Beech Model 45 Mentor / T-34
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Beech Model 45 Mentor / T-34

In 1948 Beech built as a private venture a two-seat trainer evolved from the V-tail civil Bonanza. It differed primarily by having tandem seating for pupil and instructor, and by the substitution of a conventional tail unit for the V-tail. This aircraft was designated Beech Model 45 Mentor, and flew for the first time on 2 December 1948.

At about this time the USAF, in common with many other air forces, was trying to make up its mind about the trend of future primary training. The problem facing them all was whether or not, as a result of the introduction into service of turbine engines, initial training should be on jet-powered aircraft. At the time it was a difficult question: an affirmative answer meant not only that the most ham-fisted of student pilots would have to cope from the outset with aircraft of much higher performance, but that at the same time they would be faced with the problem of handling a power unit which had not then been developed to a point of great reliability. On the credit side, however, they would work throughout their training with turbine engines and a constant handling technique: retention of piston-engine power for primary trainers would bring the need for a transition phase from piston- to turbine-engine at a later stage. USAF planners chose the latter as the mor-e prudent course afthat time. Among the various types evaluated were three examples of the Beech Model 45, two powered by the 153kW Continental E-185-8 engine and one by the 168kW Continental E-225-8; all three were designated YT-34 by the USAF. These three aircraft made their first flights in May, June and July 1950, and were tested extensively during the competition period, being flown not only by evaluation pilots, but also in the primary training role with pupils and instructors. Almost three years later, on 4 March 1953, the USAF selected the Model 45 as its new primary trainer, under the designation T-34A Mentor, and ultimately 450 were built for that service, 350 by Beech and 100 by the Canadian Car & Foundry Company in Montreal, Canada. US Navy evaluation of the Model 45 began soon after the USAF had placed its initial contract with Beech, and on 17 June 1954 the Navy ordered 290 of these trainers, under the designation T-34B. A total of 423 was acquired eventually. In July 1951 one of the original prototypes was modified to mount two 7.62mm machine-guns in the wings, with provision additionally for underwing racks capable of accepting six rockets or two 68kg bombs; this was evaluated by the USAF as a potential light close-support aircraft, but no orders materialised.

Not surprisingly, in the jet age, most piston-engine trainers were gradually phased out of service, being replaced by sleeker, purpose-built jets which formed the first component of an all-jet training scheme, from ab initio to the moment when the pupil was considered fit for posting to an operational squadron.

The US Navy decided in 1973 to investigate the possibility of retaining the tried and trusted Mentor in service, with its piston engine replaced by turbine powerplant. Such a scheme offered a continuity of experience with the Mentor airframe and its excellent handling characteristics, and would provide the pupil pilot with an unbroken sequence of turbine-engine handling throughout his training. To evaluate this proposal, the USN instructed Beech to convert two T-34Bs to turbine power, under the designation YT-34C.

The powerplant chosen by Beech for the conversion was a Pratt & Whitney Aircraft of Canada PT6A-25. In this particular application it is provided with a torque limiter that restricts power output to some 56 per cent of maximum, ensuring constant performance over a wide range of altitude/temperature conditions, and also offering long engine life. The first YT-34C was flown on 21 September 1973, and following satisfactory evaluation of the two aircraft, Beech received contracts valued at approximately $72 million for the construction of 184 new aircraft. In addition to the installation of the new engine, the production aircraft were also given structural strengthening to ensure an airframe fatigue life of some 16,000 hours. The first T-34C Turbo-Mentor entered service with the USN's Naval Air Training Command in November 1977, and student training with the type began during the following January. Since then production has reached 353, with six being transferred to the US Army.

Subsequently, Beech developed a T-34C-1 version for armaments system training, equipped with four underwing hardpoints having a total weapons capacity of 544kg. In addition to deployment in such a training role, the T-34C-1 is suitable also for forward air control and tactical strike training missions. Examples of this version have been supplied to the navies of Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay, and to the air forces of Ecuador, Indonesia and Morocco. An export civil version, known as the Turbine Mentor 34C, has also been delivered for use in Algeria's national pilot training school.

Beech Model 45 Mentor / T-34

 MODELT-34C Turbo-Mentor
 ENGINE1 x Pratt & Whitney Aircraft of Canada PT6A-25 turboprop engine, 533kW
    Take-off weight1950 kg4299 lb
    Empty weight1342 kg2959 lb
    Wingspan10.16 m33 ft 4 in
    Length8.75 m29 ft 8 in
    Height2.92 m10 ft 7 in
    Wing area16.68 m2179.54 sq ft
    Cruise speed396 km/h246 mph
    Ceiling9145 m30000 ft
    Range1311 km815 miles

Beech Model 45 Mentor / T-34A three-view drawing (682 x 565)

Comments1-20 21-40 41-60
Mike, 07.08.2017

Saw N10465 at Hanscom AFB in the summer of 2016, not flyable anymore, supposedly headed for museum display at Robins AFB (the same base I first flew her in the late 70's .. same paint scheme too!)

Jim Strickland, 22.07.2017

Checked out and flew T-34 tail N6454D as well as Aeronca tails N2189E and N2031E while assigned to the 1608th Air Police Squadron at Charleston AFB, SC 1959. Lt Carl Whittimore was my IP. We also had a beautiful Cessna 170 that I did not get checked out in or fly. Loved the T-34 - many wonderful memories - aerobatics over Folly Beach and Isle of Palms. Always able to find a WAF who wanted to go along for a ride. We had only an ADF, compass and dead reckoning in the modern stuff yet. Oh, and a 6 crystal radio - remember those?

