AFTER 40 years of service with the Fuerza Aérea Ecuatoriana (FAE – Ecuador Air Force), the Beechcraft T-34C-1 Turbo Mentor, was formally retired from service yesterday, May 4. To mark the occasion, a ceremony was held at Base Aérea General Ulpiano Páez, Salinas, where the type was operated by the Escuadron Entrenamiento Aérea as part of the Escuela Superior Militar de Aviación (ESMA) ‘Cosme Rennella Barbatto.’
The FAE took delivery of 20 new production T-34C-1s from February 1978, of which eight were subsequently lost in accidents. Another became a ground instructional airframe at Salinas many years ago, while one is also preserved there. By October 2014, at least three of the survivors had already been withdrawn from use and placed in storage at Latacunga-Coto, leaving just five operational with ESMA, following which another was retied at Salinas in July 2016.
By the time of the type’s retirement, it had accumulated 107,000 flying hours while training FAE pilots. The Diamond DA20C-1 Eclipse has replaced the T-34C-1 in ESMA service for basic training. The FAE purchased 12, with deliveries beginning in May 2012. After an early attrition loss on July 2, 2013, a replacement aircraft was purchased in 2015.
Three of the type were also operated by the Aviacion Naval Ecuatoriana (Ecuador Naval Aviation), but one was written-off on February 17, 2004. The other two had been retired and placed in storage at Manta by October 2014.