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Boeing-Vertol H-21 / CH-21 / UH-21 Shawnee Helicopter

The Boeing-Vertol H-21 "flying banana" is a multi-mission helicopter, utilizing wheels, skis, or floats lifted by two fully-articulated three-bladed counter-rotating rotors. The H-21 was designed by Frank Piasecki, whose company became Vertol Aircraft Corporation, acquired by The Boeing Company. It was renamed the CH-21 / UH-21 in 1962.

The CH-21 was used for Artic rescue because of its excellent low temperature performance. The CH-21 also served with the U.S. Air Force (called "Workhorse"), and with the French Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the West German Air Force. The French used an armed version of the CH-21 in Algeria, mounting guns in the door ways and on the skids.

The CH-21B assault helicopter could carry 22 fully-equipped troops, or 12 stretchers, plus space for two medical attendants, in the MedEvac role. The CH-21B was first deployed to Vietnam in December 1961 with the Army's 8th and 57th Transportation Companies, in support of ARVN troops. The CH-21B / CH-21C Shawnee could be armed with 7.62mm or 12.7mm door guns.

The relatively slow CH-21 was burdended by vulnerable cables and fuel lines, so susceptible to small arms fire it was even rumored that a CH-21 had been downed by a Viet Cong spear. Nonetheless, the CH-21 Shawnee was the principle cargo helicopter in Vietnam until 1964 when it was superseded by the UH-1 Iroquois "Huey" in 1963, and the later fielding of the CH-47 Chinook in the mid-1960s.

The CH-21 was powered by one Curtis-Wright R1820-103 Cyclone supercharged 1150 hp piston engine. The CH-21B was equipped with an uprated 1425 shp engine.

Boeing-Vertol H-21 Shawnee Specifications and Performance

Rotor diameter44 ft.
Length52 ft. 6 in.
Height 15 ft. 9 in.
Weight15,200 lbs. max.
ArmamentSpecial, see above
EngineVaries by model
Maximum speed128 mph.
Range265 mi.
Service ceiling9,450 ft.

Boeing CH-21 Shawnee Helicopter in flight at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, Aurora, CO
Boeing CH-21 Shawnee Helicopter in flight at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, Aurora, CO.

Boeing-Vertol H-21 Shawnee Helicopter
Boeing-Vertol H-21 Shawnee Helicopter.

Boeing-Vertol CH-21 Shawnee Helicopter with CH-47 Chinook
Boeing CH-21 Shawnee Helicopter (below) with CH-47 Chinook (above).

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