The Percival P.56 Provost is a basic trainer aircraft.
The Provost entered service with the RAF during 1953 and quickly proved to be more capable than the preceding Prentice.
It was a relatively successful aircraft, being exported for multiple overseas operators.
Various models were developed, both armed and unarmed, to meet with customer demands.
The Provost later adapted to make use of a turbojet engine, producing the BAC Jet Provost.
During the 1960s, the type was withdrawn from RAF service in favour of its jet-powered successor.
It continued to be used for decades with various export customers.
The Provost was an all-metal, single-engined, two-seat monoplane, featuring fixed conventional landing gear with a fully-castering tailwheel.
It was developed to provide training that was better suited to the increasingly complicated operational aircraft that were then being brought into service.
The main two seats in the cockpit were positioned in a side-by-side configuration, enabling the instructor to sit directly alongside the student, easing training by allowing for mutual close observation and for flight procedures to be more readily demonstrated; a third seat had been originally specified for use by an observer, but this position was later omitted following little use.
The cockpit was considered to be relatively bulky amongst its contemporary rivals, a feature that did not heavily impinge upon the aircraft’s overall performance.
The type was designed to be easy to maintain; various components were intentionally interchangeable where possible and there was a generous provision of access hatches in the fuselage.
Production aircraft were powered by a single Alvis Leonides 25 engine, capable of providing up to 550 hp (410 kW); the performance of this engine meant that Provost was roughly twice as powerful as the preceding Percival Prentice.
The engine operated smoothly across various speeds and produced relatively low noise levels from within the cockpit.
The Provost had a roll rate and handling similar to the best fighters upon entering service, it was also known for its rapid rate of climb and generous power provision from its engine.
Its performance level has been contrasted to that of aerobatic aircraft, which strongly appealed to some instructor-pilots, although it was deemed to be somewhat excessive for general flying purposes.
According to aviation periodical Flight International, the stall characteristics of the Provost were relatively gentle, it was also quite easy to recover from a spin.
The self-centreing stick is relatively sensitive during flight, flying pilots had to be aware of this during landing to ensure that the tail is not raised too high for the propeller arc; however, it could be readily trimmed for hands-off flight.
Recovery from a spin was achieved by a combination of pushing forwards on the stick and applying full rudder, while a spin could be deliberately induced by pulling hard back on the stick and applying opposite force using the rudders.
The ailerons are used to perform various manoeuvres; a full roll can be performed in four seconds via full aileron deflection.
Both the ailerons and elevators are relatively light compared with contemporary peers; the controls are reportedly well-harmonised in general.
Landing the Provost is also relatively easy, being aided by a high level of external visibility for the pilot, a low tendency to float prior to round-out, and fairly low viable approach speeds; it also possesses good side-slip capabilities.
The three-piece canopy was designed for good crashworthiness and to facilitate instrument flying training in daylight, via extendible amber screens and blue-tinted goggles to prevent the pupil seeing outside the cockpit, while the instructor (wearing no goggles) could see through the amber panels.
The Provost was also equipped with then-modern very high frequency (VHF) radio aids, which enabled pilots to conduct landings through cloud cover using a Ground Controlled Approach; this better enabled the training of pilots to fly in cloudy conditions and to navigate at night.
The majority of controls are logically grouped together, the majority of which being set on the central console positioned between the two seats.
Percival P.56 Mark 1
Two prototypes with Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah engines for evaluation, both later fitted with Leonides engines.
Percival P.56 Mark 2
One Alvis Leonides engined prototype for evaluation.
Provost T.Mk 1
Two-seat, Leonides powered basic trainer for the Royal Air Force.
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, Ireland and Sudan.