Friday, March 25, 2016

Piper PA-25-260 Pawnee, Aerial Banners, Inc., N254AB: Fatal accident occurred August 31, 2014 in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida

NTSB Identification: ERA14FA416
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, August 31, 2014 in St. Petersburg, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/22/2016
Aircraft: PIPER PA-25-260, registration: N254AB
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

During a banner-tow pickup, the commercial pilot reported to the tower controller that the banner-tow rope had become entangled in the rudder and that he needed to release the rope. According to witnesses, after picking up the banner, the airplane made a sharp left turn and then spiraled into the water. Examination of the wreckage revealed that the banner-tow rope had become entangled between the left elevator and horizontal stabilizer.

A review of the company training manual noted that the banner-tow rope must remain taught before the pilot deploys the hook or the rope to prevent the entanglement of the hook or rope in the tail control surfaces and restriction of movement. A review of GPS data showed that the airplane made an immediate right turn to pick up the banner while the pilot was deploying the hook. It is likely that the pilot’s improper deployment of the hook while simultaneously turning the airplane caused the entanglement of the tow rope in the elevator.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's improper deployment of the banner-tow hook, which resulted in it becoming entangled between the left elevator and horizontal stabilizer, restricted the movement of the elevator, and led to a loss of airplane control.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On August 31, 2014, at 1455 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-25-260, N254AB, was destroyed when it collided with water following a banner pick up at Albert Whitted Airport (SPG), St. Petersburg, Florida. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The airplane was registered to Aerial Banners North INC. and operated by Advertising Air Force as a banner tow flight. The flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

According to the SPG tower controller, the airplane was cleared for takeoff from runway 7. As the airplane departed runway 7, the pilot made a right turn to the intersecting runway 18. The airplane side-stepped the runway to the left and picked up the banner. As the airplane pitched up to climb out, the pilot made a distress call before losing control, entering a downward spiral, and colliding with the water.

According to a witness, they watched as the banner tow airplane picked up the banner, and as they were attempting to read the banner the airplane suddenly made a sharp bank to the left. The witness also said that the airplane was at a high angle of attack before it "stalled" and went into a tight, nose down spin towards the water.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot, age 70, held a commercial pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane multi-engine land and sea; single-engine land, single-engine sea, and glider. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) second-class medical certificate was issued on March 14, 2014. The pilot reported his flight experience included 2,500 total hours and 135 hours within the last six months of his medical exam. A review of company records revealed that the pilot logged a total of 591.5 hours of flight experience in the accident airplane, as of August 9, 2013.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The single-seat, low-wing, fixed landing gear airplane, serial number 25-7556048, was manufactured in 1974. It was powered by a Lycoming O-540-260, 260-horsepower engine, equipped with McCauley propeller. A review of maintenance work orders, the airplane's most recent 100-hour inspection was completed on June 10, 2014. The airplane's maintenance logbooks were not available for review.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The recorded weather at SPG, at an elevation of 6 feet, at 1453, included wind from 120 degrees at 5 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, clear sky, temperature 29 degrees Celsius (C), dew point temperature 25 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.11 inches of mercury.

COMMUNICATIONS

A review of voice transcription data obtained from the FAA revealed that the pilot contacted the SPG control tower about 1453, to request his takeoff clearance. The pilot received a clearance to depart from runway 7. Approximately two minutes later the pilot contacted the control tower and stated "got to let it go, it's caught in my rudder." There were no other transmissions made by the pilot.

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The wreckage was located in Tampa Bay, 75 yards off the end of runway 18. The airplane was intact and came to rest in a flat attitude in approximately 20 feet of water.

The airplane was recovered from the bay and examination of the cockpit revealed that the floor board was buckled. The firewall was broken away from the fuselage and still attached to the engine mounts. The instrument panel and instruments were damaged from exposure to salt water. The header tank remained attached to the fuselage and the fuel cap remained locked, and contained an undetermined amount of fuel and sea water. The empennage remained attached to the fuselage and was buckled. The tail wheel assembly remained attached to the empennage. Further examination revealed that the tow hook release remained attached to the empennage assembly. The vertical and horizontal stabilizers were still attached to the empennage. The rudder and elevators remained attached to the flight surfaces at the attachment points, and the respective flight control cables were connected. The left and right aileron cables remained attached to their respective bellcranks. Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit flight controls to the flight control surfaces. The main landing gear assembly was bent aft and still attached to the fuselage.

