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RCAF Fighter Pilot Honoured in U.S.

By John Chalmers, CAHS Membership Secretary

01 FairbanksDavid Charles Fairbanks, who flew with the RCAF during the Second World War, has been honoured in his hometown of Ithaca, New York. A Tempest fighter pilot with 15 victories to his credit, he was three times awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Fairbanks joined the RCAF as a 19-year old in 1941, before the United States had entered the Second World War. He reached the rank of squadron leader as commanding officer of 274 RAF Squadron before being shot down himself on February 28, 1945, and spent the last few months of the war as a prisoner of war.

Post-war, David returned to Ithaca and earned a degree in engineering at Cornell University in Ithaca. He then returned to Canada and was soon hired by Russell Bannock as a test pilot with de Havilland Canada (DHC). “At de Havilland we were looking for an additional test and demo pilot when Fairbanks applied,” says Bannock. “At the time, Dave was working in Montreal, flying Vampires with one of the Montreal reserve squadrons and held a Commercial Pilot Licence. When I looked at his logbook, I said ‘Wow!’ and hired him on the strength of his experience. He soon showed us that he could be a skilled test pilot.”

David eventually became Manager of Flight Operations for DHC. In May 2019 he was posthumously inducted as a Member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame, largely for his work with DHC in development of Short Takeoff and Landing Aircraft such as the Dash 7 and was involved with promotion of the Beaver, Twin Otter, Caribou and Buffalo in countries around the world. Sadly, Fairbanks died at the age of 52 in 1975.

02 Bannock and Hall

At left, Russ Bannock, DSO DFC, himself a member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame, hands the induction certificate for David Fairbanks to retired USAF Major General Mike Hall, for placement of the certificate in a historical display at The History Center in Tompkins County, located in Ithaca. Since 2014, Mike has been manager of the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport and was instrumental in organizing a special dinner to honour David Fairbanks. (Rick Radell photo)

03 Dinner

On September 13, a dinner at the Ithaca Regional Airport celebrated David Fairbanks. An American who became a Canadian citizen, he is now remembered in both the home of his birth and in the country he served during the war. A B-17 bomber named Aluminum Overcast, provided a backdrop for the event. It had been flown in for the airport’s open house weekend, when the dinner was held for Fairbanks. (Dale Schenck photo)

04 Tom Appleton

Tom Appleton, who worked with Fairbanks at DHC and is a former chairman of the board for Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame, spoke about David Fairbanks at the dinner held in Ithaca. Tom has said, “He was my boss and a very good one. He provided the same sort of direction and management supervision that all of the demonstration and instructor pilots at DHC received. He was very supportive and encouraged everybody to perform well. As a pilot, Dave was an artist, the airplane was his brush and the sky his canvas.” Standing at left is airport manager Mike Hall. (Dale Schenck photo)

05 Hawker Tempest

A Hawker Tempest of the Royal Air Force, an interceptor and fighter/bomber, the type with which David Fairbanks scored all but one of his victories as a fighter pilot of the RCAF, while attached to the RAF. A 2019 fellow inductee to Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame, Barry Lapointe, announced at the induction ceremonies that the Hawker Tempest he is restoring to flying condition will be named to honour David Fairbanks. Barry is the head of KF Aerospace, based in Kelowna BC. Of all the Tempest aircraft built for the war, only eight survive. Barry’s will be the only one flying. (Internet photo)

06 Masthead

Shown above is the masthead of an article about David Fairbanks, written by long-time CAHS member, Hugh Halliday. The story appeared in the Vol. 35, No. 2, Summer 1977 edition of the CAHS Journal. To see the complete article, click here. To see more about David Fairbanks and the video of him shown at the May 16 inductions for Canada’s Aviation Hall of fame, click here.