In a time where the UK’s classic jet scene is adjusting to the post Shoreham era, many in the aviation community have asked what the future will hold for it. That said, 2015 saw the formation of The Jet Provost Display Team who hope to make their mark on the circuit with the world’s sole airworthy Jet Provost T3 in tribute to Hunting-Percival’s venerable jet-trainer.
Mention the names Red Pelicans, Vipers, Redskins or The Sparrows and many will no doubt think towards some sort of sports team. In the aviation world however, add names like The Swords, Gemini Pair, Macaws or The Poachers and many will think back to the sight of Jet Provosts looping and rolling in formation through the skies during the heyday of their Royal Air Force service. Now though, more than 30 years after the RAF said goodbye to the type, there is a new name to add to the distinguished list of names synonymous with the jet’s somewhat extensive history – The Jet Provost Display Team.
Formed in 2015 as part of the Classic Jet Preservation Group (CJPG), The Jet Provost Display Team are simply as the name implies – a team that display a Jet Provost both in the air and on the ground. Based out of the classic jet hub that is North Weald in Essex, the team is made up of two shareholders – Ollie Suckling and Oliver Wheeldon – and the group’s 1961 built Hunting-Percival Jet Provost T.3 – G-BKOU/XN637.
The CJPG, which came to fruition in 2008, was formed with the purpose of not only allowing its members the chance of learning how to both operate and fly the Jet Provost (or ‘JP’ as it is known throughout the world) but to ensure that it is done so safely. The group itself also allows the jet to extend its flying life that currently sits at just over 1,600 hours – making it one of the lowest (if not the lowest) hour examples of an airworthy Jet Provost anywhere in the world.
The team was the brainchild of the team’s pilots after the idea of displaying the jet was put to them by well known ‘JP’ display pilot Dan Artlett. As Ollie says –
“The aircraft is a good one for starting out in the display world because of its vice less characteristics. I chose the ‘JP’ as it was the only way I could afford to fly vintage jets – something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s also a nice break from the usual manic pace of events in the day job!”
Ollie Wheeldon, who flies the Folland Gnat as the Manager of Ground Operations with the superb Gnat Display Team – something he calls the “Sport of Kings!” – was keen to start the work needed to display the jet in the hope of gaining the necessary experience needed before displaying Teddy Petter’s iconic trainer in the coming future.
Having completed the team’s first display at The Yorkshire Airshow (held at the ex-RAF Church Fenton) in 2015 and in the wake of the tragic events at Shoreham, the team are looking at completing their first full season this year. Despite the restrictions being in place for 2016, the team have come up with an energetic yet graceful eight-minute display –
“Obviously Shoreham has affected us, as indeed the whole display world. The biggest factor is the current restrictions on overland aerobatics at airshows. With those in mind we have created a sequence that meets the CAA’s restrictions and allows us to show off the ‘old girl’ well!”
Having seen that very first show at Leeds East Airport last year it is fair to say the display does just that. With a mixture of both topside and underside passes along with numerous wingovers as well as seeing the jet in both a ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ configurations, you certainly get to take the jet and its striking blue, red and white scheme in during the display all whilst accompanied by the shriek of the aircraft’s Rolls-Royce Viper turbojet engine.
“Bookings are coming in now for some of the more regular displays which is great as we weren’t so sure what the uptake would be at the beginning of the season.”
Even with the display world still adjusting and the effects of the new regulations yet to be seen properly, the team are well on the way to filling up their calendar with seven displays confirmed including Throckmorton, RAF Cosford, Southport and Herne Bay. The latter two will see the team fly their full show given their location and the display axis being out at sea –a fully aerobatic affair with loops, rolls and even an inverted pass.
By the time the Royal Air Force said goodbye to the ‘JP’ in 1993, untold numbers of pilots – and indeed navigators as well – had learnt their ‘trade’ on the jet as Ollie states –
“You can see why it was such a successful trainer for the RAF as it is pretty easy going and forgiving which was great for ham-fisted students smashing the poor things round the circuit all day!”
The aircraft’s popularity (with both flyers and aviation enthusiasts) is still as strong today with a fair number having been saved from the scrap man’s axe and being displayed both in the air and on the ground in the UK – in fact, throughout the world.
Despite the fact that around a dozen or so Jet Provosts remain airworthy across the UK, the display circuit in recent years has gone from numerous displaying examples to just one being seen regularly – Jeff Bell’s immaculate 6 FTS (Flying Training School) marked JP5 (XW324/G-BWSG) based out of East Midlands Airport.
As well as offering the jet for both flying and static displays, the team announced in late April that they were working in conjunction with Jet Aerobatics and Dan Arlett in offering a pairs display with their jet XW324.
“I was contacted about doing a pairs display by Dan last year and since then we have been working to achieve a nice sequence to show off both aircraft be it a whether that the limited display or the full display.”
It goes without saying that any show over sea will see the full aerobatic offering with formation aerobatics and tail chasing. Like the solo display, the pairs display offers a number of ‘contrasting’ views of the pair with an elegant series of top side passes and the ballet like precision of close formation work interlaced with a number of exhilarating opposition passes.
“Having a 3 and a 5 can be a little troublesome because of the power difference but managed correctly we can pull off a nice rounded display. My favourite part is where I’m flying a ‘dirty pass’ in the 3 and Dan whizzes past in the 5 at about 300 knots!”
Rather fittingly, XW324 was one of the jets used by the Gemini Pair during their 1973 season while in use with 3FTS at RAF Leeming – a case of history repeating itself!
Like most operators these days, the JP Display Team have a presence on various Social media outlets so if you happen to catch the guys doing their thing be sure to send them a picture or comment.
Website – http://jpdisplay.co.uk/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/JPDisplay/
Twitter – @JPDisplayTeam
We here at AeroResource look forward to seeing the team progress over the coming years and wish them all the best for the 2016 season and would like to thank Ollie Suckling for taking the time to chat to the author.
On a personal note I was very lucky to be invited down to North Weald the day before that first display at Leeds East and ‘meet’ G-BKOU in person while joining Ollie Suckling for the transit flight up to North Yorkshire – an incredible experience and one I cannot thank him enough for. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog piece on AeroResource.