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On August 22, 1993, at 1005 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-25-260, N4844Y, owned and operated by National Aerial Advertising, Inc., of North Andover, Massachusetts, struck the ground after attempting a banner pickup, at Plymouth Airport, Plymouth, Massachusetts. The pilot was fatally injured and the airplane received substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the flight operating under 14 CFR Part 91.
The pilot made a takeoff and returned for a banner pickup. The accident was observed by several witnesses. They agreed that the airplane came in and as it neared or passed over the pickup posts, the right wing dipped. Several witnesses heard the engine accelerate and saw the airplane enter a climb. At an estimated altitude of 75 to 100 feet, the airplane was observed to roll inverted to the right. The airplane impacted inverted, nose low, and right wing low.
According to witnesses, the banner never left the ground. Four witnesses said the airplane was not aligned for pickup and was angling into the pickup poles from right of course, three witnesses said the pickup was made with the right wing. Two witnesses said the airplane missed the rope. One witness said the pilot was looking inside the cockpit on the right side during the initial climb (the tow rope release was on the left side of the cockpit).
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at 41 degrees, 54.45 minutes north and 70 degrees, 43.75 minutes west.
According to records obtained from National Aerial Advertising, this was the pilot's second season as a banner tow pilot. He had approximately 60 hours (including 47 banner pickups) in the accident airplane and 50 of those hours had been flown in the past 90 days.
According to the NTSB Form 6102.1/2 filled out by the operator, the last inspection on the airplane was an annual inspection which occurred on 6/25/93. The form also indicated the airplane had an estimated total time of 4325 hours with 134 hours since last inspection. No aircraft records were available for examination.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
In a written statement, FAA Aviation Safety Inspector, Gilbert J. DaCosta, of the Bedford Flight Standards District Office stated:
"...Arrived on scene at 12:30 (PM)...The banner was laying flat on the grass surface, witnesses stated that they observed the media unfurl the banner. Measured 267 feet of ropes leading from the banner to the aircraft at the crash site. The banner rope was not attached to the tow hook located at the tail of the aircraft. The banner rope was found wrapped around the right wing leading edge at the wing strut attach point and draped over the tail of the aircraft....
Mr. DaCosta said he released the banner and pickup poles to the operator.
The Safety Board investigator arrived on scene at 1700, on August 22, 1993. The banner and pickup poles were not at the accident site.
The airplane was laying in an open field in an inverted position. There was crushing damage on the right wing that extended back to the aft portion of the wing. The right wing was bent in a rearward direction.
Next to the tailwheel was an attach point for the pickup rope. This rope is about 6 feet long with a metal ring on one end and a grappling hook on the other end which is used to pickup the banner tow rope. The lock for the pickup rope was released; however, the attach ring on the rope was not pulled out of the lock. When tested, the lock released with no problems noted in its operation.
The banner tow rope was wrapped around the right wing at the strut attach point. It continued toward the rear of the airplane, and was drapped over the tail. The banner tow rope was not seated in the grappling hook. The remainder of the rope was coiled up next to the airplane.
Rotational scoring marks were visible on the front surface of both propeller blades. In addition, there were gouges on the leading edge of one blade. The propeller had separated from the engine at the neck of the crankshaft behind the propeller flange.
Fuel was found in both wing tanks. Flight control continuity was verified to the primary flight controls. Control stick movement was free and unrestricted. The throttle, mixture, and propeller control were full forward, and the carburetor heat was cold.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The pilot survived the accident, but died from injuries about 10 hours later. Toxicological testing conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration was negative for drugs and alcohol. The drug phenytoin was detected in the blood at a level of 7.1 ug/ml and in lung fluid (level unspecified), and the drug acetaminophen was detected in the blood at a level of 17.9 ug/ml. According to medical records, the drugs were associated with post accident medical treatment.
No written records were available for review which covered the pilot's training for banner tow. The operator did not use or have a written training syllabus for banner towing.
The aircraft wreckage was verbally released to the owner on August 22, 1993.