The T-34 is a prime example of Hawker Beechcraft's history of developing trainers and providing support for the lifetime of the fleet. The Model 45 primary trainer was based on the successful civilian Beech Model 35 Bonanza. First built in 1948 in response to an expected demand by the U.S. Air Force, the T-34 played a pivotal role in defining the training philosophy of the USAF. At that time the USAF was evaluating the best way to train new pilots, specifically whether to have student pilots start in jets or use piston-powered craft for the transition phase of training. Because of the T-34s capability, the choice to start students in a piston trainer was made and in March 1953 the Model 45 was selected under the designation T-34 Mentor.
A total of 450 T-34As were built for the Air Force. A year later the first of 423 T-34B trainers featuring increased horsepower were delivered to the USN. In 1973 the Navy made the decision to purchase the T-34C, a variant with and upgraded engine. The first T-34C Turbo-Mentor began student training in January 1978 and total production of this model eventually reached 353. These aircraft have operated in the salt-rich environment of the Florida and Texas gulf coasts while maintaining high operational readiness rates demanded by the USN training command. The T-34 enjoyed a remarkably long and successful stint as the primary trainer for the Navy and it continued in that role serving as a primary trainer while the T-6 was being phased into service.
In addition to the USAF and USN sales, a number of countries have purchased a variation of the T-34 to provide forward air control and tactical strike capability. After their retirement from active duty with the USAF, many Mentors went on to serve with the Civil Air Patrol as spotter and general-purpose utility aircraft. Nearly 70 years after the T-34 was designed RAC continues to provide technical and spares support to all T-34 customers.