Friday, March 25, 2016

Family of pilot killed in plane crash files lawsuit: Piper PA-25-260 Pawnee, Aerial Banners, Inc., N254AB, fatal accident occurred August 31, 2014 in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida

In a statement released, Thomasson's family described him as a family man with a passion for flying. 


ST. PETERSBURG — The family of a commercial pilot who was killed in a 2014 plane crash while taking off from Albert Whitted Airport is suing the company that hired him as well as the air traffic control company that gave him clearance to take off.

The lawsuit, filed in Pinellas Circuit Court, alleges that Donald Thomasson died as a direct result of a "dangerous pick and go" maneuver that is commonplace for the company, Advertising Air Force, Inc., which hired him.

Also named as defendants are Ariel Banners, which does business with Advertising Air Force; the man who trained Thomasson on behalf of Advertising Air Force; and Orlando-based Robinson Aviation Inc., the flight controller that cleared Thomasson to take off.

The suit states that the National Transportation Safety Board found the crash occurred as a direct result of the "pick and go" maneuver.

A "pick and go" maneuver involves the pilot using a grappling hook to catch the end of a banner advertisement, which then trails behind the plane.

On Aug. 31, 2014, Thomasson's Piper PA-23 splashed into the water about 75 yards south of the airport's seawall as the plane lifted off. Thomasson was 68 and had four children.

The company's planes have been involved in at least five crashes involving banner towing in which the planes took off from Albert Whitted since 1989. Thomasson was the first fatality.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs could not be reached for comment, nor could the defendants.

Original article can be found here: http://www.tampabay.com




http://registry.faa.gov/N254AB

NTSB Identification: ERA14FA416
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, August 31, 2014 in St. Petersburg, FL
Aircraft: PIPER PA-25-260, registration: N254AB
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August 31, 2014, at 1455 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-25-260, N254AB, operated by Aerial Banners, Inc., was destroyed when with the pilot lost control and the airplane descended to water impact following a banner pick up at Albert Whitted Airport (SPG), St. Petersburg, Florida. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The banner-tow flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

According to the SPG tower controller, the airplane was cleared for takeoff from runway 7. As the airplane departed runway 7, the pilot made a sharp right turn to the intersecting runway. The airplane side stepped runway 18 to the left and picked up the banner. As the airplane pitched up to climb out, the pilot made a distress call before losing control and entering a downward spiral and colliding with the water.

According to a witness, they watched as the banner tow airplane picked up the banner. As they were attempting to read the banner, the airplane suddenly made a sharp bank to the left. The witness went on to say that the airplane was at a high angle of attack, stalled and went into a tight nose down spin towards the water.

The airplane impacted the water and sank in approximately 15 feet of water off of the departure end of runway 18.

Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office: FAA Miami FSDO-19  






Previous Accident:  August 12, 2010
http://dms.ntsb.gov/N254AB

http://www.ntsb.gov/N254AB

NTSB Identification: ERA10CA417 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, August 12, 2010 in St. Petersburg, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/11/2011
Aircraft: PIPER PA-25-260, registration: N254AB
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

According to the pilot, he departed with the airplane's fuel tank full (75 gallons) for the local banner towing flight. He flew for about 3 hours and 30 minutes and then initiated a return to the airport. During the return flight, at an altitude of approximately 1,000 feet, the airplane's engine lost power. Just prior to the power loss, while the airplane was in a climb, the pilot noted that the fuel gauge indicated 30 gallons of fuel remained. The pilot released the banner and performed a forced landing on a road.

A postaccident examination of the airplane by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed approximately 8-10 ounces of fuel remained in the single main fuel tank. The main fuel feed line at the bottom of the fuel tank fuel valve contained a few ounces of fuel. The fuel tank was filled with 30 gallons of fuel to test the accuracy of the fuel gauge, which read 33 gallons of fuel. The engine was test run on the airframe. It started and ran at full power with no anomalies noted. According to the airplane's Operating Handbook, the engine burns an average of 14-16 gallons of fuel per hour, at power settings likely used by the pilot. The fueler who fueled the airplane stated that he filled the airplane to a capacity of 68 gallons of fuel, which is what the pilot specifically requested. The examination revealed no evidence of a mechanical malfunction.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s improper fuel management, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.

According to the pilot, he departed with full fuel (75 gallons) in the airplane, for the local banner towing flight. He flew for about 3 hours and 30 minutes, and then initiated a return to the airport. During the return flight, at an altitude of approximately 1,000 feet, the airplane's engine lost power. Just prior to the power loss, while the airplane was in a climb, the pilot noted that the fuel gauge indicated 30 gallons of fuel remained. The pilot released the banner and performed a forced landing to a road. Examination of the airplane by a Federal Aviation (FAA) inspector revealed approximately 8-10 ounces of fuel in the single main fuel tank. The main fuel feed line at the bottom of the fuel tank fuel valve contained a "few ounces" of fuel. The fuel tank was filled with 30 gallons of fuel to test the accuracy of the fuel gauge, which read 33 gallons of fuel. The engine was test run on the airframe. It started and ran at full power with no anomalies noted. According to the Piper PA-25 Pilot Operating Handbook, the airplane's engine burned an average of 14-16 gallons of fuel per hour, at a power setting of 24 inches of manifold pressure and 2400 RPM. The fueler who fueled the airplane stated he filled the airplane to a capacity of 68 gallons of fuel, which is what the pilot specifically requested.


The pilot of the Piper PA-25-260 Pawnee, Aerial Banners, Inc., N254AB plane that made an emergency landing August 12, 2010 sits next to his aircraft on Tyrone Boulevard in St. Petersburg. 

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