Percival Proctor

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Percival Proctor
Percival proctor.jpg
RAF Percival Proctor I
Role Radio trainer/communications aircraft
Manufacturer Percival Aircraft Limited
Designer Edgar Percival
First flight 8 October 1939
Retired 1955
Primary users RAF
Fleet Air Arm
Number built 1,143
Developed from Percival Vega Gull

The Percival Proctor was a British radio trainer and communications aircraft of the Second World War. The Proctor was a single-engined, low-wing monoplane with seating for three or four, depending on the model.

Design and development[edit]

The Proctor was developed from the Percival Vega Gull in response to Air Ministry Specification 20/38 for a radio trainer and communications aircraft. To meet the requirement, the aircraft based on the Vega Gull had larger rear cabin windows and the fuselage was six inches longer. Modifications were made to the seats to enable the crew to wear parachutes, and other changes to enable a military radio and other equipment to be fitted. In early 1939 an order was placed for 247 aircraft to meet operational requirement OR.65.

The prototype aircraft, serial number P5998, first flew on 8 October 1939 from Luton Airport.[1] and the type was put into production for the RAF and Fleet Air Arm. The prototype was tested as an emergency bomber during 1940 but this idea was abandoned as the invasion threat receded. Although the first 222 aircraft were built by Percival at Luton, most of the remaining aircraft were built by F. Hills & Sons of Trafford Park near Manchester. They built 812 Proctors of several marks between 1941 and 1945, assembling most of the aircraft at Barton Aerodrome.[2]

It should be noted that, whilst the very early Proctors (Mks I to III.) followed very closely the last incarnation of the superb Vega Gull, and consequently, most of its performance, later versions became much heavier and less aerodynamic, with inevitable detrimental effects upon their performance. The later marks of Proctor, whilst looking broadly similar, were in fact a complete redesign of the aircraft and were much enlarged, heavier and even less efficient. Flight performance was poor. There were later plans to fit them with the 250 hp Queen 30 and larger airscrew, but only one trial aircraft was so fitted as the all-metal Prentice was being developed to replace the Proctor, utilising the Queen 30 etc. Interestingly, the Prentice itself proved to be a very poor aircraft (Even worse than the late Proctors.) and served in the RAF for only a handful of years before withdrawal as it was deemed unsatisfactory. The remaining Proctors in use soldiered-on after Service use in private hands until the 1960's. At this point, owing to concerns about the degradation of glued joints in their wooden airframes, they were all grounded. Several surviving Proctors have been rebuilt with modern adhesives and should be returned to the air shortly. Early Proctors still make good light aircraft, as they combine the Vegas attributes of Long-range, speed and load-carrying ability. Notably, all Proctors inherited the Vega Gulls feature of wing-folding.

Operational history[edit]

The Proctor was initially employed as a three-seat communications aircraft (Proctor I). This was followed by the Proctor II and Proctor III three-seat radio trainers.

In 1941, the Air Ministry issued Specification T.9/41 for a four-seat radio trainer. The P.31 – originally known as the "Preceptor" but finally redesignated the Proctor IV – was developed for this requirement with an enlarged fuselage. One Proctor IV was fitted with a 250 hp (157 kW) Gipsy Queen engine. This was used as a personal transport by AVM Sir Ralph Sorley but production models retained the 210 hp (157 kW) motor of earlier marks.

Proctor 5 of Field Aircraft services on a business flight to Manchester in 1953

At the end of the war, many early mark Proctors were sold on the civilian market and were operated in Australia, New Zealand and Europe. The Mk IV continued in service with the RAF until the last was withdrawn in 1955.

In 1945, a civil model derived from the Proctor IV was put into production for private owner, business and light charter use as the Proctor 5. The RAF purchased four to be used by air attachés.

The final model of the line was the solitary Proctor 6 floatplane sold to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1946.

Three highly modified Percival Proctors, nicknamed the "Proctukas," were produced for the film Battle of Britain as stand-ins for the Ju-87 Stuka. After test flights revealed instability, they were ultimately abandoned and never appeared in the film.

Variants[edit]

P.28 Proctor I
Three-seat dual-control communications and radio/navigation trainer for the Royal Air Force, 147 built.
P.28 Proctor IA
Three-seat dual-control deck landing and radio trainer the Royal Navy/Fleet Air Arm with dinghy stowage and naval instruments, 100 built.
P.29 Proctor
One aircraft converted to a light-bomber to carry 16 20lb bombs under the wings.
P.30 Proctor II
Three-seat radio trainer, 175 built (including 112 IIA aircraft for the Royal Navy)
P.34 Proctor III
Three-seat radio trainer for Bomber Command radio operators, 437 built.
P.31 Proctor IV
Four-seat radio trainer with enlarged fuselage, 258 built.
Proctor 5
Four-seat civil light aircraft, 150 built. RAF designation was Proctor C.Mk 5
Proctor 6
Floatplane version, 1 built.
P.46
A Proctor IV fuselage was modified with a new-wing built by Heston Aircraft as the Youngman-Baynes High Lift Monoplane.

