|"JET PROVOST HEAVEN"|
|KNOWN JET PROVOST T.1 SURVIVORS|
|[History of the JP1]||[Known survivors]|
|HUNTING-PERCIVAL JET PROVOST T.1 G-AOBU|
1954 - 1991 "From Luton to Loughborough"
Percival Jet Provost T.1 G-AOBU was the 6th machine out of 12 constructed by Hunting-Percival, and made its first flight on 13th June 1955. It was retained by the manufacturers and used as a test aircraft and type company demonstrator, until it's last flight on 31st August 1958. It was then placed in storage at Luton with just over 155 hours on the airframe.
In April 1961 Hunting presented G-AOBU to the Shuttleworth Trust, and it was subsequently loaned to Loughborough University, Leicestershire. in exchange for a Spitfire Mk.V. It was given to the Transport Technology department where it was used as an instructional airframe alongside the department's Hawker Hunter F.4 XE677. Throughout its time with the University the aircraft was kept undercover and maintained in very good condition by the staff and students. After a career spanning almost 30 years with the University G-AOBU was replaced by a British Aerospace Jaguar test aircraft from Warton, and in January 1991 it was returned to Shuttleworth at Old Warden. Once back at Shuttleworth the aircraft was placed in storage whilst a decision was made on its long-term future.
1991-1993 - "new ownership and restoration"
During 1991 Tim Manna, owner of Piston Provost T.1 XF690 G-MOOS learnt that the Shuttleworth Collection was about to dispose of G-AOBU. Realising that this venerable aircraft would make an ideal stable-mate for his piston Provost, Tim and Alan House, another dedicated Provost owner, travelled to Old Warden to survey the JP. They deemed it to be in superb condition, no doubt helped by the fact it had been kept inside since the end of its short flying career in the 1950s.
A couple of months later Tim received news that a batch of Jet Provosts were coming up for disposal at RAF Halton, and he went along to the sale intending to buy a Jet Provost hulk as a spares source for G-AOBU. He acquired what he originally intended, a Jet Provost T.3 airframe, but he also came away with a Folland Gnat T.1! Owning a piston aircraft and two jets posed a problem - the strip at Newbury was simply not suitable for jet aircraft and so it would be necessary to find a new base.
In the meantime, work was continued on the Jet Provost T.1, and it soon became obvious that it was going to be a much bigger job than was originally thought.
It was going to be necessary to find manuals and spare parts for the restoration of G-AOBU, a difficult task as only 12 examples had been built in the 1950s, and only two survive today, prototype XD674 at the RAF Museum, Cosford, and G-AOBU. This in itself presented the team with problems, as even though G-AOBU was just five places down the production line from the prototype it was very different.
|When it came to the engine, more problems were encountered. The Jet Provost's Viper 5 power plant is a side drive shaft engine, and the all-important drive shaft was missing. This particular mark of Viper was only ever fitted to the T.1 version of the JP, so spares could not be obtained from engines fitted in other variants of the trainer.
This presented Kennet with the big problem of trying to find parts for an aircraft type that had a small production run in the 1950s, and the majority of the aircraft had been scrapped by the early 60's.|
Both the Shuttleworth Collection and Loughborough University made a thorough search to see if they could find the missing drive shaft, but to no avail.
Tim and his team spent several months trying to find out how this shaft would be fitted to the engine, so that they could at least get some drawings made and ideally get a new one built. Dowty Aerospace was approached, but unfortunately the company said that they had disposed of unwanted archive drawings and materials during a restructure programme several years earlier.
It was at around this time that an engineer working on the project was informed that there was a strange side drive shaft Viper jet engine at the Royal Navy Engineering College (RNEC) at Manadon, near Plymouth, which had been used in some experimental Navy designs.
1993-1994 - "Restoration approaches completion"
Work was, by then, forging ahead on the airframe, and in mid-1993 G-AOBU was moved from Micheldever to Kennet Aviation's new facility at Cranfield for the completion of the restoration.
Problems with the restoration were gradually being tackled and overcome, G-AOBU's original tyres had perished, and the team tried several different sets before finally settling on Dunlop tyres that fitted the wheel rims and undercarriage bays perfectly.
Work continued through the 1993 airshow season where Kennet was kept busy operating their Gnat as well as another example, Jet Provost T.3A and Bell UH-1D helicopter, and by the turn of 1994 taxiing trials were in sight. This stage of the project occurred in the early months and a first flight was then in sight.
1994-present - "G-AOBU flies again"
On May 22nd 1994 Stan Hodgkins, Kennet Aviation's chief pilot took G-AOBU, complete in its company demonstrator colours, into the air for the first time in nearly 40 years at Cranfield.
Over the winter of the 1996/97 G-AOBU was repainted into a new paint scheme representing a 2FTS RAF Jet Provost T.1, XD693 (Z-D).
In 2002 Kennet Aviation moved from Cranfield to a new base at North Weald, and G-AOBU was ferried by air to its new home. It undertook flying displays at Cosford, Filton and Farnborough during 2004, and over the following years it continued to fly occasionally.
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