My Ride in a T-34

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T-34 Taxiing InMy Ride in a T-34

In High School I pumped gas to pay for my flying. It turned out to be a great opportunity to be a paid airport bum; I met all sorts of people and learned a ton.

One of the neat things that happened was meeting Col J. Paul Tidwell, a retired Air Force fighter jock and owner of a beautiful T-34 Mentor.

Paul had recently retired as a geologist for a big oil company in Houston, but he was born and raised in my hometown. Paul used his T-34 to make regular treks to back Oklahoma to see his mother.


T-34 prepping to goI always salivated over the spotless Mentor every time he arrived. He must have picked up on my envy and one day offered me a ride. I was thrilled! Still going towards my goal of being a fighter pilot, this airplane decorated in pure Air Force livery, was close enough for me!


Paul was very business-like and gave me a thorough briefing on both the airplane and what I should expect during the flight.

Start up and taxi out were pretty normal except for the deep throaty tone of the 6 cylinder continental.

T-34 FlightUp to this point I had only flown in a Piper Arrow and a Cessna 152, so the takeoff was like being shot from a cannon. We were airborne in no time and climbing like a homesick angel.

Once up to a safe altitude, Paul let me have the controls. It would be my first time flying with a stick, in England they call it the ‘joy stick’ and I think they have it right. The airplane was very smooth and responsive, something that Beechcraft is known for, and with the canopy overhead you have an unrestricted view of everything. This was flying!

Paul asked for the controls and took me through a series of gentleman-aerobatic maneuvers in his mini-fighter and before I knew it, it was time to return to base.

T-34 MentorThe landing was picture-perfect and we taxied in and shut down.

As I look back on that flight 25 years ago and think about how much of an impression it made on me, it really drives home the importance of use getting out there and taking these younger folks along. Regardless of what they do later in life, they will never forget the experience and how it made them feel.

Do you have a similar experience? Share it with us in the comments sections below.


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