Armstrong’s mission support T-34C aircraft accompanies research flights for photography and video data collection, and also as safety chase. At Armstrong, the T-34C is primarily used for chasing remotely piloted unmanned air vehicles which fly slower than NASA’s F-18’s mission support aircraft can fly. It is also used for required pilot proficiency flying.

In its role as a military trainer, the instructor pilot would ride in the back seat, while the student would be in the front seat. As a NASA mission support chase plane, the back seat would be occupied by a photographer or flight test engineer on research missions.

Nicknamed the Turbo Mentor, the T-34C is an upgraded, turboprop-powered version of the earlier piston-engined T-34A and T-34B models that served as primary training aircraft for Navy and Marine Corps pilots for more than 40 years. Built by Beech Aircraft Co. (now Raytheon Aircraft), the T-34C shares the same basic wing planform and landing gear as the civilian Beechcraft Bonanza series of general aviation aircraft from which it was derived.

Aircraft Specifications T-34C Turbo Mentor

The T-34C is an un-pressurized, two-place, tandem cockpit, low-wing, single-engine, propeller-driven monoplane.

Length: 28 ft, 6 in (9 m)
Wingspan: 33 ft, 4 in (10 m)
Height: 9 ft, 7 in (3 m)
Empty weight: ~3,000 lb
Max takeoff weight: 4,400 lb

Primary Mission/Capabilities:

  • Low-cost research testbed for low-medium altitude flight systems and experiments
  • Flight test and verification of avionics and sensor systems
  • Excellent slow speed safety/photo chase


Max airspeed: 280 kts (never exceed) (320 mph)
Max. cruise: 223 kts (257 mph) at 17,500 ft
Max altitude: 25,000 ft
Max rate of climb: 1,500 ft/min
Payload: 1,300 lb
Range/duration: ~600 nm range/4 hr duration
Max acceleration: +4.5g, -2.3 g
Engine: PT6A-25 turbo-prop; 550 hp max
Fuel capacity: 142 gal

General Information:

Crew: Two; pilot and flight test engineer or photographer
Manufacturer: Beech Aircraft Corporation

Test Instrumentation:

  • Instrumentation suite includes aircraft rates and attitudes; control surface positions; cockpit control positions; boom pitot and static pressures; and engine and propeller parameters.