Prentice

G-AOPO Prentice

Percival P.40 Prentice

While the main purpose of this site is to concentrate primarily on the airlines and airliners that operated in and out of Southend, no entry about ATEL would be complete without a mention of the 252, ex-RAF Percival Prentices that were procured from the Ministry of Supply in 1956. These aircraft were scheduled to arrive in two phases, from RAF MUs at Shawbury, Cosford and High Ercall to Southend and Stansted, where if ATEL’s plans came to fruition, then a good number of these aircraft would eventually undergo conversion on demand to 4-5 seat, civil aircraft for the discerning, private pilot. The first batch of 92 and 58 Prentices were to arrive at Southend and Stansted respectively between April and July 1956.

However, being unsuitable for warmer climates and already being slightly underpowered (a fact that was made even more Prentice 1evident with four or five people on board), interest was naturally lukewarm and as a result, only 28 of these aircraft were eventually converted and sold – G-AOPL being the very first of these. As a consequence of this lack of interest, the remainder were left to languish at their respective airfields and up until their clearance in 1960/61, huge piles of broken Prentice fuselages became a familiar sight at both locations. Eventually, these unwanted aircraft were reduced to spares; the engines being especially valuable as they were a suitable replacement for (amongst others) those of the De Havilland Heron feeder airliners, that were at the time, being used by a good number of airlines around the UK and Europe, while the fuselages were finally melted down and sold for scrap.

Those that did sell were generally refinished in silver grey and came replete with a red and grey, upholstered interior and a four channel prenticesradio; all for the tidy sum of £2000 (reduced to £1500 at a later date, when ATEL began to find these planes, increasingly harder to sell). The standard seating arrangement comprised of two pilot’s seats with a bench seat to the rear of the cockpit that could accommodate 2-3 people, depending on their physical size. However, Aviation Traders also used the odd airframe to perform services such as aerial advertising, G-APIY in particular, being used during the late summer of 1958 to tow ‘Fly Channel Airways’ and ‘Fly Channel Air Bridge’ banners over the local area, while another banner towing Prentice G-AOKH would become the personal hack of ATEL director Mr J.R. Batt from 1967 onwards.

Of the 28 airframes converted, the registrations include: G-AOKF – G-AOKH – G-AOKL – G-AOKO – G-AOKT – G-AOKZ – G-AOLK – G-AOLM – G-AOLO – G-AOLP – G-AOLR – G-AOLU – G-AOMF – G-AOMK – G-AONB – G-AONS – G-AOPL – G-AOPO – G-AOPW – G-AOPY – G-AOWT – G-APGT – G-APIT – G-APIU – G-APIY – G-AGJB – G-APJE and G-APPL.

However as of 2016, only four of these ATEL converted Prentices survive in the UK

G-AOKL

Belongs to a private owner in Laurencekirk, Aberdeenshire

G-APJB

Previously flew pleasure flights for Southend Municipal Council in the mid-60s (also see ‘General Aviation’) is now with the Classic Air Force in Newquay

G-AOLK

Became a six seat conversion that was based at Southend for many years. This aircraft now resides with the RAF Museum at Hendon in its original RAF colours

G-APPL

Now flies with a private owner out of North Weald

Scrapped

A rather iconic picture probably taken during the autumn of 1960, shows a large collection of Proctors, the rear section of a Tudor (possibly G-AHNL which was scrapped in February 1960) and to the rear what looks to be Continental’s Viking G-AIKN which was withdrawn in October of this year. In fact it was not long after this, during the winter of 1960/1961, that work began on scrapping and melting down these Proctors and come the spring, this task had more or less been completed. With thanks to Peter Clark for sourcing this image.

The other airframes were not converted and were eventually B/U. These include:

G-AOKA to G-AOKY

(excluding KF, KH, KL, KO, KT and KZ)

G-AOLA to G-AOLZ

(excluding LK, LM, LO, LP, LR and LU)

G-AOMA to G-AOMZ

(excluding MF and MK)

G-AONA to G-AONZ

(excluding NB and NS)

G-AOOA to G-AOOZ

G-AOPA to G-AOPX

(excluding PL, PO, PW and PY)

G-AOWA to G-AOWZ

(excluding WT)

G-AOXA to G-AOXE

G-APBS to G-APBV

G-APGA to G-APGK

G-APGN to G-APGZ

(excluding GT)

G-APHA to G-APHS

G-APIV to G-APIX

G-APJA to G-APJI

(excluding JB and JE)

G-ARGA

NB: These aircraft were distributed between SEN and STN.

 

Do you have any other, interesting snippets of information about these aircraft or indeed, any pictures that you would like to share? If so, then please contact us on saadinfomail@gmail.com

Many thanks from the SAAD Admin Team.