in
Maximum Weight 4,350 lb
Capacity Two seats – export variants (Mk 52 and Mk 53) with two machine guns and external carriage of bombs or rockets.
Maximum Speed 195 mph
Cruising Sped 177 mph
Range 650 miles


Variants & Numbers built

Percival P.56 Mark 1 Two prototypes with Cheetah engines for evaluation
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, and Sudan
Total Production 461 of which 391 for the RAF



G-AWPH / WV240 Provost T.1
G-AWRY / XF836 Provost T.1
G-BKFW / XF597 Provost T.1
G-BLIW / 177 Provost T Mk.51 ex-Irish Air Corps
G-BZRF / WV499 Provost T.1
G-KAPW / XF603 Provost T.1 Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden www.shuttleworth.org
G-MOOS / XF690 Provost T.1
ZK-JOT Provost T.1 (as WV666 RAF) North Shore Aerodrome, North Island, New Zealand
Preserved in Museums
UB211 Provost T.53 Defence Services Museum, Naypyitaw, Myanmar
183 Provost T.51   Irish Air Corps Museum and Heritage Centre, Baldonnel Airfield, Ireland
184 Provost T.51   South East Aviation Enthusiasts Group at Dromod, Ireland
FM-1037 Provost T.51 Royal Malaysian Air Force Museum in Sungai Besi Airport, Kuala Lumpur


ZK-PPD ex-UB232 Ashburton Aviation Museum at Ashburton, South Island, New Zealand www.aviationmuseum.co.nz/cms/index.php
WV494 Provost T.1 (as XF868 SOAF) at Muscat, Oman
WV605 Provost T.1 Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, Flixton, Suffolk www.aviationmuseum.net/
WV606 Provost T.1 Newark Air Museum, Winthorpe, Nottinghamshire www.newarkairmuseum.org/
WV679 Provost T.1 Wellesbourne Wartime Museum, Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield
WW421 Provost T.1
Bournemouth Aviation Museum, Bournemouth, Dorset 
WW442 Provost T.1 East Midlands Aeropark www.eastmidlandsaeropark.org
WV493 Provost T.1 National Museum of Flight Scotland, East Fortune, Scotland www.nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-flight/
7607M Provost T.1   Royal Air Force Museum Cosford, Shropshire


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