Day 6 of our Newcastle Aircraft profile is a rather unique aircraft making its debut in Newcastle for the 2017 Festival of Flight, the Piston Provost. Which actually has a connection to Northern Ireland’s rich aviation history.
The Percival P.56 Provost was a British piston based trainer that was developed for the Royal Air Force in the 1950s as a replacement for the Percival Prentice. The Provost has the distinction of being the last piston-engine basic trainer aircraft to be operated by the RAF
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 The type was withdrawn in the 1960s, in favour of its jet-powered successor.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 who also designed the Victa Airtourer light aircraft.
The Provost took its first flight on the 24th February 1950 and entered service with the RAF in 1953, the Provost entered service with the RAF, the first batch of aircraft were delivered to the Central Flying School at RAF South Cerney. . 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.
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. ( Side note – The Jet Provost is a civilian/un-armed version of the BAC Strikemaster which will also be on display this weekend)
The Piston Provost was also used by the the Irish Air Corps ordered who, in In January 1954 ordered four T.51 aircraft and in 1960, an order from the Irish Air Corps went in for 6 armed T.53 variants which were used as training aircraft.
In total 461 were built between 1950 & 1956 however only 3 remain flying to this day. However quite a few are on display throughout the UK as well as 2 in Ireland including one of the former Irish Air Corps Piston Provosts at the Irish Air Corps Museum and Heritage Centre, Baldonnel Airfield, Co Dublin.
Photo credit to Chris England.
Check back tomorrow for yet another aircraft profile as we edge ever closer to the big day this Saturday!