The T-34 turns heads wherever it goes.  Walking up to the airplane, I always feel just a bit lucky that I’m going to get to fly it.  It’s a fantastic platform for formation flying and what I call “gentleman aerobatics”, which is what’s on tap for today.

The first step is to open a small compartment just forward of the right wing that holds a jar that collects battery acid overflow.  This little compartment is also a convenient place to store a rag and fuel tester.  While I’m there, I peek under the airplane and drain a little fuel from the right tank to check for water.

Hopping up to the cockpit, I slide back the canopy, check mags off, and flip on the master.  A quick check of fuel, lower the flaps, master off, and we’re ready to walk around.  The preflight would be familiar to most Bonanza pilots.  The only big difference is making sure you’ve secured any loose items – especially the seat belts – in the rear cockpit if you’re flying alone.

Preflight complete, we’re ready to start the IO-550B.  Five seconds with the fuel pump on, throttle cracked, mags to both, and engage the starter.  After a few blades the engine coughs to life.  Alternator on, radios coming up, and we’re ready to go.

Taxiing is a breeze.  Takeoffs are familiar.  With everything full forward, the airplane is quickly ready to fly.  The gear comes up quickly, and once clean the airplane climbs rapidly.  There is plenty of excess power when you are flying with other airplanes like the CJ6A or T-6.

Although they share common parts and a common design, the T-34 is significantly lighter on the controls than a Bonanza.  For formation flying, small, light inputs are all that is necessary to stay in position.

Setting up a 75% power cruise at 23/23 will get you about 155 knots indicated.  The cockpits are comfortable and cross countries go by quickly.  This airplane is equipped with Garmin Glass, ADSB-In weather and traffic, and an STEC 60-2 autopilot – but you’ll probably still want to fly the airplane.  The only downside is that with on 50 gallons of fuel, and about 44 usable, 3 hours is about as far as you can go in a single leg.

Aerobatics are easy.  The T-34 has had some challenges after three were lost while being used in simulated air combat, so it is important to keep the airplane within it’s +6/-3G envelope.  Loops, rolls, hammerheads, and spins are all well within it’s capabilities.  N520HT has the Parks wing spar and center section AMOC’s installed, and the Parks heavy horizontal stabilizer, so airworthiness issues should be well behind it.

In the pattern, the biggest problem is getting the airplane to slow down while avoiding shock cooling the engine.  The T-34 is very clean – getting down to the 109 KT maximum gear extension speed takes some planning.  For this reason, I like to fly overhead approaches when possible so that I can use the overhead turn to bleed airspeed.  Plus, they’re a lot of fun.

Landings are simple and honest.  The hardest part is coming to terms with the fact that today’s flight is over.  But since it’s your airplane, you can always push up the power and take it around the pattern one more time.