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On September 2, 2010, about 0921 central daylight time, a Cessna 150L, N10128, operated by Drake Aerial Enterprises, LLC, and piloted by a commercial pilot, sustained substantial damaged when it collided with terrain near Boone, Iowa. The airplane was conducting banner tow operations under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The pilot sustained fatal injuries. The local banner tow flight departed the Boone Municipal Airport (BNW), near Boone, Iowa, about 0907. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was on file.
A witness at the fixed base operator (FBO), who saw the airplane depart from runway 15, stated that the airplane never gained much altitude and its banner looked like it was "very close" to dragging on the ground. The witness watched the airplane turn east and then back north with not much of an altitude change. The witness and two others went up in an airplane and spotted the wreckage. The banner was north of the aircraft and according to the witness, it appeared that "the aircraft went almost straight down because there was not much corn disturbed."
Another witness at the FBO stated that he observed the takeoff. He heard the initial takeoff and the approach to the banner. The engine "sounded normal."
A witness near the accident site reported that the banner was "dipping" in the wind and all of sudden, it "got caught in the corn." Within two to three seconds the "plane nose dived straight down into the field."
Another witness near the accident site stated that the airplane "seemed to be struggling to gain altitude as he headed north from the airport.” The witness saw the airplane turn to the east and continued to appear to "struggle.” The airplane turned back west and its altitude did not increase. After the airplane turned around the banner appeared to "fall off as if he cut it loose." Shortly after that the plane turned south. The witness said that the plane then banked hard to its left and its "nose went straight down."
Deputies from the Boone County Sheriff’s Office found the wreckage in a cornfield north of 200th Street between S and R Avenues.
The 24-year-old pilot held a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, and instrument ratings. According to copies of his logbook, the most recent entry was dated August 23, 2010. Those copies showed that the pilot reported a total flight time of 559.6 hours. It further showed a banner towing endorsement, dated November 8, 2007. A current flight review was not located in the copies of the pilot’s logbook. The operator estimated that the pilot had over 40 hours of total flight experience in the same make and model as the accident airplane.
The pilot's most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on June 13, 2010, with no limitations.
According to the operator, the operator provided the following training to the banner tower pilot:
1. Familiarization of the aircraft to be used in this case it
would be just Cessna 150s, as he did not have a tailwheel
2. Tow hitches and their release handles
3. Flap settings for towing
4. Engine and fuel management
5. Pick up and drop procedures and speeds
6. Aborted pick up procedures
7. Aborted drop procedures
8. Pick ups that bring up FOD
9. Tangled and twisted banners
10. Landing with banner that will not come off
11. Set up and tear [down] of banner and launch equipment
N10128 was a 1973 Cessna 150L, which was an all-metal, high-wing, semimonocoque design airplane with serial number 15074800. The airplane was equipped with externally braced wings, wing flaps, and a fixed tricycle landing gear. The airplane was configured to seat two occupants.
FAA airworthiness documents revealed that the airplane was powered by a Lycoming O-360-A4A, serial number L17153-36A, installed under supplemental type certificate (STC) SA4795SW, and had a short take off and land (STOL) kit installed under STC SA909CE. Both of those installations were documented on a major repair and alteration form, dated December 17, 1991. Long-range fuel tanks were installed under STC SA5733SW on November 25, 2003. A tow hook assembly was installed under STC SA1-349 on October 7, 2005. Vortex generators were installed under STC SA01065SE on January 29, 2009. The airplane had an EDM 700 cockpit displayed engine monitoring system, manufactured by J.P. Instruments (JPI), that recorded engine data. The monitoring system was installed under STC SA00432SE.
The airplane was maintained under an annual inspection program and airplane logbook entries showed that the airplane’s most recent annual inspection was conducted on April 1, 2010. The entry showed that the airplane accumulated 6,796.9 hours of total time at the time of that inspection. The operator’s accident report stated that the airplane had accumulated a total time of 7,107 hours.
At 0915, the recorded weather at BNW was: Wind 310 degrees at 11 knots gusting to 20 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky condition clear, temperature 22 degrees C, dew point 17 degrees C, altimeter 29.81 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
FAA inspectors and an air safety investigator from Cessna examined the wreckage on-scene. Pictures of the wreckage showed that the leading edge of the airplane’s wings came to rest on the ground. The engine came to rest below the ground and one propeller blade was visible above ground. Flight control continuity was established. The flap actuator was extended to about the 15 - 20 degree flap setting. The propeller blades exhibited chordwise abrasion and leading edge nicks.
The banner measured about 39 feet by 105 feet when it was laid out and examined. The banner’s bridle lines were twisted and knotted. The top bridle line was detached from the banner. The third bridle line up from the bottom was torn away from the banner. Fraying was found on the bottom of the banner. The lead pole sleeve, near the bottom of the banner, was torn. The green parachute cord on the bottom lead pole sleeve was torn.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot at the Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner on September 3, 2010. The autopsy reported multiple blunt force injuries as the cause of death.
The FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute prepared a Final Forensic Toxicology Accident Report. The report was negative for the tests performed.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The JPI engine monitor and a recovered Garmin Global Positioning System (GPS) were shipped by a FAA inspector to the National Transportation Safety Board Vehicle Recorder Laboratory for downloading by NTSB National Resource Specialists. The JPI engine monitor sustained impact damage and no usable information about the accident flight was available from the monitor’s data. The GPS unit also sustained impact damage. However, there was accident relevant data that was able to be downloaded from the GPS unit. A National Resource Specialist prepared a report on the flight’s data.
From that report, the recovered GPS data showed that the airplane departed from BNW on runway 15 and made about a three-quarter mile left traffic pattern with its crosswind leg turn to downwind leg west of S Avenue. The data indicated that the airplane descended consistent with a low approach parallel to and east of runway 15 to pick up a banner. The data then showed that the airplane made about a one-quarter mile left traffic departure with its crosswind leg turn to the downwind leg east of R Avenue. According to the data, the airplane climbed and turned to the northeast and flew near the intersection of R Avenue and 200th Street. The plot of the data depicted a left turn towards the south near the intersection of S Avenue and 195th Street. The airplane, subsequent to the low approach, reached its highest recorded GPS altitude of 1,498 feet during the turn to the south. The airplane subsequently descended. The last recorded GPS altitude data point was 1,311 feet.
According to preliminary information supplied to the NTSB, the same operator subsequently had a banner towing accident on September 12, 2011. That NTSB report, number CEN11LA182, in part, stated:
A Cessna 150L, N6622G, piloted by a commercial pilot, sustained
substantial damaged when it collided with snow and terrain
during a forced landing following an in-flight loss of engine
power near Trenton, Michigan. The airplane was conducting
banner tow operations under the provisions of 14 Code of
Federal Regulations Part 91. The pilot reported no injuries.
Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan
was on file. The banner towing flight departed from the
Oakland/Troy Airport, near Troy, Michigan, and was destined for
the Grosse Ile Municipal Airport, near Detroit, Michigan.