Ernie Jones, 27.01.2015

USAF 1960-1963
While stationed at Turner AFB near Albany Georgia, I accrued 155 hours in 1021B and 2782A. Guy's if you ever wanted to be a fighter pilot in WWII, this is the affordable plane to play combat tag in! I enjoyed every minute in the 34 while flying all over the Southeastern USA. Wish I had one now...

Paul, 13.01.2015

Arrived at Navy flight school in Pensacola, Fl in 1968. Three days after checking in and still trying to find my bunk I received a call asking if I wanted to go for a night flight in the T-34 with an instructor pilot who needed night time. I showed up at the flight line and had the most terrific experience of my life - my first night flight! I loved flight training and looked forward to every flight - an instructor pilot once told me that I made the a/c part of me while flying. Transitioned to T-28's and was the last flight class to get carrier qualed (USS Wasp) before moving to helicopter training at Ellyson Field.

John Potock, 12.01.2015

Ken Spencer - re: Fairchild AFB Aero Club ...... were you there when they had an Aeronca Champ ?

Phil Belisle, 22.07.2014

I was a Plowback to T28s in 1958. To check out as a newby instructor, we did
inverted spin checkout in the T34B. I believe the original speck for the T34 was
plus or minus 6 G's. Great little bird, also my original Primary ride at Saufley.

Tom Walsh, 07.02.2014

Soloed this bird 57 years ago today! Graham AB, Florida, class58-E
Easy to fly, great acro for a small plane, big difference to transition
to T-28 which was a tractor on the runway but an eagle upstairs.

Jake, 28.07.2013

I was a career USAF guy, but had the pleasure of flying as a primary IP and FITU pilot at Whiting. Having served in earlier years as a T-38 and T-1A IP in Del Rio, I ended my 20 years with the Navy. 5 years in the TRUSTY Turbo-Mentor was the hardest job I have ever had. The T-34C can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. My "Studs" had a truly GREAT aircraft in which to learn real flying. Thank you, my guys and gals for the opportunity to work with the best that our services (and our allies) sent to us to teach and a profound thank you to the hard working men and women that kept our planes safe to fly and teach in!

Ernest O'Bannon, 22.06.2013

Class 56 V. 1st solo in T-34 at Bainbridge, Ga., "Peanut Control," October 4, 1955. Wonderful civilian instructor and friend to all of his students, Forrest K. Collins. Could not have had a better introduction to flying in the Air Force, notwthstanding the "punishment" Coach Hardee inflicted as he whipped our legs in shape for the T-28.

CDR Gary Dietz (USN Ret), 26.02.2013

What can you say about the first aircraft you every flew except to say that that first solo was a thing of pure elation;you were on your way to earning those coveted Wings of Goldd.

ROBT."ROBIN"ARMOUR, 04.05.2012

Make no mistake, this was all aircraft in every sense of the word. It behaved just as aircraft were supposed to behave, and exposed students to just about all there is to flying. It had great aeronautical engineering, terrific maintenance (thank you guys) and always responded with what the controls told it to do. On my solo flight, I remember looking at the initials USAF on one wing and the star on the other wing and thinking with aircraft like this the Air Force really wants me to succeed as much as I want to earn my wings. Thanks for the experience.

ROBT."ROBIN"ARMOUR, 04.05.2012

Make no mistake, this was all aircraft in every sense of the word. It behaved just as aircraft were supposed to behave, and exposed students to just about all there is to flying. It had great aeronautical engineering, terrific maintenance (thank you guys) and always responded with what the controls told it to do. On my solo flight, I remember looking at the initials USAF on one wing and the star on the other wing and thinking with aircraft like this the Air Force really wants me to succeed as much as I want to earn my wings. Thanks for the experience.

Scott Boyd, 20.02.2012

Cessna followed Beach's lead with the Bird Dog, basically a 170 with modifications to the cabin design for tandem seats.

Amazing the basic airframe that started the Bonanza line is still being produced today both for military and civilian uses after more hen 60 years.

Tom Docherty, 20.02.2012

I am working on an article about US Navy use of the T-34B/C for primary training and would like to hear from anyone who was trained or instructed on this type. I would particulalry like to know aboput the Mentor's good and bad points, ease, or not, to fly and maintain etc. I look forward to hearing from any mentor veterans out there.

FRED OSBORN, 12.02.2012

USAF Class 58J or K at Bainbridge Air Base, GA.
Beech T-34A (TL 13627)solo at Donaldsonville Auxiliary Air Strip on 24 April 1957. Neat plane with a great civilian
instructor, Sam Weil. Fun to fly.

Ron Folse, 30.12.2011

The Hawker/Beach T6A/B is not on this site???

Ron Folse, 30.12.2011

I was the XO/CO of VT-2 NAS Whiting in 1978-79 when we tranisationed from T-28's to T-34C's Brand new!!I am here in Pensacola now seeing the last of the birds leave Whiting being replaced by the T6B. ( Grandson completed training in the 2nd class of the Texan II and is now in F16 pipelione. A USAFA grad!

Joseph James, 14.04.2011

I was in the school of aviation medicine,Pensacola 1956. We were given 10 hours of instruction in the T-34,then taken out to Pace field to solo. Pace field was a HUGH 100 acre cow pasture that was safe for beginners..Great day!Went back 10 years ago to visit,and Pace field is now a city!

uncle mac, 10.03.2011

AAAAA the A-13 solo First time for everything. Saufley Field went Marines to get Fighters. What fun. what ever happened to class 7-57??? Off to Whiting and T-28s

LTC (Rt) Ray Burke, 24.02.2011

I picked up a surplus T-34 for the Lockbourne Aero Club in the early 1950's. Great little bird. Very popular with club members.

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