T-34 'Mentor'

The T-34 Mentor series served the United States Air Force and United States Navy well in training generations of aviators in the years following the end of World War 2. She led a productive service life in the inventories of several other foreign operators as well and has since become a favorite of civilian demonstration teams at air shows across the country. While still in active service globally, the T-34's days in American military service are numbered as a viable replacement (the "Texan II") has appeared in number.

T-34 origins place her as a private venture undertaken by American aviator Walter Beech of Beechcraft Aircraft Company. Walter Beech earned his stripes as a fighting airman in World War 1. The Beechcraft company was started in 1932 by Walter and his wife, Olive Ann Beech. After several victories in commercial races with Beechcraft planes, the company's attention turned to the production contract windfall known as World War 2. During the whole of the conflict, the firm was responsible for the production of some 7,400 aircraft for the American war effort.



1957 Beechcraft T-34B Mentor Specifications:

Wing span: 32 feet 10 inches
Length: 25 feet 10 inches
Height: 9 feet 7 inches
Speed: cruise: 152 knots
Ceiling: 18,600 feet
Range: maximum: 755 nautical miles
Power: Continental 0-470-4 engine
Crew: one instructor, one student
The T-34 design itself was developed from the single-engine, piston-powered Beechcraft Model 35 "Bonanza" and designed under the project name of "Beechcraft Model 45". The design was accepted by the United States military and introduced in 1953. The first operator became the United States Air Force receiving the T-34A model. The United States Navy became the next operator in 1955 and accepted the slightly-modified T-34B into service.

Design of the T-34 was wholly conventional. The engine was mounted to the extreme front of the fuselage, followed by the tandem-seat cockpit. The student pilot and instructor sat under a bubble canopy offering up excellent visibility in all quadrants. Wings were low-mounted monoplanes and unswept, clipped at the tips, and fitted just under the cockpit and sported some dihedral (upwards angle). The tail was equally conventional and made up of a single vertical tail fin with little to no sweep. The tail fin was complimented by a pair of horizontal planes. The aircraft sat on a tricycle undercarriage with two single-wheeled main landing gear legs retracting under each wing and a single-wheeled nose landing gear leg retracting rearwards under the engine compartment.

The T-34 series was widely exported to a variety of American-friendly customers, most centered in Latin and South America. In her military guise, this included Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Gabon, Greece, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Taiwan, Spain, Turkey, Uruguay and Venezuela. Chile and Turkey (along with the US) became civilian operators of this fine aircraft.

Despite her 1950's origins, the T-34 is still used to train USN and USMC aviators. As of this writing, her numbers are dwindling by the year as her replacement - ironically the Beechcraft/Raytheon T-6 "Texan II" - appears ready to take the mantle. Civilian demonstration teams such as the Hooligans have put the T-34 airframe to good use as well.*

*Source: militaryfactory.com