By Tommy H. Thomason

Monday, December 29, 2008

Correcting Common Banshee Misstatements

The F2H-1 Banshee fuselage was not shorter than the -2. Only the three XF2H prototypes had the shorter fuselage. The stretch was made in belated recognition of the need for more fuel. The main difference between the -1 and the -2 is that the former did not have provisions for tip tanks. (Still not enough fuel.) As a result, the -2 wings could not be unfolded (or folded) with fuel in the tip tanks. Full tip tanks were also an overload condition with a lower g limit imposed.

Which leads me to the second and more serious canard. The F2H did not have "weak" wings. A Navy pilot pulled the wings off one at Patuxent River in May 1949 but that's because he exceeded the 6-g limit, which was the fighter standard for the time. The problem was that F2H was initially a bit light on the controls so overstressing it was too easy. That was fixed with a control system modification to add a bob-weight that increased stick force with increasing g.

The F9F Panther may have been stronger than specification-the incident at Pax when the rear fuselage came off on an arrested landing not withstanding-but the F2H was strong enough. It could also fly higher and longer than the F9F Panther, carry more ordnance, and may have been a bit easier to bring aboard on a dark and stormy night. The need to spread its wings to fill the tip tanks was an operational deficiency, however: too much space required in the spot for launch. (It may have also reinforced the reputation for "weak" wings.)

The top photo is from the National Archives, 80-G-406268, and is of a VF-171 F2H-1 aboard FDR on 8 August 1949, only a year after the first production F2H-1 flew. If I remember correctly, the bottom photo is from Bob Lawson's collection and is of VF-172 aircraft aboard Essex during the Korean War.

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