25 November 2020

AG Italia

the blog

Beechcraft T-34 Mentor: the historical USA trainer

The Beechcraft T-34 Mentor is a low-wing single prop derived directly from the civil aircraft Beechcraft Bonanza.

Developed specifically for the training of military pilots from the USAF and the US Navy since the late 1940s, the T-34 was produced until 1959.

Beechcraft T-34C Turbo Mentor della US Navy
US Navy Beechcraft T-34C Turbo Mentor

Overview

The T-34, from 1948 to 1959 is equipped with a Continental piston engine. It is built in more than 2300 models.

Since the mid-70s it has been proposed with the name T-34C equipped with turboprop engines Pratt & Whitney PT6A.

The T-34 remained in service for the US military forces USAF and US NAVY until the 1990s, after which it was gradually replaced with the more modern Beechcraft T-6 Texan II.

It is still used by NASA as a support aircraft for aerial photogrammetry operations, for tracking UAVs and for maintaining the training and efficiency of pilots.

T-34 is also mentioned in the story of Hypnotizing Maria, Richard Bach

History of T-34 Mentor

Walter Beech, founder of the Beech Aircraft Company, in 1940, began developing prototypes of a more efficient aircraft intended for training US military pilots.

Beech's goal was to replace the North American T-6 Texan and the North American T-28 Trojan already in use by the US military, with an aircraft with lower construction and maintenance costs.

Starting from the aircraft Beechcraft Bonanza 35 and from some parts of the Debonair, Beech offered USAF three prototypes called Model A45T: the first two equipped with a 205 HP Continental E-185 engine while the third, the more powerful, very similar to the later acquired by USAF itself, with a 255 HP Continental E-225 engine.

The first flight of the Model A45T prototype took place in December 1948 and presented to the USAF under the name YT-34.

In 1950 USAF ordered 350 specimens of YT-34. The first of the 350 planes was delivered to USAF in 1953, from then on it was definitively called T-34.

Production of the 350 T-34A specimens ended in 1958.

Un T-34A esposto presso il Museo Nazionale della USAF
A T-34A exhibited at the USAF National Museum

Satisfied by the impressions of the T-34A, the US Navy also wanted to adopt the T-34 Mentor in the training fleet of its pilots but could not do it because the same model that used the USAF was not suitable for the training and needs of the pilots of the US Navy.

To respond to this request, changes were made such as the addition of a degree of dihedral, the differential braking instead of the front wheel for ground control, the adjustable rudder pedals instead of the adjustable seat to manage the different height of the pilots of the US Navy .

Externally the T-34B was distinguished from the T-34A by the lack of the fitting at the base of the steering wheel and the cover for housing the larger batteries intended to accommodate other types of accumulators.

In 1954 the US Navy approved the changes and 438 T-34B units were put into production, receiving the last aircraft from Beech in 1959.

Un Beechcraft T-34B Mentor della US Navy in volo
A Beechcraft T-34B Mentor of the US Navy in flight

The T-34Bs were used in basic training for US Navy pilots at the naval air base at Saufley Field in Florida.

In 1955 Beech, always hoping to win the contract with the US military again, developed another prototype called Model 73 Jet Mentor, the brother of the Model 45 equipped with a turbine engine. However, both the USAF and the US Navy rejected it, preferring the Cessna T-37 Tweet and Temco TT Pinto. The Model 73 was never produced on a large scale.

In 1975 the T-34B was equipped with the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-25 turboprop engine, becoming the T-34C.

Both the USAF and the US Navy confirmed the validity of the T-34 Mentor as an excellent aircraft for pilot training, especially in the transition from piston to turbine engine.

The T-34 Mentors have remained in service in the U.S. military for over 25 years.

T-34 Mentor's variants

  • TheYT-34 is the first prototype presented to the U.S. military by Walter Beech in 1948.
  • The T-34A has been a trainer in the USAF since 1953.
  • The T-34B is the modified version of the T-34A intended for the US Navy used since 1954.
  • The T-34C is an updated version of the T-34B, equipped with modern Pratt & Whitney PT6A-25 turboprop engines.
  • The T-34C-1 is an armed version, introduced in 1977 and used by the Argentine Navy, the Taiwan Air Force, the Air Force and the Ecuadorian Navy, the Presidential Guard of Gabon, the Indonesian Air Force, the Moroccan Air Force, the Peruvian Navy and in the Uruguayan Navy.

Technical data sheet and performance of the T-34C *

EnginePratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25
Propeller (three-blade)Hartzell
Maximum Takeoff Weight1,950 kg
Maximum Landing Weight1,950 kg
Maximum Ramp Weight1,962 kg
Take-Off Distance (50 ft)586 m
Landing Distance (50 ft)547 m
Maximum Climb Rate1,480 ft/min
Service Ceiling9,145 m
Maximum Cruise Speed396 km/h
Maximum Limit Speed518 km/h
Stall Speed98 km/h
** Data taken from Skytamer.com

Recent usage of the T-34

The turboprop version T-34C is still used as a basic trainer by the USAF, US Navy and some Latin American countries.

Since the 2000s, both the US Navy and the USAF have been progressively replacing the T-34Cs with the modern Beechcraft T-6 Texan II, the latter being derived from the Swiss Pilatus PC-9.

T-6 Texan II, il sostituto del T-34C a partire dagli 2000.
T-6 Texan II, the replacement of the T-34C starting from 2000.

NASA's T-34C

The T-34C is used in support operations for Armstrong Flight Research Center, located at the Edwards base in California. It carries out research flights, video footage and aerial photogrammetry.

At the Dryden Flight Research Center, the T-34C is mainly used for research and development purposes for the pursuit and monitoring of remotely piloted aircraft (APR or UAV).

It is also used for training and maintaining pilots' proficiency.

Il T-34C in dotazione alla NASA - Credits: NASA / Jim Ross
The T-34C supplied by NASA - Credits: NASA / Jim Ross

The use of the T-34 in Air Shows

The T-34C is used by the "Lima Flight Team" and the "Dragon Flight", both aerobatic teams participating in major international air shows.

Julie Clark, a well-known aerobatic pilot, also flew with the T-34 "Free Spirit", until her retirement from the air show in 2019.


References:

https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/t-34.htm

https://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/t-34-trainer/

https://flyingleathernecks.org/project/beech-t-34b-mentor/

https://www.navalaviationmuseum.org/aircraft/t-34-mentor/

https://www.nasa.gov/centers/armstrong/aircraft/T-34C/index.html

https://www.skytamer.com/Beechcraft_T-34C.html


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