NTSB Identification: MIA06LA033.
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Accident occurred Sunday, December 18, 2005 in Opa-Locka, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/29/2006
Aircraft: Piper PA-25-235, registration: N86AB
Injuries: 1 Minor.
NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
Earlier that day, the pilot reportedly advised several company employees of a discrepancy with the No. 2 position tow-release hook; he was advised to use only the Nos. 1 and 3 positions. The flight departed for the first banner tow flight of the day, returned to the departure airport after flying the banner, dropped it, then picked up a second banner on the No. 3 position. He flew the banner then returned to the departure airport and dropped it with no reported discrepancies. A company employee reported that the pilot released the second banner late and after landing when asked why, the pilot advised him the No. 3 release wasn't working properly. The pilot installed banner tow hooks at the Nos. 1 and 3 positions, and departed to pick up a billboard using the No. 1 position but reported the airplane would not climb, and he released the banner. He then threw out the hook for the No. 3 position, and returned to pick-up the billboard which was set up for an easterly direction. He approached the location at 85 mph, and the climb-out, "...was even worse. I had no thrust or power at all, only the momentum carried me up to 200 [feet] where I leveled off with an airspeed of about 55 mph and noticed low oil pressure while losing altitude." He immediately pulled the No. 3 banner release handle but "everything came out the panel." He then felt "pulled by the tail with no thrust", and braced for impact on the airport property. No ground crew members reported hearing an engine discrepancy during the climb out. Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed the tow rope remained secured to the No. 3 tow-release hook. A safety link designed to break at 650 pounds was installed between the tow-release hook and the tow rope. The operator reported that the safety link will not break due to a "hot hook", or a banner dragging on the ground. Also, the No. 3 banner release handle/cable assembly was separated from the instrument panel and extended into the cockpit approximately 12 inches. The cable was not fractured; the cable housing was secured by a plastic tie-wrap near the pilot's seat, then by 3 adel clamps. The closest adel clamp to the cockpit was located approximately 10 feet aft of the plastic tie wrap. The cable housing was required to be clamped by 6 adel clamps. Postaccident operational testing of the engine revealed it produced approximately 2,400 rpm (near full static) with a serviceable propeller installed. The oil pressure was noted to be in the green arc when operating above 1,700 rpm, but was indicating low with the engine operating at 1,000 and 1,300 rpm. A METAR taken on the airport approximately 5 minutes after the accident indicates the wind was from 270 degrees at 7 knots, though the ground crew set up for an east approach. The operator's "Training Manual & General Operating Procedures" revealed that with respect to "Downwind Pickups", it states, "Downwind pickups are not to be attempted by any pilot at any time! Failure to abide by this rule will result in the pilots' immediate termination!" The training manual also indicates with respect to downwind pickups that if the wind direction changes and, "...your banner is no longer set up into the wind you must land, taxi to the banner area, and help the ground crew realign your banner for an upwind pickup."
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The failure of the pilot-in-command to maintain airspeed following a reported loss of engine power, resulting in a stall/mush, uncontrolled descent, and in-flight collision with terrain. Factors in the accident were the pilot's intentional operation of the airplane with known deficiencies (inoperative No. 3 banner release), and inadequate installation of the banner tow-release hook assembly by company maintenance personnel. Full narrative available
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