The not so Masterly Provost

Pilot - - AIRMAIL -

With­out wish­ing to be the Devil’s ad­vo­cate, nor a spokesman for the nos­tril as­cen­dum club (again), may I of­fer the fol­low­ing ob­ser­va­tions?

At the end of WWII the Amer­i­cans de­cided the T6 Texan/har­vard needed re­plac­ing. They came up with the T28 Tro­jan – more pow­er­ful, bet­ter per­for­mance, nose­wheel and cor­rect mil­i­tary trainer seat­ing. As they say, what’s not to like? And like it peo­ple did, as they built thou­sands, with thir­ty­odd coun­tries join­ing the buy­ers’ queue.

We like­wise de­cided our own ‘Har­vard’, the Miles Mas­ter (in­ci­den­tally in many ways su­pe­rior to the T6) needed to be put out to grass, and so we came up with the Provost – for the ‘fast jet era’? One would be for­given for think­ing it was not the Mas­ter’s suc­ces­sor, but pre­de­ces­sor. Less pow­er­ful, less per­for­mance, tail­wheel, Black­burn Blue­bird seat­ing and – barely be­liev­able – fixed un­der­car­riage, com­plete with dodgy en­gine. Yet an­other case of for­ward to the past. As some­one un­kindly opined, I fail to see why it was not fit­ted with a fixed-pitch wooden pro­pel­ler, to com­plete the 1930s spec.

Need­less to say we made few – or, to more than a few, that few was too many. Even less were sold, with po­ten­tial cus­tomers pre­fer­ring to stick with wartime train­ers which were plen­ti­ful, cheap and in many ways su­pe­rior and more ad­vanced. This of course con­tin­ued in many cases right up un­til the 1980s.

Oil con­sump­tion aside, note­wor­thy – but not praise­wor­thy – is that the Alvis en­gine would tend not to start at all if things were ‘high and hot’. The adopted method was to tie a rope, old lawn­mower fash­ion, around the pro­pel­ler hub and at­tach the other end to any handy ‘MT’ that could be driven off! Oh how our ri­vals laughed. One would think that a sim­ple pis­ton en­gine, which came out in the 1930s would be sorted by then – but no. Of course Alvis was not known as an aero en­gine builder, the Leonides be­ing their only of­fer­ing. They were no Bris­tol or Arm­strong Sid­de­ley ('stron­garm Sid').

To­day, com­pared with the Har­vard, de­spite be­ing a decade or two newer, their sur­vival rate is about half and re­flected sim­i­larly in the price tag. (In­ci­den­tally, the fact that to­day we do not have a sin­gle ex­am­ple of a Miles Mas­ter is lit­tle more than a na­tional dis­grace!)

Righto, rant over... but on the day of reck­on­ing, those ‘air heads’ from the Air Min­istry have a lot to ac­count for. John Trist, Clapham

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