On November 12, 2005, about 1436 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-12, N2969M, registered to an individual and operated by Advertising Air Force, as a Title 14 CFR Part 91, banner towing operation, ground looped during landing at the Albert Whitted Airport, St. Petersburg, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The commercial-rated pilot received no injuries and the airplane incurred substantial damage. The flight originated from the same airport, earlier that day, about 1300. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot stated he was towing a banner north and south over Madeira and Pass-A-Grille Beach, then turned east in a climbing turn to fly back to the airport at 1,000 feet MSL. While in the climbing turn, an engine oil leak started spraying oil on the windshield. His assignment was to drop the banner then pick up another for display over Vinoy Park. He immediately decided to terminate the flight as soon as possible to investigate the oil leak. He dropped the banner, and then made right traffic to land on runway 36. While turning and accelerating in the right turn, the oil leak increased in intensity, further destroying his forward visibility. As he crossed the threshold to land on 36, he had only limited peripheral vision "NONE ahead" and concentrated on getting the airplane down on the runway and stopped. At this point, he was concerned the leaking oil could burst into flames. Due to the visibility, the landing resulted in a ground loop. He notified the tower he was ok while shutting off switches and fuel flow, and exited the airplane by himself uninjured.
A witness stated the accident flight was the pilot's very first solo banner tow flight. The pilot had been progressing well during his training enough to be permitted a solo banner pick flight. However during the solo flight he was not following training and set procedures. She contacted the tower to advise to have the pilot land. She was standing about 25 to 50 feet from the runway. The pilot had just dropped the banner and was going around to land. During his landing, all three wheels of the airplane were on the ground when she heard the airplane's engine power up again. The pilot appeared to be losing control, the airplane's wings where hitting the ground, going side to side as it was getting airborne; each wing hit a least twice. While the airplane was in the air it spun 180 degrees around and slammed into the ground. She ran over to check on the pilot. He had exited the airplane and stated he had no left rudder. The witness did not observe any abnormality with the flight control surfaces and did not see any oil on the wind shield. There was little wind during the accident. The crosswind condition was more challenging earlier during the day when the pilot was training. Later that day, the pilot told the owner of the airplane that he had no right rudder.
The airport manager stated he examined and photographed the accident airplane after it was recovered and taken to the operator's hanger. He observed the propeller, front and rear gear, and some notable fuselage damage. He interviewed a witness, which she stated that the pilot over-corrected for the crosswinds while landing. The crosswinds were estimated about 5 knots during the accident.
The FAA inspector that conducted the initial examination of the accident airplane stated that he did not notice any evidence of oil leak. The color photos of the accident airplane taken by the airport manager after the accident did not indicate any evidence of oil leaks. The pilot did not declare an emergency nor did he mention a problem to airport tower when he was cleared to land.