Beechcraft T-34 (Turbo) Mentor

After the second world war Beechcraft saw the need for a cheap yet performant replacement of the many North American Texans. So on its own initiative it designed model 45 Mentor, based on the Bonanza piston private plane. Eventually it won a competition from both the US Air Force and US Navy, and received designation T-34. The T-34 retained from the Bonanza the straight wings with dihedral and with a slightly swept inboard section, and the landing gear, of which the nearly triangular main gears doors are very typical. It is powered by a piston or turboprop engine in the nose. The fuselage was made narrower to seat the instructor and student pilot in tandem under a bubble canopy. Each pilot has a part that slides open to the back. The T-34 has a straight vertical stabiliser with small dorsal fin.

All T-34s have a tandem bubble canopy with four parts. The second and fourth part can be slided to the rear to open the cockpit.

The Beechcraft (Turbo) Mentor retains the typical triangular main gear doors of the Bonanza.

Different versions

The different versions of the T-34 can be recognised by:

  • the shape of the nose and engine cowling
  • the shape of the nose gear doors
  • the capability of having two pylons under each wing
  • the presence on ventral strakes 
  • the presence of leading edge root extensions in front of the horizontal stabilisers

YT-34, T-34A, T-34B & Beech 45/A45/B45/D45 Mentor

The prototype and piston production versions were all very similar in external appearance. They all have a horizontally opposed piston engine in the nose, driving a two or three blade propeller. The engine has two exhausts underneath the nose. The nose gear has two long doors. For the rest it has the basic T-34 characteristics.

The YT-34 (model 45) was the prototype, T-34A (model A45) the USAF version and T-34B (model D45) the US Navy version. Externally, the latter has wings with one degree more dihedral than the T-34A, but that is hardly noticeable. The Beech B45 is the export version of the T-34A.

The Beech B45 Mentor is the export version of the T-34A, but here painted as such. This example has a three blade propeller.

T-34 Mentors have a straight vertical fin with a slight trapezium shape, and a small dorsal fin.

Zooming in on the nose of a Japanese T-34A shows the long nose gear doors and double exhausts, and in this case a two blade prop.

YT-34C & T-34C Turbo Mentor

The second generation T-34 is a turboprop powered one. This engine has two air intakes on both lower sides of the nose, and exhausts on both sides of the nose. Additionally, the T-34C has ventral strakes and leading edge root extensions of the horizontal stabilisers.

The US Navy training division is the main user of the T-34C Turbo Mentor

On this detail photo the ventral strakes and leading edge extensions in front of the stabilo are shown.

The nose of the T-34C is significantly different from the previous versions due to the turboprop engine with two air intakes and two exhausts.

T-34C-1 Turbo Mentor

The export version of the Turbo Mentor with two optional pylons under the wings is designated T-34C-1. They are not always fitted, so then they look just like a T-34C.

The two pylons under each wing make this a T-34C-1.

AT-34 Turbine Mentor

A single T-34A converted with an Allison turbine engine is called the AT-34 Turbine Mentor. It differes from the T-34 C by the single air intake under the prop spinner, and two exhausts underneath the nose. Additionally, the AT-34 has a curved transition from vertical fin to dorsal fin, and tip tanks.

The AT-34 is a bit more similar to the Fuji T-7 than the T-34C, but has a curved dorsal fin and tip tanks as extra features.

Confusion possible with

Fuji T-7

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Obvisouly, the Fuji T-7 is mentioned here because it is a development of the T-34, and especially similar to the T-34C Turbo Mentor. The T-7 has a swept vertical stabiliser though, no ventral strakes, a single air intake below the prop spinner and exhausts on both lower sides of the nose.

Fuji KM-2

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This four seat liaison aircraft is also based on the T-34, but then with a wider fuselage, a proper cabin with side windows and doors and a piston engine. Many other features of the KM-2 are similar to the T-34 though. 

Yakovlev Yak-52

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The tandem bubble canopy and retractable gear are the main similarities between the T‑34 and Yak‑52, although this long gear does not completely retract and has no doors. Additionally, the Yak has a radial piston engine and a rounded vertical stabiliser.

Pilatus PC-7

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The PC-7 has a long bubble canopy with a single bow frame and a non-swept vertical fin. Also the inner portion of the wings, near the roots, have no dihedral. Finally, the Pilatus has no main gear doors like the T-34. So even to they are superficially the same, the Pilatus is quite different.

Fuji T-5

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In essence, the Fuji T-5 is the side-by-side cockpit version of the T-7, with a shorter and wider canopy. The T-5 also has a wider fuselage, but retains all of the other T-7, and thus many T-34 features.