Further examination of the left horizontal stabilizer and elevator revealed markings consistent with contact with the banner rope at the attachment point between the elevator and stabilizer. The elevator trailing edge was also bent downward, and displayed similar rope markings. The banner tow rope also had grease markings from the attachment point between the elevator and stabilizer.

The right wing was attached to the fuselage at the wing root, and buckled throughout the span of the wing. The aileron and flap remained attached to the wing and were bulked. The left wing was attached to the fuselage at the wing root, and buckled throughout the span of the wing. The aileron remained attached to the wing, and the flap was broken away from one attachment point.

Examination of the engine revealed that the propeller remained attached to the crankshaft. Examination of the propeller revealed that one propeller blade was bent aft towards the fuselage. There were no discrepancies noted that would have precluded normal operation of the propeller.

Examination of the engine revealed impact damage on the bottom of the engine. The exhaust and intake manifolds were impact-damaged. The carburetor was impact-damaged and broken off the attachment point. Examination of the carburetor revealed no blockage and the throttle and mixture attachments were still connected. The spark plugs were removed to drain the water from inside the cylinders. After the water was drained, the spark plugs were examined and no anomalies were noted on the electrodes. The magnetos were removed for examination and turned by hand. The magneto couplings were heard engaging but no spark was noted due to salt water damage. The oil dipstick was removed and six quarts of oil was noted on the dipstick. The crankshaft was rotated and compression was obtained on all cylinders. Valve train continuity was also noted throughout the engine. Examination of the engine did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the State of Florida District Seventeen Medical Examiner, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on April 18, 2009. The autopsy report noted the cause of death as "multiple blunt trauma."

Toxicological testing was performed on the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Science Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Review of the toxicology report identified atorvastatin and quinine in liver and blood.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

A review of FAA Information for Banner Tow Operations (FAA/FS-I-8700-1) noted the following in Chapter 2, "EQUIPMENT AND OPERATION SAFETY ISSUES GRAPPLE HOOK DEPLOYMENT. A crucial event during banner tow operations is the deployment of the grapple hook. The grapple hook should be released in such a manner that it, or the grapple line, does not snarl in aircraft control surfaces or landing gear, to include the tailwheel, in conventional gear configurations. The hook line must be observed to have clearance before every low approach. If the grapple line becomes snarled on the tailwheel or a control surface, a reduction in the capability of the pilot to control the airplane may occur. In a worst case scenario, movement of the rudder or elevator control surface may be limited or even jammed. Further, the pilot may not be able to release the grapple line because of the entanglement."

A review of the Aerial Banners North training manual and general operating procedures section that stated "Tossing the Hook Out" noted the following: "After takeoff or drop, level off at 400 feet at cruise power. Once clear of any populated area, unwrap the rope from around the hook, keeping the rope and simultaneously apply slight left rudder (for a toss to the left) to allow the hook to fall freely away from the aircraft. Now look back to ensure that the hook is clear of the aircraft by applying rudder pressure without losing your headset or sunglasses in the slip stream. NOTE: Ensure to keep the rope taught prior to tossing the hook out. Failure to do so can entangle the hook/rope on the elevator, rudder horn, or stabilizer brace wires. If this condition is not resolved prior to the pick, the weight/drag of the banner will cause a HOT HOOK and possible unresponsive rudder/elevator!"

A review of GPS data revealed that the airplane took off from runway 7, and immediately made a right turn to pick up the banner prior to the loss of control of the airplane.

In a statement released, Thomasson's family described him as a family man with a passion for flying. 


ST. PETERSBURG — The family of a commercial pilot who was killed in a 2014 plane crash while taking off from Albert Whitted Airport is suing the company that hired him as well as the air traffic control company that gave him clearance to take off.

The lawsuit, filed in Pinellas Circuit Court, alleges that Donald Thomasson died as a direct result of a "dangerous pick and go" maneuver that is commonplace for the company, Advertising Air Force, Inc., which hired him.

Also named as defendants are Ariel Banners, which does business with Advertising Air Force; the man who trained Thomasson on behalf of Advertising Air Force; and Orlando-based Robinson Aviation Inc., the flight controller that cleared Thomasson to take off.

The suit states that the National Transportation Safety Board found the crash occurred as a direct result of the "pick and go" maneuver.

A "pick and go" maneuver involves the pilot using a grappling hook to catch the end of a banner advertisement, which then trails behind the plane.