Operators[edit]

Civil[edit]

Civil Proctors have been registered in the following countries; Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Gold Coast, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Morocco, New Zealand, Portugal, Rhodesia, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Transjordan, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States.[3]

Military[edit]

 Australia
 Belgium
  • Belgian Air Force - 4 P.31C delivered in June 1947, one in October and one in March 1948. Operated as liaison aircraft by No 367 Sqdn until 1950.[4] Last withdrawn from use 1954.
 Canada
 Czechoslovakia
 Denmark
  • Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) operated six P.44 Mk. III between November 1945 and November 1951. First aircraft operated by RDAF after World War II.
 France
  • Armée de l'Air - 18 Proctor IV received between September 1945 and May 1946 for use by ERN 703 (Radio Navigation School) in Pau. When the navigation training was transferred to Morocco in 1949 the Proctors were replaced by Ansons and 16 Proctors went to the civil market.
 Italy
 Jordan
 Lebanon
 Netherlands
  • Royal Netherlands Air Force - One Mk III was delivered in juin 1956, scrapped in February 1951, but the Koninklijke Luchtmacht also took delivery of 10 Proctor IV in juin 1947. Used as liaison aircraft they were all scrapped in October 1953.[5]
 Poland
 Syria
 United Kingdom
 United States

Notable Owners[edit]

  • Nevil Shute flew his Proctor from England to Australia and terminated the return flight in Italy, 1500 miles short of his goal, after a ground loop caused by a crosswind landing damaged the undercarriage. Italian bureaucracy delayed the importation of replacement parts and he was forced to return to England by commercial airline.

Survivors[edit]

Flying[edit]

Proctor Mk III G-ALJF and Proctor Mk IV G-ANXR (RAF number RM221) are both airworthy and based at Biggin Hill.

G-ALJF was unfortunately damaged in a landing accident at a private strip in Kent July 2012 and is awaiting repairs.

Proctor 5, "G-AKIU" is airworthy (2012), owned by Air Atlantique and operated as part of the Classic Air Force, based at Newquay.

Proctor Mk I ZK-DPP, configured as a Vega Gull, and Proctor Mk Vs ZK-AQZ & ZK-ARP are airworthy and flying in New Zealand.

Under restoration[edit]

Proctor III LZ766, built by Hills is displayed at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford. Proctor IV NP294 at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, East Kirkby, G-AHTE at Clacton and Air Atlantique Classic Flight's G-AKIU are under restoration.

Proctor Mk III G-AOGE has been at Biggin Hill for at least 20 years. The airframe has been completely restored over this time with much new wood and modern glue, but it has lain in the corner of one of the hangars for the last five – six years, awaiting financing to restore its engine.

Proctor IV NP184 (ex G-ANYP), displayed from 1972-1988 at the Torbay Aircraft Museum in Devon, England, and previously used for training purposes at Brooklands Technical College at Weybridge, Surrey, England, in the late 1960s/early 1970s is believed to survive in Australia with a private owner who acquired it in 1995.

On display[edit]

Proctor III Z7197 is on display at RAF Museum, Hendon. Another Mark III is on show at the RAAFAWA Museum, Bullcreek, near Perth, Western Australia. Another Proctor is on display in the lobby of the Australian National Museum, Canberra.

Specifications (Proctor IV)[edit]

Data from The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft of World War II[6]

General characteristics

Performance

Armament

none

Notable appearances in media[edit]

Mentioned in the song "Flying Doctor" by Hawklords (1978)

It was Biggles' main aircraft in the Air Police stories by W E Johns

Two Proctors were modified with angular gull wings to resemble Junkers Ju 87 Stukas for the 1969 film Battle of Britain, and were dubbed Proctukas.

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Thetford, Owen. Aircraft of the Royal Air Force 1918–57, 1st edition. London: Putnam, 1957.
  2. ^ Scholefield 2004, p. 227.
  3. ^ Gearing 2012, pp. 193-259
  4. ^ Paul A. Jackson, Belgian Military Aviation 1945-1977 p.75. Midland Counties Publications (1977). ISBN 0-904597-06-7
  5. ^ Paul A. Jackson, Dutch Military Aviation 1945-1978 p.96. Midland Counties Publications (1978). ISBN 0-904597-11-3
  6. ^ Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft of World War II. London: Chancellor Press, 1994. ISBN 1-85152-668-4.
  7. ^ Air Transport Auxiliary Ferry Pilots Notes (reproduction). Elvington, York, UK: Yorkshire Air Museum, 1996. ISBN 0-9512379-8-5.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Ellison, Norman H. Percivals Aircraft (The Archive Photographs Series). Chalford, Stroud, UK: Chalford Publishing Company, 1997. ISBN 0-7524-0774-0.
  • Gearing, David. W. On the Wings of a Gull - Percival and Hunting Aircraft. Stapleford, UK:Air-Britain (Historians), 2012, ISBN 978-0-85130-448-9
  • Percival, Robert. "A Portrait of Percival." Aeroplane Monthly, Vol. 12, No. 9, September 1984.
  • Scholefield, R.A. "Manchester's Early Airfields", an extended chapter in Moving Manchester. Stockport, Cheshire, UK: Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society, 2004. ISSN 0950-4699.
  • Silvester, John. "Percival Aircraft 1933–1954 (Parts 1–4)." Aeroplane Monthly, Vol. 11, No. 1-4, January–April 1983.

External links[edit]