|Year/Model:||1956 D45 T-34B Mentor|
|Power Plant:||240 hp Continental 0-470|
|Wingspan:||32 feet 10 inches|
|Length:||25 feet 11 inches|
|Height:||9 feet 7 inches|
|Gross Weight:||2,900 pounds|
|Maximum Speed:||188 lmph|
|Cruising Speed:||173 mph|
|Service Ceiling:||20,000 feet|
|Range:||975 statute miles|
|Owner:||On loan from National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL|
T-34 in Flight
This T-34 Mentor came to us from Lemoore Naval Air Station. It was used by the base flying club as a non-military trainer, hence the civil registration [N34NL]. During a flight near Hearst Castle it made an emergency roadway landing after running out of fuel. The aircraft suffered considerable damage when utilizing a barb wire fence as makeshift arresting gear. Fortunately, the pilot was unharmed. Unfortunately, it was deemed never again to be airworthy. Estrella Warbirds Museum was contacted to see if we would be interested in restoring the aircraft and hold it until it could formally be transferred to the museum. It sat untouched for several years until the paperwork tranfer could be completed. The magicians from the restoration crew, headed by Gary Woodall, did a most excellent job!
A prototype for this plane, derived from the civil V-tail Bonanza, first took flight on December 2, 1948 as a military trainer for Air Force tests and evaluation.
The T-34 Mentor began as a private venture designed by Walter Beech shortly after WW II. Beech felt that there was a market for a military trainer based on the Model 35 Bonanza which had been flying for about a year.
Beech used the Bonanza as a starting point and began work on the design of the Model 45. The first two prototypes were powered by 205 hp Continental engines while the third had a more powerful 225 horsepower engine. The prototype made its first flight Dec. 2, 1948. The aircraft were then shown to the Air Force which ordered three military test aircraft under the designation YT-34. It wasn't until late 1952 the Air Force ordered the YT-34 into production under the designation T-34.
The T-34 spent a quarter of a century in use as a pilot trainer. The first of 350 aircraft were delivered to the Air Force in 1953 with the Navy receiving its first of 423 aircraft in 1954.
The T-34 design was rugged and reliable and best of all it was all metal construction. Many trainers as late as WW II were not. The T-34 also had many parts in common with different models of the Beech Bonanza and Debonair. Replacement parts were readily available and kept costs down.