Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Canadian Warplanes 6: Jets, McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee

Data current to 9 Aug 2020.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821223)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126392), coded 100, over Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1956.

McDonnell F2H Banshee single-seat carrier-based jet fighter was in service with the USN and USMC from 1948 to 1961 and the RCN from 1955 until 1962.  The aircraft's name is derived from the banshee of Irish mythology.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee (39), (Serial Nos. 126294, 126295, 126306, 126310, 126313, 126327, 126330, 126331, 126333, 126334 (preserved in The Naval Museum of Alberta), 126335, 126337, 126339, 126343, 126346, 126347, 126361, 126381, 126382, 126390, 126392, 126400, 126402 (preserved in the Shearwater Aviation Museum), 126403, 126414, 126415, 126422, 126428, 126429, 126434, 126443, 126444, 126446, 126449, 126454, 126464 (preserved in the Canada Aviation and Space Museum), 126469, 126488.   All 39 RCN Banshees flew with VF-870 & VF871 Sqns until they were amalgamated into VF-870 in 1959.  Banshees were in service from 26 Nov 1955 to 12 Sep 1962, operating from HCMS Bonaventure.  The RCN lost 12 of its original 39 Banshees to accidents.  They were the only jet-powered carrier-based fighters ever deployed by the RCN.

 (RCN Photo via Mike Kaehler)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126392), No. 146, Shearwater, Nova Scotia.

In 1951, the RCN expressed an interest in replacing their obsolete Hawker Sea Fury piston engined fighters with Banshees, drafting a $40 million deal for 60 new aircraft.  Unfortunately, due to fiscal wrangling in the Canadian Cabinet, the purchase was not approved until after Banshee production had been shut down in 1953.  The RCN was forced to acquire 39 second-hand USN aircraft at a cost of $25 million.  The aircraft were delivered from 1955 to 1958, and flew from HMCS Bonaventure and as NORAD interceptors from shore bases.

In order to improve the Banshee's capabilities as a long-range interceptor, the RCN equipped the aircraft with the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile. The RCN conducted sea trials of the Sidewinder in November 1959, during which several remotely piloted drone aircraft were shot down.

The Banshee, although initially well liked by its Canadian pilots for its flying qualities, began to suffer from problems in RCN service.  A Banshee and its pilot were lost after an inflight structural failure of the folding wing mechanism, and another Banshee suffered an apparent brake failure aboard HMCS Bonaventure and rolled off the carrier's deck, falling into the ocean and drowning its pilot.  The RCN would eventually lose 12 of its original 39 Banshees to accidents, a loss rate of over 30%.

Utilization of the Banshees fell as the RCN shifted its primary focus to anti-submarine warfare (ASW).  HMCS Bonaventure  was too small to accommodate many Banshees while carrying a sufficient number of de Havilland-built Grumman CS2F Trackers to conduct around-the-clock ASW patrols, so the carrier frequently left port with no Banshees aboard.  The Canadian military came under political pressure to cut its budget, and the increasingly obsolescent Banshees were becoming expensive to maintain as years of punishing carrier service and the harsh North Atlantic climate took their toll.  The last RCN Banshees were retired without replacement in September 1962.

All 39 RCN Banshees flew with VF-870 & VF871 Sqns until they were amalgamated into VF-870 in 1959.  Banshees were in service from 26 Nov 1955 to 12 Sep 1962, operating from HCMS Bonaventure.  The RCN lost 12 of its original 39 Banshees to accidents.  They were the only jet-powered carrier-based fighters ever deployed by the RCN.

 (DND Archives Photo, EKS-701)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshees coded 112, 120, 108 and 121 formation of the Grey Ghosts.

Banshees were the primary aircraft of the short-lived RCN Grey Ghosts aerobatic team.  The team's name was a play on the Banshee name and the RCN color scheme. The RCN's Banshee fleet was too small to maintain a special contingent of aircraft for airshow service, so the team simply flew whichever active-duty Banshees were available at the time of each show.

Three of the former RCN Banshees survive today but the remaining RCN Banshees were cut up for scrap or destroyed as practice targets.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4951122)

Royal Canadian Navy McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee fighter jets lined up on the tarmac in front of US Navy F3D Skynights and other equipment at Boca Chica Naval Air Station, Key West Florida 18 Feb 1957. 

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee Serial Numbers and Codes:

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126294).

 (RCN Photo via Mike Kehler)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126295), coded 112, shown here armed with two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.

 (RCN Photo via Mike Kehler)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126295), coded 112, carrying two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.

 (RCN Photo via Mike Kehler)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126295), coded 112, carrying two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. 

(RCN Photo)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126295), coded 112, carrying two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles over Halifax, Nova Scotia.

 ( (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821344)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126306), coded 103, shown here about to launch.  126306 was lost while landing at Shearwater on 27 Aug 1957, after colliding with a Grumman TBM Avenger, killing both pilots.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126310), crashed at Prospect, Nova Scotia, 14 May 1957.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126313), lost when its starboard wing separated in flight on 31 May 1957, crashing on McNab's Island Halifax, Nova Scotia.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126327).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126330), crashed in the ocean on delivery during the ferry flight from NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island on 22 Apr 1956. The wreck was never found.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126331).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126333), landed on HMCS Bonaventure intact on 4 Mar 1958 but while taxiing forward went over side into the ocean.  The pilot ejected but was killed.

