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A Percival P.40 Prentice T.1 of No. 16 Reserve Flying School based at Derby (Burnaston) Airport in service in May 1953
Role Military trainer aircraft
Manufacturer Percival
First flight 31 March 1946
Introduction November 1947
Retired 1953
Primary users Royal Air Force
private pilot owners after disposal by the RAF
Produced 1947-1949
Number built >370

The Percival Prentice was a basic trainer of the Royal Air Force in the early post-war period. It was a low-wing monoplane with a fixed tailwheel undercarriage. Front seating was in a side-by-side configuration with a rear seat provided.

Design and development

Designed to meet Air Ministry Specification T.23/43, the Prentice was the first all-metal aircraft to be produced by the Percival Aircraft Company. The prototype Prentice TV163 first flew from Percival's factory at Luton Airport, Bedfordshire on 31 March 1946. Early trials revealed inadequate rudder control, resulting in a revised rudder and a large cut-out in the elevators. The aircraft were later modified with turned-up wingtips.[1] Over 370 were delivered to the RAF between 1947 and 1949.

An unusual design feature was the provision for three seats. While the instructor and pupil were equipped with dual controls in a side-by-side arrangement in the front, a second pupil sat in the rear seat without controls to receive "air experience". Both pupils could communicate with the instructor. Night flying training was to be carried out in daylight by means of amber screens incorporated into the canopy and the use of special goggles. The amber screens were folded back when not in use.[2]

Several hundred Prentices were ordered for RAF use. Since the Percival factory was concentrating on production of the Percival Proctor and the Merganser light transport aircraft, production was sub-contracted to the Blackburn Aircraft works at Brough.[2]

Operational service

After these modifications, the Prentice was passed into RAF service, initially with the regular Flying Training Schools (FTS) where they replaced the remaining de Havilland Tiger Moths. Later deliveries went to the Reserve Flying Schools (RFS). The type was used as a pilot trainer until late 1953, when it was replaced by the Percival Provost. Two Air Signals Schools also operated the type to train air signallers, until the last were withdrawn from No.1 ASS at RAF Swanton Morley, Norfolk, in mid 1956.[3]

Civilian operations

A preserved Percival Prentice giving a pleasure flight in 2007

252 redundant RAF Prentices were later bought in 1956 by Aviation Traders Ltd, a company owned by Freddie Laker.[4] and were stored at Stansted and Southend. Most were eventually scrapped but 28 were converted for civil use with two seats and two jumpseats behind the two pilots' seats, separated by a structure which housed the original 4-channel radio. This conversion had quite poor performance with 4 passengers. One aircraft was converted to a seven-seat layout for pleasure flights. One (G-AOPL) was acquired from Shackleton Aviation at Sywell by Captain Jon Cousens, a Desert Intelligence Officer in the Trucial Oman Scouts and flown to Sharjah in 1967; later being flown on to South Africa where it remained until it ceased flying.

The aircraft had a poor performance with any load at high temperatures and initially had poor spin recovery.

Sixty-six aircraft were built under licence by Hindustan Aircraft for the Indian Air Force.




Airworthy survivors

  • G-AOLK airworthy in 2009 with private owner at Southend Airport;
  • G-APJB airworthy with Classic Air Force at Newquay Airport with air transport certificate, formerly with Air Atlantique at Coventry Airport;
  • G-AOKL currently at the Shuttleworth Collection Old Warden, who purchased it damaged, now undergoing restoration but temporarily on hold;

Aircraft On Display

United Kingdom
  • Midland Air Museum at Coventry - Prentice T.1 VS623.[6]
  • Newark Air Museum - Prentice VR249, a National Benchmark airframe on the National Aviation Heritage Register.[7]
  • Classic Air Force, Newquay - Used for pleasure flights but when it is not flying it is on display in the hangar.
United States
  • Camarillo Air Museum in California

An ex-RAF Prentice N1041P is under restoration.


One Prentice aircraft is on display. Aother one in Escuela de Educación Técnica Aeronáutica Jorge Newbery.


Another Indian Air Force Prentice IV 3381 is on static display.

Specifications (T.1)

Percival Prentice T.1

Data from [8]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2/3
  • Length: 31 ft 3 in (9.52 m)
  • Wingspan: 46 ft 0 in (14.0 m)
  • Height: 12 ft 10 in (3.91 m)
  • Wing area: 305 ft² (28.4 m²)
  • Empty weight: 3,232 lb (1,466 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 4,200 lb (1,905 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × de Havilland Gipsy Queen 32 6-cylinder, air-cooled inline engine, 251 hp (187 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 124 knots (143 mph, 230 km/h) at 5,000 ft (1,500 m)
  • Cruise speed: 118 knots (136 mph)
  • Range: 344 nm (396 mi, 637 km)
  • Service ceiling: 18,000 ft (m)

See also



  1. Thetford 1976, p. 429.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Marsh, Jeff. "Percival "Prentice" T1". Air Atlantique Classic Flight Project, 20 September 2005. Retrieved: 14 May 2009.
  3. Sturtivant 1997, p. 61.
  4. Jackson 1974
  5. Halley 1985, pp. 76–82.
  6. "Aircraft Listing." Midland Air Museum. Retrieved: 22 June 2013.
  7. "Aircraft List." Newark Air Museum. Retrieved: 22 June 2013.
  8. Thetford 1976, p. 430


  • Ellison, Norman H. Percivals Aircraft (The Archive Photographs Series). Chalford, Stroud, UK: Chalford Publishing Company, 1997. ISBN 0-7524-0774-0.
  • Halley, J.J. Royal Air Force Aircraft SA100-VZ999. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. 1985. ISBN 0-85130-136-3.
  • Jackson, A.J. British Civil Aircraft since 1919, Volume 3. London: Putnam, 1988. ISBN 0-85177-818-6.
  • Silvester, John. "Percival Aircraft 1933-1954 (Parts 1-4)." Aeroplane Monthly, Vol. 11, No. 1–4, January–April 1983.
  • Sturtivant, Ray. Royal Air Force Flying Training and Support Units. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1997. ISBN 0-85130-252-1.
  • Thetford, Owen. Aircraft of the Royal Air Force. London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1976. ISBN 0-370-10056-5.

External links

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