Airplane Descended Toward The Banner But Missed The Haul Line

Location: Middle Twp, NJ Accident Number: ERA22FA315
Date & Time: July 16, 2022, 09:35 Local Registration: N3703M
Aircraft: Piper PA-12 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Banner tow

On July 16, 2022, about 0935 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-12, N3703M, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Middle Twp., New Jersey. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 banner-tow flight.

According to the operator, who witnessed the accident, the pilot was hired in late May 2022. The airplane was completely fueled prior to the accident flight. On the accident flight, the pilot departed runway 32 and flew a left traffic pattern to pick up the banner at the approach end of runway 14, which was normal procedure. The airplane descended toward the banner but missed the haul line during the pickup attempt. The airplane then climbed nose-high and stalled, spinning right and impacting the runway. Engine noise was consistent throughout the accident sequence.

The wreckage came to rest nose-down, oriented about a 320° magnetic heading, and no debris path was observed. The wreckage remained intact. Both wings exhibited leading edge damage and buckling with the left wing exhibiting more damage than the right. The ailerons remained attached to their respective wing. The empennage remained intact and canted right. Flight control continuity was confirmed from all flight control surfaces to the cockpit. Measurement of the horizontal stabilizer trim jackscrew corresponded to a mid-range position between neutral and full nose-up. The cockpit area was crushed, but the pilot’s 4-pt harness remained latched and was cut by rescue personnel.

The engine remained attached to the airframe with both propeller blades attached to the hub. One propeller blade was undamaged while the other exhibited s-bending and leading-edge gouging. The top spark plugs were removed from the engine. Their electrodes were intact and gray in color, except for the No. 4 spark plug, which was oil soaked. The rocker covers were removed, and oil was observed throughout the engine. Both magnetos were removed from the engine and sparked at all leads when rotated manually. When the propeller was rotated manually, crankshaft, camshaft, and valve train continuity were confirmed.