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Celebrating David Fairbanks –
An American in the RCAF

By John Chalmers
CAHS Membership Secretary

At the May 16 induction ceremonies for Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame, held in Bombardier’s Laurent Beaudoin Completion Centre at the Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, one of the inductees to the Hall was David Charles Fairbanks, a native of Ithaca, New York.

Photo 1 David Fairbanks

An American who joined the RCAF in 1941 at age 18, before the United States entered the Second World War, David Fairbanks trained as a pilot in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Posted overseas, he was attached to the Royal Air Force.

After shooting down one enemy aircraft while flying a Spitfire, Fairbanks then shot down 14 more as a pilot of a Hawker Tempest. His story, “Tempest Tiger,” by longtime CAHS member Hugh Halliday, appears in the Summer 1977 edition of the CAHS Journal.

Fairbanks eventually attained the rank of squadron leader and served as commanding officer of 274 RAF Squadron. Shot down himself and taken as a prisoner of war shortly before the war ended, he was a three-time recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross. At war’s end, he was only 22 years old!

Photo 2 Fairbanks
Squadron Leader David Fairbanks, DFC, is seen standing at far left in 1945 as commanding officer of 274 RAF Squadron, with a Hawker Tempest of the Squadron.

Post-war, David Fairbanks graduated in engineering from Cornell University at Ithaca, became a Canadian citizen, and worked for de Havilland Canada (DHC). He served as a test pilot and demonstration pilot for the company, and was closely associated with DHC’s Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) aircraft – notably the Beaver, Otter, Caribou, Buffalo and the Dash-7.

As Manager of Flight Operations for DHC, Fairbanks died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 52 in 1975. The following year he was posthumously awarded the Trans-Canada (McKee) Trophy, largely in recognition for his contribution to development of STOL aircraft.

Now a Member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame, David Fairbanks will be honoured further in his home country on September 13 at an Evening Celebration of Aviation to be held at the Ithaca Tomkins Regional Airport. For more information and to order tickets, click here.

More information about David Fairbanks and the short video of him shown at the Hall of Fame inductions can be seen when you click here.

Photo 3 Fairbanks celebration