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Beechcraft T-34 Mentor Trainer / Light Attack (1953)

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 11/4/2014

The Beechcraft T-34 Mentor was developed from the Beechcraft Bonanza and produced in some 2,300 examples from 1953 through 1959.

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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 close 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. The basic T-34A (USAF) and T-34B (USN) models were bettered in the turbo-prop powered T-34C and a jet-powered version was even proposed, though the latter to no avail. 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

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. Bombers and navigators mostly trained on the Twin Beech AT-7/C-45 "Expeditor" (Beechcraft Model 18) series.

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". Up to this time, the American armed forces were doing their aerial training using the 1930's-era North American Aviation T-6 Texan, this aircraft powered by a single radial piston engine with seating for two and sporting low-set monoplane wings. The T-6 went on to be produced in 15,495 examples and benefitted commercially from the environment of a wartime America. Beech sought to market his proposed Model 45 design as a budget alternative to the aging T-6.

The Model 45 was produced from three initial proposed airframe designs. One such design was fitted with the Beech-style "Vee" vertical tail fins common to the brand. The four-seat cabin of the original Bonanza allowed for a large two-seat cockpit to be introduced. These three designs eventually evolved to become a conventional arrangement of engine, wings and a centrally-placed cockpit to better help its marketing to American military brass. The understructure was further strengthened over that of the original Bonanza to contend with the rigors of military fighter training. A single prototype example was constructed and furthered in three Model A45T forms. The initial two units were fitted with a Continental E-185 engine of 185 horsepower output while the third prototype was given a Continental E-225 series engine. First flight was achieved on December 2nd, 1948. By 1950, the USAF had placed an order for three Model A45T evaluation aircraft under the new designation of YT-34.

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. The T-34B was also license-built in Canada as the "B45" trainer. Other producers eventually became Fuji Heavy Industries of Japan and FMA of Argentina. Production of T-34A models finished in 1956 and was followed by T-34B production commencement in 1957. The final B45 rolled off the assembly lines in 1959.

T-34 Walk-Around

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.

T-34 Variants

The T-34 was produced in a handful of variants beginning with the three YT-34 prototypes. These evolved into the T-34A for the US Air Force to which some 450 examples were ultimately delivered. T-34A's in USAF service were replaced by the Cessna T-37 series trainers.


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Specifications for the
Beechcraft T-34 Mentor
Trainer / Light Attack


Focus Model: Beechcraft T-34C Mentor
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Beechcraft - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1953
Production: 2,300


Crew: 2


Length: 28.71 ft (8.75 m)
Width: 33.33 ft (10.16 m)
Height: 9.58ft (2.92 m)
Weight (Empty): 2,959 lb (1,342 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 4,299 lb (1,950 kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25 turboprop developing 715shp.


Maximum Speed: 322 mph (518kmh; 280 kts)
Maximum Range: 815 miles (1,311km)
Service Ceiling: 98,425 ft (30,000 m; 18.6 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,480 feet per minute (451 m/min)


Hardpoints: 4
Armament Suite:
OPTIONAL:
1,200lbs of stores across four underwing hardpoints.


Variants:
YT-34 - Prototype Designation; three examples produced.


T-34A - Trainer for USAF; 450 examples produced; steerable nose wheel; adjustable seats.

T-34B - Trainer for USN; 423 examples produced; adjustable rudder controls; differential braking instead of steerable nose wheel.

YT-34C - T-34C prototypes with turboprop engines; 2 T-34B production examples modified as such.

T-34C "Turbo-Mentor" - Turboprop engine fitted.

T-34C-1 - Export Trainer based on the T-34C; fitted with four underwing hardpoints for external ordnance in the strike training/light attack role.

Turbo-Mentor 34C - Civilian Variant of the T-34C.


Operators:
Algeria; Argentina; Bolivia; Canada; Chile; Colombia; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; France; Gabon; Greece; Indonesia; Japan; Mexico; Morocco; Peru; Philippines; Taiwan; Spain; Turkey; United States; Uruguay; Venezuela