Banner-towing flight ends with forced landing on beach

This March 2007 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Piper Super Cub.
Location: Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Injuries: None.
Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot picked up an advertising banner at a private airport then headed for the beach at an altitude of 1,000 feet AGL. Upon arrival at the beach he descended to 500 feet AGL. He then switched fuel tanks and the engine lost power.

The pilot switched back to the other fuel tank but could not restore power. Emergency procedures for the banner-towing operation required the pilot to jettison the banner in the event of engine power loss. However, the pilot did not jettison the banner but continued to fly with it attached to the airplane. He attempted to land on the beach but lacked the altitude to glide to the sand and the airplane came down in 2 feet of water.

The post-accident investigation found five gallons of fuel in the left tank and 18 gallons of fuel in the right tank.

Probable cause: The loss of engine power due to undetermined reasons. A factor in the accident was the pilot’s failure to follow emergency procedures when he failed to jettison the advertising banner prior to his forced landing in water.

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