The pilot of the Cessna 172 was working as a banner tow pilot in New Orleans. The airplane was rigged with a grapple hook assembly.
The procedure called for the pilot to capture the advertising banner with the hook, then initiate a steep climb.
According to the pilot, on the first pass he missed picking up the banner. On the second pass, he thought he had again missed the aerial pickup towline, so he made a shallow climb.
He was unaware that during the airplane’s second pass, the nose gear had inadvertently snagged the forward end of the 300-foot-long towline. The banner could not be jettisoned, and it was dragged on the ground during the shallow climb, creating additional drag on the airplane.
The abrupt downward pull on the nose caused the pilot to lose control. The airplane crashed nose-first about 1,000 feet south of the pickup location.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause of the accident as the pilot’s failure to perform a steep climb before going around following a low pass for a banner tow pickup.
NTSB Identification: CEN13CA2
This April 2013 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.