Stoned pilot crashes Piper

Aircraft: Piper Pawnee Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Jacksonville, Fla. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was working as a banner tow pilot. According to company’s Banner Tow Pilot Training Record, he had completed 6.3 hours of flight training as of Feb. 28, 2011. The training included 0.3 hours of “full stall recovery,” 0.5 hours of “Emergency Procedures,” 1.0 hours of “Solo Practice Pick-ups,” 1.0 hours of “Solo practice in stalls/slowflight/banner ops PA-25,” and 1.0 hours of “C172 dual slow flight banner ops.”

A security camera video showed the airplane climbing with the banner trailing behind before it disappeared from the camera’s view. Shortly after, witnesses saw the banner free falling to the ground and the airplane in a right spin before it crashed in a parking lot in a nose-down attitude.

Post-accident examination revealed no malfunctions or abnormalities that would have precluded normal operation of the airplane. During the autopsy it was determined that the pilot had recently ingested marijuana. Although the investigation could not determine precisely when the pilot had last used the drug, the levels detected indicated that the pilot was impaired and most likely posed a hazard to flight safety.

Probable cause: The pilot’s in-flight loss of control during climb after a banner pickup. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s impairment due to marijuana.

NTSB Identification: ERA12FA130

This December 2011 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.


  1. vaughn price says

    I, when I was 18, and owned 1/2 of a Cessna T 50 twin, wanted to see how one bottle of Schlitz would effect my flying. I drank one bottle, took along in the right seat my partner, and went around the traffic pattern, My partner could see no difference. But I did. I, on downwind decided to drop the landing gear, There was Too much time between the thought and hitting the gear down switch. I never drank before flying again.

  2. RudyH says

    As this ‘fly hi-boy’ likely was a regular weed user…it got him….fortunately no innocents got it along with him in the bird and on the ground. One detail not stated in the report was date of late 2nd class med cert. Doesn’t appear that medical was approved or warranted either….

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