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Piston Provost

Hunting Percival P.56 Provost T.1 WW421


The prototype Provost first flew on 24 February 1950, with an initial order for 200 placed by the RAF twelve months later. First deliveries were made in the summer of 1953 and production for the RAF continued until the spring of 1956. Intended as a side by side two seat trainer, the Provost could carry underwing guns or light bombs for armament training purposes. This version was sold to a number of overseas air forces, including Burma, Malaya, Southern Rhodesia and Sudan. 397 Provosts were built for the RAF, plus another sixty for overseas air forces.

The Provost was introduced into RAF service at the same time as the Vampire jet powered advance trainer. The two aircraft introduced a new advance training scheme for potential RAF pilots. First deliveries of Provosts were made to CFS South Cerney in 1953, followed by No. 6 FTS at Ternhill in October. The Provost was a much abler aircraft than its Prentice predecessor, enabling trainee pilots to move almost effortlessly to the Vampire. However its service life with the RAF was shorter that anticipated, due to the development by Hunting Percival of the Jet Provost. Based on the airframe of the Provost, but with piston engine replaced by a jet, the Jet Provost first flew in June 1954 - not long after the Provost had entered service. Trials with early Jet Provosts led to a major RAF order, with the type entering service in June 1959. This resulted in many Provosts being taken out of service during the summer of 1960, with a number then sold abroad.

The Provost served with seven RAF Flying Training Schools, as well as the Central Flying School and the RAF College Cranwell. For the 1957 season the CFS mounted a four aircraft display team - the Sparrows. Most of the FTS's also had their own display teams.

Our aircraft

WW421 was built by Hunting Percival at Luton and was delivered to the RAF in November 1954. It was issued to No.3 FTS at Feltwell where it spent its service life until the School closed in May 1958. After a period of storage WW421 became a ground instructional airframe (serial 7688M) with No.4 SofTT at St Athan in October 1960. Surplus to requirements, WW421 was taken on by a museum at Lytham St Annes, Lancashire by the early 1970's. During the next thirty years the aircraft moved to various locations, even being placed on the civil register as G-BZRE in 2001 in an optimistic plan to make the Provost airworthy again. Delivered by road to the Bournemouth Aviation Museum in October 2005, restoration by the volunteers has revealed that the airframe is made up of the wings of WW421 along with the fuselage of WW450.

Technical Data

Wing Span 35ft 2in
Length 28ft 8in
Height 12ft 2in
Max take off weight 4,400lb
Service ceiling 25,000ft
Max Speed 200mph
Range 646 miles
Power plant One 410kW Alvis Leonides 126 air-cooled 9-cylinder radial engine