The T-34 was developed at a time when there was no defense budget for a new trainer model. The Bonanza's fuselage with four-passenger cabin was replaced with a narrower fuselage incorporating a two-seater tandem cockpit and bubble canopy, which provided greater visibility for the trainee pilot and flight instructor. Structurally, the T34 was much stronger than the Bonanza, being designed for +10g and -4.5g, while the Continental E-225 engine was the same as that fitted to contemporary Bonanzas.
Production began in 1953, when Beechcraft began delivering T-34As to the United States Air Force and similar Model B45 aircraft for export. Production of the T-34B for the United States Navy began in 1955, featuring a number of changes reflecting the different requirements of the two services. The T-34B had only differential braking for steering control on the ground instead of the T34A nosewheel steering, additional wing dihedral, and adjustable rudder pedals instead of the moveable seats of the T-34A. T-34A production was completed in 1956, with T-34Bs built until October 1957 and licensed B45 versions built in Canada, Japan, and Argentina until 1959. Total production of the piston engine versions in the US and abroad was 1,904 aircraft.
When the aging T-34 fleet was phased out by the US military, many found their way into civilian hands. Because the T-34 was based on the Bonanza and was built in large numbers, parts are easy to locate and relatively cheap. With excellent flight characteristics and low maintenance requirements, the airframe is beloved by the warbird community.
General characteristics (Factory new T-34A model)
- Crew: 2
- Length: 25ft 11in
- Wingspan: 32ft 6in
- Empty weight: 2,170 lbs
- Max takeoff weight: 2,950 lbs
- Powerplant: Continental Motors IO-470, 225 hp
- Propeller: Two-bladed Beech Propeller
- Cruise speed: 152 kts
- Vne: 219 kts