1:72 Percival CSR-131 'Provost'; aircraft '901' of No. 440 Communications and Rescue Squadron, Canadian Air Force; CFB Winnipeg, Canada; summer 1974 (Whif/Matchbox kit conversion)
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
The Provost was originally designed to Air Ministry specification T.16/48 for a single-engined basic trainer aircraft to meet Operational Requirement 257 for a Percival Prentice replacement. The specification was issued on 11 September 1948 and the ministry received over 30 proposals for consideration. Two designs were chosen for prototype construction, the Handley Page H.P.R 2 and the Percival P.56. Percival was given a contract dated 13 January 1950 to build two Cheetah powered prototypes. The company also built a third prototype with an Alvis Leonides Mk 25 engine.
The prototype first flew on 24 February 1950.After evaluation against the H.P.R 2 at Boscombe Down the Leonides powered P.56 was selected for production as the Provost T.1, with an initial order for 200 aircraft being placed on 29 May 1951.Production ended in 1956 when 461 aircraft had been completed.
The Provost was an all-metal single-engined two-seat monoplane, it had fixed conventional landing gear with a fully castoring tailwheel. Production aircraft were powered by a single 550 hp (410 kW) Alvis Leonides 25 radial piston engine. In terms of flying performance, 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. The type was designed to be easy to maintain, various components are intentionally interchangeable where possible and there was a generous provision of access hatches across the fuselage.
The Provost was developed in order to provide training better suited to the increasingly complicated operational aircraft that were then being brought into service. To suit the training mission, the two seats in the cockpit were side-by-side so that the instructor could be alongside their student for close observation and to demonstrate flight procedures; a third seat had been specified for an observer, but this was later omitted following little use.
The Provost entered service with the RAF in 1953 with the first batch of aircraft delivered to the Central Flying School (CFS) at RAF South Cerney. The CFS carried out intensive flight trials in May and June 1953 before instructor training commenced. The Provost was more capable than the Prentice it replaced which allowed the students to move straight on to the De Havilland Vampire after training on the Provost.
The provost also saw some export success. The first export order was placed in May 1953 by Southern Rhodesia for four T.1 aircraft which were designated the T.51. Later the Royal Rhodesian Air Force followed with an order for twelve armed trainers designated the T.52 which were delivered in 1955. In January 1954 the Irish Air Corps ordered four T.51 aircraft and in 1960 a further order for six armed T.53 variants. The Burmese Air Force also ordered 12 armed T.53 variants in 1954 and eventually operated 40 aircraft.
In June 1956 the Canadian Air Force ordered twelve T.51 aircraft, where they served as basic trainers until being replaced by Tutor jet trainers in 1969. Four machines were sold to private holders, six were transferred to No. 440 Communications and Rescue Squadron and used for fire patrol, SAR duties. liaison and other duties. Three of them received swimmers as well as new, four-bladed reversible pitch propellers for easier maneuvering 'at sea', and these were still operational in 1980, even though the other three machines were retired in 1978 and cannibalized for spares.
Further export customers were the Sudan Air Force, the Royal Air Force of Oman and the Royal Iraqi Air Force. The final export customer was the Royal Malaysian Air Force who obtained 24 T.51 trainers between 1961 and 1968. In 1968 Rhodesia obtained further aircraft using a convoluted route to get around an arms embargo.
Crew: 2 (+1)
Length: 28 ft 6 in (8.73 m)
Wingspan: 35 ft 0 in (10.7 m)
Height: 12 ft 0 in (3.70 m)
Wing area: 214 ft² (19.9 m²)
Empty weight: 3,350 lb (1,523 kg)
Loaded weight: 4,399 lb (1,995 kg)
1× Alvis Leonides 126 9-cylinder radial engine, 550 hp (410 kW)
Maximum speed: 200 mph (170 knots, 320 km/h) at sea level
Range: 560 nm (650 mi, 1,020 km)
Endurance: 4 hours
Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7620 m)
Rate of climb: 2,200 ft/min (11.2 m/s)
Wing loading: 20.6 lb/ft² (100 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.276 hp/lb (0.206 kW/kg)
Climb to 10,000 ft 3.27 minutes
The kit and its assembly:
The “Wet Provost” instead of a “Jet Provost”? This little, whiffy aircraft model kit came to be when I wondered what civil use a Provost trainer might fulfill. I had the vague idea of a forest fire patrol aircraft, which eventually led to Canada as potential user (the all-yellow Twin Otters were a nice benchmark and inspiration, had built a respective Matchbox kit many years ago), and in a twisted moment I decided to make a float plane from the former trainer with its fixed landing gear. Such a conversion would be rather easy and more or less believable!
The kit is the 1976 Matchbox Provost - a literally simple kit with mediocre detail and even worse fit. It took some serious putty work to get the small aircraft together. Anyway, the kit was basically built OOB, just the landing gear was omitted and I added a dashboard to the cockpit, which also received a bag behind the twin seats, simulating an emergency raft. Instead of the tail wheel a fin was added under the fuselage.
A new propeller was scratched, too – I thought that this would be appropriate for a floatplane, which might need more area. It was effectively built from an Airfix A-1 spinner, onto which four AH-1 tail rotor blades (from two Matchbox HueyCobras) were glued. As per usual, the propeller was outfitted with a long axis so that it could spin freely for the pictures.
The floats come from a Matchbox Norseman, from a kit that I built maybe 30 years ago - the parts survived, even though in a rather shabby state. I had to get rid of considerably amounts of old, dry paint, and then the floats were shortened by ~0.5", right behind the step. The struts were completely scratched from styrene strips and profiles. The floats were built and painted separately from the rest of the aircraft and "married" as a final step.
Painting and markings:
Real-life CAF SAR aircraft were the benchmark, namely the aforementioned No. 440 Squadron’s DHC Twin Otters – an all-yellow livery with red wing tips, a fuselage band and Canadian red-and-white cheat lines. Very bright, and IMHO pretty and elegant, too.
But what outwardly looks rather simple is tricky – yellow is IMHO one of the most challenging colors to apply on a model. Therefore I did not dare any brush experiment but rather settled for a rattle spray can application. In this case I used Humbrol’s Gloss Yellow (#69) over a thin coat of grey primer, onto which later some more paint was added by brush in order to emphasize panels.
The floats were painted with Aluminum from (Revell acrylics) and trimmed with Aluminum enamel and Polished Aluminum Metallizer from Modelmaster.
The red wing tips were added by brush (Basis is Revell 330, onto which I later added some fluorescent red), the fuselage band was cut manually from red decal sheet and lightly painted over.
The roundels come from an aftermarket sheet from TL Modellbau, tactical markings and the cheatline come from an Italeri CH-149 Cormorant SAR helicopter – the latter had to be puzzled together from many small bits and pieces in order to make it fit onto the short Provost fuselage!
Weathering was only lightly done, with some exhaust stains and light dry-painting with silver on leading edges. Finally, all was sealed under a semi-matt acrylic varnish (Tamiya), since the aircraft was to show a light shine – except for the black anti-glare panel in front of the cockpit, which remained matt.
A Canadian canary? :D