The Jet Provost

The good old BAC / Hunting Jet Provost ["Jaypee" / "Paraffin Budgie" / "Static Thrust Variable Noise machine"] was based here at Church Fenton for a good few years, and no doubt also made a good few enemies due to its' staggering ability to make incredible amounts of noise despite its fairly small size and power. In various marks, these rugged aircraft served the RAF in five different decades, being first flown in the mid-fifties and the later marks soldiering on into the early nineties, finally being replaced by the turboprop Shorts Tucano T1 in the BFJT (Basic Fast Jet Training) role.
   
The type was initially designed when the RAF realised that they would need a basic jet trainer, to form a part of the Piston Provost / Vampire flying training programme. As a result, Hunting aircraft built the Jet Provost Mk1, which was the basic airframe from a Piston Provost modified to take a jet engine. The prototype flew on 16th June 1954, which led to the development of the T3s and T4s. By 1964, a more advanced version was required, so the T5 was produced. This was a much improved aircraft, with a redesigned nose / canopy, pressurised cockpit and more powerful engine.

Jet Provost T3A XN595 '82' taxies at Church Fenton, 12th March 1990

 
The prototype T5 flew on 28th February 1967, and entered service in 1969. Between 1972 and 1976, many of the T5s were fitted with improved Avionics, leading to their re-classification as T5As.
 

Jet Provost T5A XW328 '128' taxies in from Rwy 16 after a sortie.

 

In all its' variants, the Jet Provost was fitted with various versions of Armstrong-Siddeley's (latterly Rolls-Royce's) legendary Viper turbojet engine (the original design was so good that it is still produced today, although in a much-modified form). The T3s were fitted with a Viper 102 engine, developing 1750 lbs of static thrust, which gave them a maximum speed of 350 kts. The T5s were fitted with the 202 variant of the Viper, which produced 2450 lbs of static thrust and gave a maximum speed of 400 kts.
When the time finally came to replace the Jet Provost, the decision was taken to replace it with a turboprop aircraft, as a turboprop has jet like performance with much reduced operating costs.
   
There were a number of competitors for the contract, but the final decision was between the Pilatus PC-9 and the Shorts Tucano. The PC-9 was considered by many to be the superior aircraft, so when the news arrived that the Tucano had won the competition there were some raised eyebrows. The proposition by Shorts was to licence build a version of the Brazilian Embraer Tucano. In the end, the RAF aircraft ended up having only a 25% commonality with the original Brazilian design, mainly due to the different operational requirements between Brazil and the UK. Amongst the many improvements, the RAF aircraft has a much more powerful engine (Garrett TPE-331 producing 1100shp, giving the aircraft a maximum speed of 280kts) and a beefed-up undercarriage to withstand the high number of "circuits and bumps" new pilots do.

 

 

Tucano T1 ZF207 taxies past the camera on 12th March 1990.

The first Tucanos were delivered to the CFS at RAF Scampton for initial acceptance, and the first FTS to operate the new aircraft was 7FTS here at Church Fenton. Despite what the technicians who service them would say, the RAF ended up with a capable aircraft, that has a remarkable serviceability rate given what is thrown at it!