Though a thorough inspection of the aircraft’s log books will reveal where, and with whom, our bird served, the thumbnail sketch indicates that it was built in 1978. It ended its’ flying life about a year ago and sat outside, with five other sister ships, on an out-of-the-way piece of flight line at Oceana.
So if it was a trainer aircraft, what was it doing at a front-line fighter base like Oceana? Three missions have been mentioned by those in the know. It was used for low-cost instrument check rides for Hornet pilots; at units that would have been hard pressed to accomplish that mission in their own single-seat F/A-18’s (with no place for the check pilot to sit). It was also used by pilots to refresh spin recovery techniques; again, tough, expensive and dangerous to perform in a Hornet but benign in a trainer plane. Lastly, they were used as safety observer aircraft on the bombing ranges Oceana squadrons use. As the jets would practice dive bombing a bulls-eye target, the T-34C would orbit the area at 10,000′. Any Hornet that descended below the T34C’s altitude would be commanded by radio to “knock it off,” discontinue the run and begin the recovery climb to their initial “perch” (the high altitude from which they dove).