On Aug. 31, 2014, Thomasson's Piper PA-23 splashed into the water about 75 yards south of the airport's seawall as the plane lifted off. Thomasson was 68 and had four children.

The company's planes have been involved in at least five crashes involving banner towing in which the planes took off from Albert Whitted since 1989. Thomasson was the first fatality.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs could not be reached for comment, nor could the defendants.

Original article can be found here: http://www.tampabay.com




http://registry.faa.gov/N254AB

NTSB Identification: ERA14FA416
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, August 31, 2014 in St. Petersburg, FL
Aircraft: PIPER PA-25-260, registration: N254AB
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August 31, 2014, at 1455 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-25-260, N254AB, operated by Aerial Banners, Inc., was destroyed when with the pilot lost control and the airplane descended to water impact following a banner pick up at Albert Whitted Airport (SPG), St. Petersburg, Florida. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The banner-tow flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

According to the SPG tower controller, the airplane was cleared for takeoff from runway 7. As the airplane departed runway 7, the pilot made a sharp right turn to the intersecting runway. The airplane side stepped runway 18 to the left and picked up the banner. As the airplane pitched up to climb out, the pilot made a distress call before losing control and entering a downward spiral and colliding with the water.

According to a witness, they watched as the banner tow airplane picked up the banner. As they were attempting to read the banner, the airplane suddenly made a sharp bank to the left. The witness went on to say that the airplane was at a high angle of attack, stalled and went into a tight nose down spin towards the water.

The airplane impacted the water and sank in approximately 15 feet of water off of the departure end of runway 18.

Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office: FAA Miami FSDO-19  






Previous Accident:  August 12, 2010
http://dms.ntsb.gov/N254AB

http://www.ntsb.gov/N254AB

NTSB Identification: ERA10CA417 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, August 12, 2010 in St. Petersburg, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/11/2011
Aircraft: PIPER PA-25-260, registration: N254AB
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

According to the pilot, he departed with the airplane's fuel tank full (75 gallons) for the local banner towing flight. He flew for about 3 hours and 30 minutes and then initiated a return to the airport. During the return flight, at an altitude of approximately 1,000 feet, the airplane's engine lost power. Just prior to the power loss, while the airplane was in a climb, the pilot noted that the fuel gauge indicated 30 gallons of fuel remained. The pilot released the banner and performed a forced landing on a road.

A postaccident examination of the airplane by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed approximately 8-10 ounces of fuel remained in the single main fuel tank. The main fuel feed line at the bottom of the fuel tank fuel valve contained a few ounces of fuel. The fuel tank was filled with 30 gallons of fuel to test the accuracy of the fuel gauge, which read 33 gallons of fuel. The engine was test run on the airframe. It started and ran at full power with no anomalies noted. According to the airplane's Operating Handbook, the engine burns an average of 14-16 gallons of fuel per hour, at power settings likely used by the pilot. The fueler who fueled the airplane stated that he filled the airplane to a capacity of 68 gallons of fuel, which is what the pilot specifically requested. The examination revealed no evidence of a mechanical malfunction.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s improper fuel management, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.

According to the pilot, he departed with full fuel (75 gallons) in the airplane, for the local banner towing flight. He flew for about 3 hours and 30 minutes, and then initiated a return to the airport. During the return flight, at an altitude of approximately 1,000 feet, the airplane's engine lost power. Just prior to the power loss, while the airplane was in a climb, the pilot noted that the fuel gauge indicated 30 gallons of fuel remained. The pilot released the banner and performed a forced landing to a road. Examination of the airplane by a Federal Aviation (FAA) inspector revealed approximately 8-10 ounces of fuel in the single main fuel tank. The main fuel feed line at the bottom of the fuel tank fuel valve contained a "few ounces" of fuel. The fuel tank was filled with 30 gallons of fuel to test the accuracy of the fuel gauge, which read 33 gallons of fuel. The engine was test run on the airframe. It started and ran at full power with no anomalies noted. According to the Piper PA-25 Pilot Operating Handbook, the airplane's engine burned an average of 14-16 gallons of fuel per hour, at a power setting of 24 inches of manifold pressure and 2400 RPM. The fueler who fueled the airplane stated he filled the airplane to a capacity of 68 gallons of fuel, which is what the pilot specifically requested.


The pilot of the Piper PA-25-260 Pawnee, Aerial Banners, Inc., N254AB plane that made an emergency landing August 12, 2010 sits next to his aircraft on Tyrone Boulevard in St. Petersburg. 

No comments: