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.
|RAF Percival Proctor I|
|Role||Radio trainer/communications aircraft|
|Manufacturer||Percival Aircraft Limited|
|First flight||8 October 1939|
Fleet Air Arm
|Developed from||Percival Vega Gull|
Design and development
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. 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.
Whilst the very early Proctors (Mks I to III.) followed very closely the last incarnation of the Vega Gull, and consequently retained 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. The Prentice itself proved to be a very poor aircraft (even worse than the later 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 1960s. 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 Vega's attributes of Long-range, speed and load-carrying ability. Notably, all Proctors inherited the Vega Gull's feature of wing-folding.
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.
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.
- 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 for 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.
- A Proctor IV fuselage was modified with a new-wing built by Heston Aircraft as the Youngman-Baynes High Lift Monoplane.
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.
- Belgian Air Force
- Royal Canadian Air Force used Proctors by a number of Canadian units in the RAF as a communications aircraft.
- Czechoslovakian Air Force in exile in the United Kingdom had one aircraft in service from 1944 to 1945.
- 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.
- Armée de l'Air received 18 Proctor IVs 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.
- Italian Air Force bought one former civil Proctor V in 1954.
- Royal Netherlands Air Force received one Proctor III in June 1946 (scrapped in February 1951) and 10 Proctor IVs in June 1947. Used as liaison aircraft they were all scrapped in October 1953.
- Polish Air Force in Great Britain operated a few aircraft for liaison duties. Example aircraft: DX190, LZ603.
- Syrian Army bought four new Proctor IVs in 1946.
- Royal Air Force
- Fleet Air Arm
- United States Army Air Forces operated loaned RAF aircraft as communications aircraft for use in the United Kingdom.
- 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.
Proctor Mk III G-ALJF and Proctor Mk IV G-ANXR (RAF number RM221) are both airworthy and based at Biggin Hill.
G-ANXR now relocated to Headcorn after 35 years 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", initially owned by Rolls Royce Ltd as a corporate communications aircraft, is airworthy (2015), owned by Air Atlantique and operated as part of the Classic Air Force, based at Coventry. For sale on Controller.com (as of 16 Nov. 2016)
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.
Proctor I Z7212 G-AHFU VH-DUL VH-UXS. Museum quality restoration to flying condition completed at Latrobe Valley Airframes and Welding, Victoria Australia.
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. Proctor IV G-AHTE at Clacton and Classic Air Force. Proctor IV G-AKIU are all under restoration to flying condition.
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.
Four aircraft are being restored to flying condition at Great Oakley Airfield near Harwich: Proctor Mk III G-AKEX (LZ791), Proctor Mk III G-ANPP (HM534), Proctor Mk IV G-ANVY (RM169) and Proctor Mk V G-AHTE (Civil).
Specifications (Proctor IV)
- Crew: two/one
- Capacity: one/two
- Length: 28 ft 2 in (8.59 m)
- Wingspan: 39 ft 6 in (12.04 m)
- Height: 7 ft 3 in (2.21 m)
- Wing area: 202 ft² (18.77 m²)
- Empty weight: 2,375 lb (1,075 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 3,500 lb (1,588 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × de Havilland Gipsy Queen II driving a 2-bladed propeller, 210 hp (157 kW)
- Maximum speed: 139 knots (160 mph, 257 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 122 knots (140 mph, 225 km/h)
- Stall speed: 42 knots (48 mph, 77 km/h ) (flaps down)
- Range: 435 nm (500 mi, 805 km)
- Service ceiling: 14,000 ft (4,265 m)
- Rate of climb: 700 ft/min (3.6 m/s)
Notable appearances in media
The Proctor was mentioned in the song "Flying Doctor" by Hawklords (1978)
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Thetford, Owen. Aircraft of the Royal Air Force 1918–57, 1st edition. London: Putnam, 1957.
- Scholefield 2004, p. 227.
- Gearing 2012, pp. 193–259.
- Jackson 1977, p. 75.
- "Italian Air Force". aeroflight. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
- Jackson 1978, p. 96.
- Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft of World War II. London: Chancellor Press, 1994. ISBN 1-85152-668-4.
- Air Transport Auxiliary Ferry Pilots Notes (reproduction). Elvington, York, UK: Yorkshire Air Museum, 1996. ISBN 0-9512379-8-5.
- 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.
- Jackson Paul A. Belgian Military Aviation 1945-1977. London: Midland Counties Publications, 1977. ISBN 0-904597-06-7.
- Jackson Paul A. Dutch Military Aviation 1945-1978. London: Midland Counties Publications, 1978. ISBN 0-904597-11-3.
- 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.
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