Posts Tagged Wilga

Guest Blog: A Pilot’s View on Banner-Towing

Another guest blog from retired pilot Rudy Jakma. This on the topic of banner towing – where light-aircraft trail a banner behind them, to be read by people on the ground. Rudy has extensive experience of banner-towing, particularly from the earlier parts of his career, with around 4000 hours logged, and around 1000 banner pick-ups. His experience even pre-dates his flying career, as he worked as a 16-year old at a local aerodrome, helping to prepare banners to be picked up.

Last week, during the election campaign in the UK, a light aircraft crashed injuring the pilot and his passenger. It had been involved in a banner-towing flight on behalf of a political party, and the passenger, Nigel Farage, was an official of that party and standing as a candidate.

On Sky News, an “expert” proclaimed that towing a banner would have put the aircraft under abnormally high stress, increased by the weight of the passenger and that this would have meant that the flight (which sounded as if he meant the entire flight) was more hazardous due to the presence of the banner. Where do they get these experts from?

From the TV footage of the wreckage I identify the aircraft as a Polish-built Wilga. This is a purpose-built utility aircraft. Towing objects, be they banners or gliders, is well within its structural capability.

All aircraft used for towing must be approved according to manufacturers’s recommendation and are fitted with quick-release tow hooks. The aviation authorities will follow manufacturers’ guidelines and may impose further limitations before they approve a certain aircraft type for towing operations. This ensures that towing an object will never allow stresses to be imposed on the structure that could compromise the structure in any way, be it due to deformation, stress or metal fatigue. The limitations will be published in the aircraft operating manuals and, if deemed necessary, also posted on placards in the cockpit.

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