History and heritage arrived in force at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Friday as 35 vintage T-34 military training aircraft landed for a weekend of education and fun.
Tires screeching, the first six planes hit the 7,000-foot runway behind the museum shortly after 2 p.m. Forty-five minutes later, more started to arrive as members of the the T-34 Association from around the country made the museum and the Dayton area their home for the weekend.
The planes rallied at the Butler County Regional Airport early Friday afternoon before making the relatively short flight to the museum on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
What museum visitors will get to see Saturday and Sunday are former Air Force and Navy training planes that are “absolutely fun” to fly, said Tim Gause, a retired Air Force pilot and Delta pilot who was among those who landed Friday.
These are planes that taught “hundreds of thousands” of Navy and Air Force aviators how to fly, said Gause, a South Carolina resident who retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel.
Similar to a Beechcraft Bonaza, the T-34s are “forgiving” and a good plane for new pilots, he said.
“It’s fully aerobatic,” Gause said. “These things can pull 6Gs, three negative-Gs, even though I wouldn’t want to pull that many Gs on 65-, 70-year-old airplane.”
The T-34 Association is comprised of members who own and love the aircraft, from across the nation and all walks of life.
“It’s an expensive hobby,” Gause said. “But it’s not as expensive as (owning) like a P-51 or a T-6, with the big radial engine that costs a ton of money.”
After a production run that lasted almost 9 years for the piston-engine models, Beech turned out just under 2,000 of the T-34 “A”s and “B”s combined, according to the association.
The Navy, Marines and NASA still operate a turbine version (T-34C) for a variety of missions, the association said.
The museum is offering the full schedule below.
Saturday All aircraft will be on the ground, on static display, behind the museum’s Memorial Park from 10:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. A formation flyover window is scheduled from 2:45 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Departures begin at about 9 a.m.
As always, the fight schedule for all events is weather-dependent.
The Navy used the T-34 Mentor for years, accumulating almost 100,000 flight hours per year, according to the National Naval Aviation Museum.
The T-34A has been in continuous use somewhere in the world since the first unit was manufactured in 1953, the T-34 Association says.
No other military training aircraft in history has seen 59 years continuous use by a military agency for as long as the T-34 Mentor has.