  (Author Photo)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126334), preserved in the Naval Museum of Alberta, Military Museums, Calgary, Alberta.  126334 was delivered to the RCN on 4 July 1956.  It made the last flight by an RCN Banshee (and perhaps the last flight of any Banshee) on 10 Jan 1956 when it was flown to the Southern Alberta (Calgary) Institute of Technology as a ground instructional airframe.  It was later displayed on in front of HMCS Tecumseh, the Naval Reserve Division in Calgary.  In 2007 it went on display inside the the Naval Museum of Alberta, Calgary.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126335).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126337).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126339).

 (RCN Photo)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126343).

 (RCN Photo via Mike Kaehler)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126346), preparing to launch from HMCS Bonaventure, ca 1950s.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126347).

 (Naval Museum of Manitoba Photo)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126361), coded 149.

(RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN Serial No. 126381, coded 700, on the flight deck of HMCS Bonaventure, 1957. 

 (Griffin Library Photo)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126381), coded 381 (previously coded 700), being armed with a Sidewinder missile. 

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126382).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126390).

(RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126392), operating from HMCS Bonaventure.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126400), crashed into the Irish Sea from HMCS Bonaventure on 11 Nov 1959 when pilot got a "cold shot".  The Pilot survived.

 (RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126402), coded 100.  126402 is preserved in the Shearwater Aviation Museum, Nova Scotia.

 (DND Archives, RNC-131)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126392), coded 100, over Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1956.  This aircraft was acquired from the USN in Nov 1955, and allocated to VF 870.  It was retired on 14 Feb 1962.  

 (Author Photo)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126402), coded 100, was delivered to the RCN on 13 March 1957.  It was retired from service on 12 Sep 1962.  In 2007 it went on display at the Shearwater Aviation Museum, Nova Scotia.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126403), ditched in Atlantic Ocean off Nova Scotia on 2 Oct 1957, off HMCS Bonaventure.  Its tail was recovered from the ocean floor in 1964 by a fishing boat.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126414).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126415).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126422).

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4951118)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee RCN (Serial No. 126428), coded 102, along with several squadron mates lined up on the tarmac at Boca Chica Field, Key West Florida, 18 Feb 1957. No. 104, 106 are also visible.  126428 crashed at sea off Jacksonville, Florida on 25 Feb 1958 while flying out of Mayport NAS with HMCS Bonaventure.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126429).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126434), crashed while practicing aerobatics near Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia on 16 Jun 1961.  The pilot was killed.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126443).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126444).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126446), coded 108, in formation with (Serial No. 126343).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126449).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126454).

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821342)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN Serial No. 126464, coded 104 ready for launch, HMCS Bonaventure, ca 1957.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821339)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN Serial No. 126464, coded 104, wings folded, the the flight deck of HMCS Bonaventure, 1957.

 (Author Photo)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126464), coded 464, previously coded 104, preserved in the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.   126464 was delivered to the RCN on 14 Aug 1957.  It served until it was retired on 12 Sep 1962.  It came to the Canadian National Aviation Museum at Rockliffe in 1997.  It has been with the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, since 2007.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126469).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126488), ditched on the shore at Key West, Florida on 14 Jan 1959 after the engine flamed out.  The pilot survived.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 127510).

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821304)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126---), coded 144, Shearwater, ca 1957.

(RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee formation. 

(RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshees, coded 80, 102, 112 and 464, over HMCS Bonaventure.  The Royal Canadian Navy formed the first Banshee air demonstration team with VF 870 at RCNAS Shearwater in 1956 under the command of LCdr Robert Falls to showcase the exceptional flying skills of naval aviators.  It was in 1958 that the team adopted the name "Grey Ghosts" under the command of LCdr Wally Walton after he had taken command of the squadron.  They flew a five-plane show in 1958 but in 1959 a sixth Banshee joined the team for the Shearwater shows to add an opposing solo routine as Canada celebrated its Golden Anniversary of Flight.  Here, the Grey Ghosts overfly HMCS Bonaventure.  Number 4, Serial No. 126464, coded 464 (previously coded 104) in the slot position is preserved in the Canada Air and Space Museum in Ottawa.

 (RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN No. 390 landing on HMCS Bonaventure.

(RCN Photo via Mike Kaehler)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN No. 702, coming up on the elevator of HMCS Bonaventure

(DND Photo via James Craik)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN Serial No. 126464, coded 104 and 105, on the flight deck of HMCS Bonaventure, ca 1950s. 

(RCN Photo via Mike Kaehler)

McDonnell Banshee bridles being attached prior to launching. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821310)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, coded 144, Shearwater, ca 1957. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821467)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, No. 108, over Halifax, 1957.

 (RCN Photo)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshees, Nos 108 and 118, formation flight.