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

Canadian Warplanes, Jets, 

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee

Data current to 21 Nov 2018.

McDonnell F2H Banshee single-seat carrier-based jet fighter 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.

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.

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.

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee (39), (Serial Nos. 126294, 126295, 126306 (lost while landing at Shearwater naval air station 27 Aug 1957, 126306 collided with a Grumman TBM Avenger, killing both pilots), 126310 (crashed into ground at Prospect, Nova Scotia, 14 May 1957), 126313 (starboard wing separated in flight on 31 May 1957 with the aircraft crashing on McNab's Island Halifax, Nova Scotia), 126327, 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), 126331, 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), 126334 (preserved in The Naval Museum of Alberta, Calgary, Alberta), 126335, 126337, 126339, 126343, 126346, 126347, 126361, 126381, 126382, 126390, 126392, 126400 (crashed into the Irish Sea from HMCS Bonaventure on 11 Nov 1959 when pilot got a "cold shot".  The Pilot survived), 126402 (preserved in the Shearwater Aviation Museum, Nova Scotia), 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), 126414, 126415, 126422, 126428 (Crashed at sea off Jacksonville, Florida on 25 Feb 1958 while flying out of Mayport NAS with HMCS Bonaventure), 126429, 126434 (crashed near Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia on 16 Jun 1961, while practicing aerobatics.  The pilot was killed), 126443, 126444, 126446, 126449, 126454, 126464 (preserved in the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario), 126469, 126488 (ditched on the shore at Key West, Florida on 14 Jan 1959 after the engine flamed out.  The pilot survived), 127510).

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN No. 103, about to launch.  (RCN Photo via Mike Kaehler)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126392), operating from HMCS Bonaventure.  (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, Nos. 80, 102, 112 and 464, over HMCS Bonaventure.  (RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

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

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

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

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

 

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN No. 390 landing on HMCS Bonaventure.  (RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN No. 700, on the flight deck of HMCS Bonaventure, 1957.  (RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN No. 702, coming up on the elevator of HMCS Bonaventure.  (RCN Photo via Mike Kaehler)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN Nos. 104 and 105, on the flight deck of HMCS Bonaventure, ca 1950s.  (DND Photo via James Craik)

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

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN No. 104, ready for launch, HMCS Bonaventure, ca 1957. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821342)

McDonnell Banshee bridles being attached prior to launching.  (RCN Photo via Mike Kaehler)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, No. 144, Shearwater, ca 1957.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821310)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, No. 144, Shearwater, ca 1957.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821304)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, No. 108, over Halifax, 1957.   (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821467)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshees, Nos 108 and 118, formation flight.  (RCN Photo)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN No. 103, ready for launch, HMCS Bonaventure, ca 1957.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821344)

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

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN No. 104, wings folded, the the flight deck of HMCS Bonaventure, 1957.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821339)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126334), the Naval Museum of Alberta, Military Museums, Calgary, Alberta.

Banshee (Serial No. 126334) was delivered to the Royal Canadian Navy 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. 126464), Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

Banshee (Serial No. 126464) was delivered to the RCN on 14 Aug 1957.  It served until 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. 126402), No. 100.  (RCN Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126402), No. 100, over Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1956.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4821223)

McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee, RCN (Serial No. 126402), No. 100, Shearwater Aviation Museum, Nova Scotia.

Banshee (Serial No. 126402) 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.