On July 4, 1995, at 1500 Pacific daylight time, a Citabria 7GCBC, N8634, collided with a fence, trees, and other property while maneuvering for a return to the airport at Long Beach, California. The aircraft developed a control malfunction while picking up a banner during the takeoff initial climb. The aircraft was owned and operated by Drifter Corporation of Carefree, Arizona, and was engaged in a banner towing operation. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed. The aircraft was destroyed in the multiple obstacle collision sequence. The certificated commercial pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. The flight was originating at the time of the accident as a local area flight.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector interviewed the pilot and other witnesses, and examined the aircraft. He reported that the tow system on the aircraft consists of a short cable attached to the tail of the aircraft with a hook on the end. The hook is then used to snag the banner cable during a pickup maneuver. Prior to takeoff, the cable is routed outboard of the rudder control cables, which are attached to the horn and springs of the tail wheel steering mechanism. The pilot then holds the hook under tension with his left hand during the takeoff and drops the hook once airborne.

The pilot reported that he lifted off normally, dropped the hook cable, and then hooked the banner cable near the end of runway 25R. Immediately, the rudder went to a full right deflection and the pilot could not correct the rudder with a pedal application. The pilot made two right turns near the airport boundary in an attempt to return to the airport and snagged the banner on a fence. The torn banner then became unstable and snagged on trees at an adjacent golf course and the aircraft crashed on the third fairway.

The FAA inspector reported that fresh cable signatures were present completely around the rudder control horn at the rudder cable attach point.

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