The CAF Dixie Wing plans on offering Living History Flight Experience rides in the restored Beechcraft T-34B Mentor.
The CAF Dixie Wing has finished an almost two year “meticulous restoration” on a Beechcraft T-34B Mentor, which recently took to the sky for its first post-restoration flight. General George Harrison and Jack Van Ness piloted the aircraft during the flight, which took off at about 2:30 PM on December 15, 2016, from the Atlanta Regional Airport. During the flight, which lasted for roughly an hour, the pilots followed strict engine break-in protocol and tested various systems on the aircraft.
Van Ness said that the restoration crew did an outstanding job, saying that “The flight went well, with only a few squawks. The cold weather provided an excellent performance environment for both engine and wings, as she climbed like a homesick angel, eager to be free from captivity and to fly once again.” He added that though the restoration was a Dixie Wing project, the 2015 Planes of Christmas Fund and the CAF Headquarters Matching Grant Program both played a key role in helping them “have our tired old engine overhauled.”
Bob Heath, the Maintenance Officer for the Dixie Wing, said that the T34-B was an important addition to their line-up of historic aircraft, representing the military’s transition from WWII era aircraft to modern, all-metal and jet aircraft. He added that “The T-34 will continue in its educational role by providing Living History Flight Experience rides with other aircraft in the Dixie Wing fleet.”
Following the successful first flight and a few adjustments on the ground, the T34B made a second flight on the 16th to a Delta Airlines overhaul facility in Atlanta, where it will be repainted. In addition to having the aircraft be part of their rides program, the CAF says they also plan on using the restored aircraft as a photo plane, and to help pilots earn a tailwheel endorsement.
More Details on the Restored Beechcraft T-34B Mentor
As with most of the CAF aircraft, this particular Beechcraft T-34B Mentor has a long service history, starting in August 1955, when it joined the US Navy as Bu.140687. According to the CAF, this marks it as one of the earliest Mentors to enter Navy service. And thanks to the CAF, we have the following details on this T-34’s service record:
- August 1955 – April 1976: Trained US Navy and Marine Corps pilots at Whiting Field and Saufley Field in Florida, and NAS Corpus Christi in Texas.
- 1977 – 2001: After a brief time in storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, the T-34 was transferred to the Fuerza Aérea de República Dominicana (FAD), or Dominican Air Force, in 1977. Starting in 1979, the aircraft was used to train FAD pilots at Escuela de Aviación Militar, a military aviation school, and continued in this capacity for two decades.
- As part of the transfer, the CAF says a civilian company specializing in work on T-34s put the airframe through a full overhaul and upgraded the aircraft engine to a more powerful IO-520 285hp model.
- In 2001, the aircraft was acquired by Norman Earle and returned stateside to Earle’s facility in Hastings, Florida. Here, the T-34 was added to the civilian registry as N687HV and received an airworthiness certificate in May 2002.
- In 2014, the CAF received the aircraft as a donation, and though it had spent much of its time hangared after returning to Florida, the CAF said that years of service in the “humid and salt-laden tropical air” of the Dominican Republic has caught up to the aircraft, leading to the need for a meticulous restoration.
For anyone interested in supporting the CAF Dixie Wing’s restoration efforts, they are currently raising money for the re-painting, through their 2016 12 Planes of Christmas campaign.
Featured Image: courtesy of the CAF / by John Willhoff