T-34C Turbo-Mentor

Manufacturer: Beechcraft
Year Built 1978

The Beechcraft T-34 Mentor is a propeller-driven, single-engined, military trainer aircraft derived from the Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanza. The earlier versions of the T-34, dating from around the late 1940s to the 1950s, were piston-engined. These were eventually succeeded by the upgraded T-34C Turbo-Mentor, powered by a turboprop engine. The T-34 remains in service more than six decades after it was first designed. Since the late 1970s, T-34Cs have been used by the Naval Air Training Command to train numerous Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, and numerous NATO and Allied nations. With over 35 years of service, the T-34C has been completely replaced by the T-6 Texan II.

Maximum Speed: 322 miles per hour
Empty Weight: 2960 pounds
Loaded Weight: 4300 pounds
Length: 28 feet 8 1/2 inches
Height: 9 feet 8 inches
Wingspan: 33 feet 3 7/8 inches
Engines: Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25 turboprop
Maximum Altitude: 30,000 feet
Maximum Range: 814 miles
Climb Rate: 1480 feet per minute

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).