First flown in 1949, the Mentor was demonstrated by famed acrobatic pilots Bevo Howard and Betty Skelton at the Cleveland Airshow.
The T-34 eventually won a long competition to determine a new trainer, but Walter Beech did not live to see production. He died of a heart attack in 1950. The T-34 went into service with the USAF (T-34A) in 1953 and with the U.S. Navy (T-34B) in 1955. It was also license built in Canada, Japan and Argentina. T-34A production ran from 1953 to 1956.
Restoration fans will appreciate that Julie bought her Beechcraft T-34A in 1977, “sight unseen” at a government surplus auction, in Anchorage, Alaska, for $18,000. She flew the airplane, dubbed “Free Spirit”, 2,900 miles to her home in California. Julie then personally began the painstaking process of restoring the hand-polished, aluminium airplane inside and out. “Over the next four years, I spent many long hours bringing the airplane back to mint condition” says Clark, “and it requires daily maintenance to keep it that way”.
Beginning with her own creative version of the “Air Force One” paint theme, the aircraft is constantly undergoing upgrading and modification. Julie’s T-34 now sports a “Stratos Plus” series engine. This fully-blueprinted 300+ horsepower engine, built by Eagle Engines, replaces the original stock 225hp engine. It is coupled with a Hartzell propeller featuring their “Designer*Prop” custom paint process, designed and serviced by American Propeller of Redding, California
Julie chose the T-34A because she had flown many hours in T-34’s while a civilian instructor for the U.S. Navy at Lemore Naval Air Station in 1974-75. She was Navy trained in tactical maneuvers, formation flying and aerobatics. Although T-34 aircraft saw countless hours as trainers, for both the U.S. Air Force and Navy pilots, in the 1950’s, the airplane demands tremendous skill to fly aerobatics.
Julie explains, “The T-34 requires great concentration and anticipation during aerial maneuvers, as the aircraft does not have an inverted oil or fuel system, so inverted flight must be very carefully calculated.”
Julie is a member of the T-34 Association and a strong supporter of warbird preservation. For more information, check out our related aviation sites page. For an illustrated history read Lou Drendel’s book, “T-34 Mentor in Action” (ISBN 0-89747-249-7) by Squadron/Signal Publications, 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX 75011-5010.
|T-34 A/B SPECIFICATIONS||US PRODUCTION|
|Wingspan: 32’9″||YT-34A 3|
|Length: 25’9″||T-34A-BH (A-45) 350|
|Height: 10’6″||T-34A-CCF (A-45) 100|
|Empty Weight: 2250 LB||T-34B (D-45) 423|
|MaxGross Weight: 2950 LB|
|Engine: CONTINENTAL 6 CYL10-520 285HP|
|Max Speed: 214 KNOTS||EXPORT PRODUCTION|
|Cruise Speed: 160 KNOTS||T-34A (B-45) 161|
|Service Ceiling 20,000 feet||T-34A (FUJI) 162|
|Range: 500 MILES|
|Initial Rate of Climb: 1,000 FPM|