On January 31, 1998, about 1418 eastern standard time, a Cessna 170A, N1200D, registered to a private individual, experienced a loss of control and crashed shortly after picking up a banner at the Opa-Locka West Airport, Miami, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed. The airplane was substantially damaged and the commercial-rated pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The flight originated about 2 minutes earlier.

According to a witness who was within about 100 yards from the crash site and is the owner of a banner towing company, earlier in the day the pilot prepared a banner for his sister and flew it over her house. The pilot then returned to the Opa-Locka West Airport, dropped the banner and landed. The pilot then asked him if he could fly around the traffic pattern, a larger banner that was scheduled to be flown later that day for revenue. The banner company owner advised the pilot that the wind was from the west at 10 knots and to "watch the wind." Additionally, before the flight departed, the banner release mechanism was checked by applying an aft force to an attached grapple hook. The flight departed and according to the witness, the pilot performed a long, low approach flying northbound toward the banner pick-up location, which was just west of the western edge of the north runway with some flaps extended. The pilot was successful in picking up the banner and began what he noted was a normal climb, then when the banner was completely off the ground, the pilot released it. He then noted that the airplane continued climbing and was drifting to the east. The airplane then rolled to the right, descended nose low and the witness lost sight due to obstructions. The banner company owner further stated that the engine sound was steady the entire time, and before the second banner flight he had a discussion with the pilot about the engine horsepower available.

Another witness stated that after the pilot picked up the banner he heard what he thought was full power being applied. The pilot dropped the banner about 10 seconds after picking it up and climbed to about 200 feet then observed the wings wobbling. The airplane then stalled, descended nose and right wing low, and impacted the ground. That witness stated that the engine responded when the pilot applied power. After takeoff the pilot questioned via VHF radio how does the hook look and after observing with a zoom camera that the hook was not contacting the horizontal stabilizer, he advised the pilot that it looked ok.

According to the pilot's sister, he called her via a cellular phone after flying her birthday banner and asked her if she liked it. She stated that she did and he then advised her that he would be home by 1700 hours to attend her birthday party. He did not mention that he would be flying another banner.


Information pertaining to the pilot is contained on page 3 of the Factual Report-Aviation. He received a total of 9.8 flight hours of training in banner towing operations between August 25, 1996, and September 7, 1996, by a local banner towing company. The enrollment form was annotated with "not to hire...." Review of his pilot logbook revealed that the last flight logged was dated September 27, 1996; no other logbook was recovered. Additionally, between May 15 to May 19, 1997, he received 4.1 flight hours and 3.0 ground hours of instruction in banner towing operations. The instructor who signed the training form was employed by Broward Flight Center. According to paperwork submitted by the owner of Broward Flight Center, the pilot had accumulated a total of about 128 hours flying banners for his company after the training flight hours.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration Fort Lauderdale Flight Standards District Office, the accident pilot was not listed on the Certificate of Waiver or Authorization Form issued to Broward Flight Center.


Information pertaining to the airplane is contained in the Factual Report-Aviation on page 2. Additionally, review of the maintenance records revealed that the ignition harness was replaced on July 1, 1983. The engine was last overhauled on June 15, 1996, and had accumulated 234.5 and 2,538 hours since overhaul and new respectively. The airplane was equipped with in part a fixed pitch McCauley propeller which was the same model propeller equipped when the airplane was manufactured. According to the propeller manufacturer, the installed propeller was classified as "standard." A propeller designated for takeoff-climb/high altitude was available for that model airplane. The difference corresponds to the pitch of the propeller blades. Additionally, a tow hitch was installed on the tailwheel bracket assembly of the airplane. According to a letter from Cessna Aircraft Company to the company that sold the tow hitch bar to the pilot, "It is permissible to attach a banner tow bar to the tail wheel spring of the 170 and 180 series airplanes"


Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site at the time of the accident. Additionally, according to witnesses, the wind at the time was from the west at about 10 knots. Additional meteorological information may be obtained in this report under section titled Weather Information beginning on page 3.


Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane crashed onto grass east of the north-south runway and north of the east-west runway. The airplane was resting on a magnetic heading of about 299 degrees with the wings and longitudinal axis of the airplane about 10 degrees greater than perpendicular to the ground. The empennage about 1 foot aft of the trailing edge of the wings was nearly separated and was attached only by the rudder and elevator flight control cables and the lower skin. The engine assembly to include the propeller was attached to the airframe. Examination of the ground scars revealed that the airplane impacted the ground on a nose and right wing low attitude on a heading of about 245 degrees. The airplane then rotated to the right and slid east about 21.5 feet before coming to rest. An odor of fuel was noted at the crash site and a banner that measured 135 feet 5 inches in total length was located just east of the east edge of the north-south runway. The aircraft's banner hook and rope were attached to the banner and the aft end of the banner was located at a point about 270 feet abeam from the banner pick-up pole location.

Examination of the airplane wreckage revealed that the right wing tip was displaced up and chordwise crushing was noted to the leading edge of the wing with the right flap extended. About 1 gallon of automotive fuel was drained from the right wing fuel tank which was found to contain several ounces of water contamination. Examination of the right side of the fuselage adjacent to the flap revealed a signature which according to Cessna indicated that the right flap was extended about 12 degrees at impact. Chordwise crushing was noted to the leading edge of the left wing and examination of the pitot tube at the left wing revealed that it was connected but the forward portion of the tube was displaced about 10 degrees to the right. A protective cover was installed that would cover the pitot tube opening when the airplane was at rest, but would be opened by airloads pushing a circular flat plate aft allowing the cover to rotate aft and air to enter the pitot tube. The flat plate and left hinge bracket were impact damaged from the left and the circular flat plate was rotated clockwise about 90 degrees as viewed from the rear. About 4-6 ounces of fuel was drained from the left wing fuel tank; no contamination was noted. No determination was made as to the left flap extension. Examination of the left aileron revealed that evidence of an impact signature which indicated that it was displaced up about 10 degrees at impact. Examination of the flap, elevator, rudder, and aileron control cables revealed no evidence of failure. Examination of the tow hitch assembly revealed that the trip arm was forward and the pivoting hook was open. Cable continuity from the cockpit to the trip arm for the tow hitch assembly was confirmed. A fuel sample was taken at the fuel selector valve and no contaminants were noted. The airplane/engine was removed from the accident site for further examination.

Examination of the engine revealed crankshaft, camshaft, and valve train continuity. Cold differential compression readings were taken at all cylinders which revealed all were 66/80 or greater. The left magneto was determined to be properly timed to the engine. The right magneto was determined to be timed 2 degrees later than specified. Both magnetos produced spark at all terminals when rotated by hand. Examination of the ignition leads revealed that the No. 5 cylinder top ignition lead was separated from the spark plug and the coupling nut was cracked. The No. 6 cylinder top spark plug ignition lead was loosely installed at the plug and the coupling nut was also cracked; the beginning threaded portion was stripped. The carburetor bowl was drained and found to be free of contaminants, the float was determined to be operating freely, and the inlet screen was clean.


A postmortem examination of the pilot was performed by Anthony Juguilon, M.D., of the Dade-County Medical Examiner's Office. The cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma. Toxicological testing was performed by the Dade-County Medical Examiner's Office and the FAA Toxicology and Accident and Research Laboratory. The results of analysis by Dade County was negative for volatiles, carbon monoxide, and drugs. The results of analysis by the FAA was negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and tested drugs.


The wreckage was released to Mr. Chris McArthur, the Opa-Locka Airport Manager on February 2, 1998.

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