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Old 04-02-2004, 12:41   #1
Texas T
CLM Number 23
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Banner towing questions

Skyhook's comments prompted this so I would imagine he'll be most able to answer my questions.

Do you take off with the banner attached or do you fly by and snag it?

If it's a fly-by, is there a jerk when you snag it or does the aircraft just keep on trucking?

There must be a huge amount of drag associated with banner towing; what kind of power do you need?

Plus anything else you'd like to chime in with; biggest banner you ever towed, funniest banner, stupidest banner, etc. I'm all ears (eyes).

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Old 04-02-2004, 13:59   #2
Junkyard Dawg
Join Date: Jun 2001
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Re: Banner Towing;

You would never get off the ground towing a banner, so to answer you first question, NO. The tow aircraft has a steel cable with a grappling hook and it is attached to the aircraft with a quick release. This grappling hook is carried inside the cockpit and fired out window once at a reasonable altitude, making sure that you clear the landing gear as you fire the hook out the window. A pickup run is then initiated with a pickup loop suspended between two poles about 10-15' highand about that distance apart, sorta like flying through the barn doors. The banner is then snagged from this pickup loop and unrolled in a big "C" fashion. It is lying on the field and by this unrolling the drag is less dramatically encountered, you could not jerk the complete banner into the air at once.

There is a dramatic decrease in speed, especially if you're in something like a C-172, a C-182 or C-206 is a little more pleasant to do this with. The smaller engined aricraft usually need all the power you can find, once at cruise altitude a slight trottling back can be done. I've done entire banner tow flights with the stall warning horn screaming away. Rarely do you get the airspeed much over 70 knots. Once you get the show on the road (sorry airway) its fairly a lackluster event, slow speeds to the display area and orbit that local for the time desired.

Sometimes we would load the banner and pickup support gear into the aircraft and do the ground layout and pickup from a location closer to the display area than home base. The same applies to dropping off the banner, landing and loading it back up inside thereby not making a long ride home at 70k. The banner is always dropped off before landing (more on that later).

The company that I did this for had both 4' and 6' high letters, a chart was available stating how many letters that could be towed with different aircraft types. The customer paid by the letter and time, set-up could take a while.

Once a co-worker was introducing another pilot to this towing procedure and upon pickup they were unable to maintain a reasonable climbout rate and dropped the banner into the river at the airport's end. It floated and we salvaged the banner and repeated the performance with only one occupant in the a/c. For boneheaded moves on my part, early in my banner towing I came in too low on the pickup run and snagged the pickup loop with the left main gear. My support guy on the ground saw this and radioed me with that information, the tow went alright but I was unable to relase the banner and was met at the airport with all the firetrucks awaiting my arival. The landing was uneventful other than there was virtually no rollout.

I will dig through a shoebox of old photos and see if I can find one of us doing a banner pickup. I will post it if I can find one.
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Old 04-02-2004, 20:11   #3
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When we would tow "the banner" (a big rectangular cloth target that looked like a very wide Japanese flag) for air to air gunnery practice, we would install a special hook that sat between the airframe and the tailhook. As we taxied onto the active, the AOs (I think it was the AOs) would hook the banner's cable into the hook and we would taxi forward to take out the slack. We would then take off using an exagerated nose-up maneuver to get the banner off the deck as soon as possible. After the flight, the tractor would fly over the airfield and drop his hook, releasing the cable and banner, which would then fall to the ground where hits would be counted. Each of the jets flying the squirrel cage would have a different color paint on the nose of each shell, so we could tell who did the best.

More than one tractor has returned home with more holes than it left with. We would always brief "If the banner is turning square (a perspective thing, think of the tall, thin words painted on roads), DON'T SHOOT!" but somebody would always seem to wait too long, get sucked, and then start shooting. Tractor duty = not fun.

Reminds me of an A-6 from my airwing CAG-5, USS Independence, that was towing the banner for ground-to-air gunnery practice for a Japanese self defense force destroyer. The Japs mistakenly locked up the A-6 instead of the banner and shot down the plane with its CIWS. My two air wing buds ejected, but one of them was hurt badly when his nose struck the canopy on the way out.
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Old 04-02-2004, 21:58   #4
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Sounds like a job for a UAV.
I look around me and I see what I wanted and what I settled for
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