Three Fla. banner towing plane crashes in 5 months - WNCN: News, Weather

Three Fla. banner towing plane crashes in 5 months

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The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the Sunday afternoon crash of a banner towing plane operated by Advertising Air Force of St. Petersburg.

The single engine 1951 Cessna ditched into Tampa Bay shortly after hooking on to a banner at Albert Whitted airport.

The pilot, 36 year old Robert Gilchrist of Indian Rocks Beach, told St. Petersburg police the aircraft lost power as he began his climb with the banner.

The aircraft is owned by Aerial Banners, Inc. of Pembroke Pines.

Banners can be as high as 4 stories and as long as a truck. The added weight can cause havoc with a plane. Three banner towing planes have crashed in Florida in the last 5 months.

Two weeks ago Aerial Banners, Inc. lost another aircraft when the pilot ditched his yellow plane into a lake in northeast Miami-Dade. The pilot escaped unharmed.

Aerial Banners Inc., denied it has lost two planes this month.

The aircraft which went down in Miami-Dade had the same telephone number on its side as the number on Aerial Banners, Inc.'s website.

According to F.A.A. documents, the Cessna that crashed on Sunday was leased by Advertising Air Force and owned by Aerial Banners.

In October, another banner towing plane, from a different company, lost power and crashed into a truck and a tailgating party on the University of Florida campus, just prior to the UF-Arkansas football game. Two people were slightly injured in that crash.

A check of the Federal Aviation Administration database shows four other accident or incident reports for Aerial Banners, Inc. since 2009, including a 2011 precautionary landing on a North Miami Beach golf course.

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