[History of the JP1] [Known survivors]

[1954-1991] [1991-1993] [1993-1994] [1994-present]

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.
Subsequently it was offered for sale.

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.
Tim acquired G-AOBU and it was moved to Alan's airstrip near Newbury in September 1991, with the intention of restoring this early variant of the Jet Provost to flying condition.

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.
The Gnat was moved to Leavesden for restoration to fly, and it took to the air again in November 1992.

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.
The aircraft was moved to Dick Melton Aviation at Micheldever, Hants in early 1992, and the 30 year-old Armstrong Siddeley Viper 5 engine removed and placed in the hands of Kennet Aviation's own engineering team, led by Dave Horsfield and Peter Walker for rebuild.

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.
XD674 was fitted with Piston Provost main wheels, and was more importantly engineless, thus ruling out the possibility of acquiring spares.

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.
However Tim then met Dave Lockley, who worked in Dowty's gearbox division, and he spent a lot of his spare time looking for the missing documents. Eventually, after spending hours searching through dusty archives, he came up with 80 original drawings, having traced them through a modification number. Just as the project was regaining momentum, the team suffered another setback.
Dowty were asked by Tim Manna how much it would cost to have one of these side drive shafts made up, and the quote he received in return was for an enormous sum of money, far beyond the project's financial budget.

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.
Contact was made, and the team were delighted to discover that the engine was a Viper 102 with a Viper 5 front end on it, and that there was not just one drive shaft but four! The RNEC initially offered one of the shafts on long-term loan to the project, but they changed their test engine over to a standard Viper 102. This allowed Tim Manna to all the shafts and other assorted engine components that would help put G-AOBU in the air and keep it there in the years to come.

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.
Thanks to the parts acquired from the RNEC, Kennet's engineering team were able to finish work on the engine, and it was transported by road back to the RNEC for ground running in their test cell.

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.
Gearbox oil was another problem that could quite easily have grounded the whole project even before it had left the ground. The standard oil used during the JP's flying career had long since been discontinued, and the type of oil used in the later versions of the Viper engine was completely different and totally unsuitable for 'OBU. A well-known petroleum company was unable to help, but once again an employee of that concern did some research and found that Westland Helicopters Ltd had bought the remaining stock of this particular oil in 1981.
After some negotiations, Kennet was presented with two gallons by the materials laboratory.

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.
Test flights were continued and the aircraft made its airshow debut at the 1994 Biggin Hill Air Fair in early June. Since then it has appeared at numerous shows, including some appearances at Old Warden, of course its former home with the Shuttleworth collection.

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.
At the time of writing (January 2010) the aeroplane appears to be tucked up in storage at North Weald, following the expiration of its flight permit.

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