report by: Thierry Letellier
The Academy is drawn up with the Basic Training Group operating theT-34C. The Fighter Training Group with AT-3 and the Airlift Training Group Beech equiped with B-1900C. Kangshan AB is in the north of Kaohsiung, a south west county of Taiwan. Forty-four T-34C were ordered by the ROCAF in the early 1980s to replace the aging AIDC T-CH-1 used by the ROCAF Academy. Conversion began on January 28, 1985 and the ROCAF Academy started to use T-34C as basic trainers in May 1985.
All T-34C are assigned to the ROCAF Academy at Kangshan. T The T-34 Mentor is a single-engine, basic trainer aircraft designed and manufactured by Beechcraft Aircraft Company (now known as Hawker Beechcraft) for the United States Air Force (USAF) and United States Navy (USN) The T-34C is an upgraded version of T-34B, incorporated with modern turboprop engines. It is powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25C turboprop engines rated at 559kW of output power. The T-34 can climb at the rate of 7.5m/s. The maximum and cruise speeds of the aircraft are 518km/h and 396km/h respectively. The stall speed is 98km/h. The range and service ceiling are 1,311km and 9,145m respectively.
The Flight Screening Program is conducted during the second semester of cadets’ second class year in the T-34C, which inludes ten flying hours. During the spring semester of each cadet’s senior year, individuals with the most potential to succeed at pilot training are selected. These student pilots then begin their Basic Flight Training courses in their fifth class year. The Basic Flight Training includes 85 flying hours in the T-34C. After successfully completing the Basic Flight Training, student pilots then move on to the Advanced Flgiht Training in one of the two tracks, Fighter or Airlift. The ROCAF ordered twelve Beech 1900C in October 1987 to fulfill its administrative transport needs. Deliveries commenced in 1988. Two were subsequently converted for Navaids calibration purposes. They can be easily distinguished from the “regular” Beech 1990 by their red paint above the cheatline.
After they were delivered, the Beech 1900C were assigned to the Special Transport Squadron of the Sungshan AFB Command. The squadron completed coversion from the vintage C-47 in 1988 and the C-47 were then transferred to the ROCAF Academy for training crews specialing in airlift. After all the C-47 had been retired, the ROCAF Academy switched to B-1900C for airlift crew training. As a result, a B-1900C flies from Sungshan to Kangshan each morning and returns to Sungshan after the training.
The first AT-3 operator is the Flight Training Command in ROCAF Academy, which has bee flying the aircraft since 1986. After student pilots complete basic training in the T-34C, those who choose the Fighter track proceed to fly the AT-3 for 110 flying hours. In 1988, the ROCAF General Headquarters designated the ROCAF Academy to take over the public aerial demonstration duty from the Thunder Tiger Demonstration Team, a task force that had been formed by volunteer pilots from the 443rd TFW at Tainan since 1954. the new team members were drawn from the pool of instructor pilots at the Academy and trained by the Thunder Tiger. The equipment was also changed from the F-5E to the AT-3 at the same time. In the early days of the AT-3 era, the aerobatic team did not adopt the legendary name Thunder Tiger, but simply called itselt the Aerobatic Team. However, Thunder Tiger had stuck in all aviation fans’ minds and the team renamed itself Thunder Tiger in 1990.
Unlike their predecessors, all performing AT-3 were all were painted in a vivid blue-white-red scheme. This paint scheme was soon adopted by the entire AT-3 fleet at the Air Force Academy, making it virtually impossible to distinguish between them. This does not imply any AT-3 can be used for demonstration, though. The Thunder Tiger AT-3 carry an oil tank inside the gun bay. The oil is ducted by an external pipe fitted under the fuselage to the outlet behind the port-side jet pipe to generate the smoke. The AT-3 demonstration team made its public performance on March 27, 1989, flying six aircraft. Unlike the USAF Thunderbirds, which announces the performance times and locations well in advance every year, the Thunder Tiger usually releases its schedule only weeks, sometimes even days, before the first performance of the year. Even the number of aircraft used does not seem to be fixed. Most of the time, six AT-3 would perform in a show, with six flying formations and the other two solos. I only spent a single morning around Kangshan Air Base where i saw a first wave of T-34C then th AT-3 Wave and the second of the T-34C . Good spotting points were gently indicated to me by some local poeple.