Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Rare Beech 1954 B-45 (AKA T-34A) Arrives at Moab, Utah



Looking much like a Beech T-34A Mentor Trainer, this Beech B-45 export model recently landed at Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

A Rare 1954 Beech B-45 (AKA T-34A) Arrives at Moab, Utah

On October 2, 2012, I was at Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah fixing the webcam at Redtail Aviation. For unknown reasons, the MoabAirlines.com webcam had gone dark just a few weeks before. Although it would take several more trips to fix the webcam, I decided to stop work when an unusual airplane arrived on the tarmac. Over the roar of an engine, one of the mechanics said, “It’s a T-34A”.

By the time I had walked to the transient tie-down area, the engine had stopped and the pilot was on the ground, retrieving his tie-down equipment. Pilot of a Beech B-45 (T-34A) military training aircraft maneuvers it into place on the tarmac at Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“That was fast”, I said as he and his companion continued their work. I told him that I was always looking for another unusual aircraft to photograph and that this was a good candidate. Without stopping his work for more than a moment, he consented to my request.

With flawless gray paint, the number “021” and the words “U.S. Air Force” on the airplane’s narrow fuselage, I felt like I had stepped back into the early 1950’s. The Air Force banded-star logo and a diagonal checkerboard pattern on the tail looked authentic to me. Only the discreetly painted “N-134FA” painted on low, near the tail indicated that this was a private, not a military aircraft.

Designated as Serial Number 021, This Beech B-45 military trainer inches into place at Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)With no motorized tug available, the pilot hooked a handle to the nose wheel and pushed. With a slight uphill grade before him, I was surprised how quickly he got the heavy airplane moving. When he came almost to a halt, he asked his companion for some help. Soon, the couple had the plane positioned in its place on the tarmac. As I mentioned the unpredictable and erratic winds that sometimes visit Canyonlands Field, the pilot quickly chained each wing to a metal loop, cast into a concrete pad below.

As they worked, I noticed more details on the airplane. There was a robust, retractable tricycle landing gear. On each wingtip, there was a small, aerodynamic tank, which added to on-board fuel reserves. Built for strength more than speed, most of the rivets on the fuselage featured round heads, which protruded from the metal skin. In various places, especially on the wings, more aerodynamic flush-rivets had replaced the old round-headed ones. Earlier, it appeared, this plane had received an overhaul of its airframe. The three-point prop and its shiny spinner bespoke of a recent engine overhaul or replacement.

A good tie-down system is essential at the occasionally gusty Canyonlands Field at Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Soon, the canopy cover was on, special cushions sealed the engine air intakes and the crew of two was ready to depart. As if on cue, a van pulled up and an adventure outfitter chauffeured them to their next destination. In about twenty minutes, this couple had landed, tied down their airplane and departed. As if the airplane flight was not enough for this adventurous couple, they had an afternoon hike planned in the Canyonlands near Moab.

If you see an airplane and wonder, “Who owns that?” copy down the “N-Number”, which is found on or near the tail. Access the internet and go to the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) Search Page. Type in the N-Number and then click “Submit”. In a moment or two, you will receive a summary of the airplane in question, including its type, age and ownership. Although I had given a business card to the pilot, Moab can be a distracting place, so perhaps he lost my card or forgot to write.

Pilot of a Beech B-45 (T-34A) places a sun-cover over the canopy of his aircraft - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) When I conducted a FAA search on “N-134FA”, I found many interesting details about the supposed T-34A aircraft. Although similar to the Air Force designated Beech Model T-34A Mentor that its markings indicated, this aircraft was actually a Beech Model B-45, manufactured in 1954. As a Beech B-45 of that particular vintage, it was a U. S. manufactured military trainer intended for sale to the export market. Current registration for the airplane is by Fast Aircraft, Inc. in Scottsdale, Arizona. Beyond that, I will have to wait for the pilot or his crew to see this posting and provide new or better information.

After publication of this article, we heard from owner and pilot Todd McCutchan. Following are his comments:



Hi Jim,

So it is a 1954 Beech T-34A (B-45). The B-45 was the export version of the T-34A which was built for the USAF. My particular aircraft went down to Chile where it was used to train fighter pilots and was outfitted with gun pods / bomb racks to gunnery / bombing training and perhaps some light ground attack.

It was returned to the USA in as a group of 20+ other T-34’s that were negotiated to be purchased by a private USA company in 1990. Since then it has been heavily modified and restored. The original 225 hp engine has been replaced with a 285 hp engine and all of the avionics, wiring, electrical system have been updated and most other systems have been overhauled or replaced.

I am the 2nd owner since its return to the USA and purchased the aircraft in 2009. My wife and I fly it around the USA where we participate in airshows and fly-ins as well as give rides to young people hoping for a career in the air and returning veterans to the air.

I have a written a few articles about the T-34 and its history which you will find here and here.

Kind regards,
Todd McCutchan
Fast Aircraft
T-34A - N134FA