It was only day one of my trip to Gulf Shores and I had already flown more than I normally do in an entire month. Upon arrival at Jack Edwards Airport (KJKA), Haley Howard took my up on a few banner runs in “Shrimp Force 2,” the Shrimp Basket’s American Scout (N424A). Haley, at only 20 years old, has about 1,400 flight hours and her CFI – that’s how I was able to log all of the time in the tailwheel aircraft (which I wasn’t endorsed for yet). To read more about Haley, click here.


Below is a highlight video from banner towing with Haley:

Shrimp Force 2 is an extremely nice banner tow aircraft. Built in 2012, N424A is brand new aircraft and already has about 1,000 flight hours (from all of that banner towing Haley does!). It’s equipped with a Garmin touchscreen display, complete with weather, charts, and even XM Radio. Haley likes to plug her phone into the AUX jack of the plane so she can fly along to music from her iPhone – that’s not a bad deal!

Aircraft equipped for banner towing operations have a banner release system above the tailwheel. Before picking up a banner, a rope is rigged between that release system and the cockpit window of the aircraft. Masking tape holds the rope in place at various locations on the airframe – This tape breaks off as the heavy hook (which is used to snag the banner) is thrown from the cockpit window.

Essentially, these ropes are rigged with tape to keep them from dangling off the aircraft as it takes off; once the pilot is ready to catch the banner, the hook is thrown out of the window, the tape breaks, and the line with the attached hook trails the aircraft through pickup.

Two stands hold the banner rope about 7 feet off the ground. As the aircraft flies in to snag the banner, the trailing hook connects with this rope and the pilot quickly ascends to yank the banner from the ground.  This setup is shown below:

There are two methods for hooking a banner:

1.) A low, dragging approach: The pilot stays low and drags the hook towards the pickup stands; as the hook connects, the pilot pitches up to pull the banner from the ground.

2.) A steep descent and ascent: (Haley prefers this method): The pilot flies a hundred feet off the ground with low power and speed. Once over the pickup point, the pilot pitches down, aiming towards the banner stands. As the plane crosses the stands, the pilot pitches up to swing in the hook for a catch. (as seen in the video below)

This video shows a banner pickup run with Haley:


Each banner has a preset route and amount of air time, according to publicity needed and restaurant locations. Haley’s banners normally include the Shrimp Basket, the Steamer, and Mikees Restaurants. A basic route outline from one of our tows is shown below:

The banner only reads from one side (facing the left of the aircraft). Thus, you fly over the beach to your left (so people can read the banner) and later fly over the road/hotel side, all in a rectangular type of pattern. On the beach side, we flew at an average of about 45 mph at 500 feet above the water. On the road side, we flew no more than 65 mph at a slightly higher 1,000 feet. (Speeds above 70 mph flap the banner around quickly, wearing it out at a much greater pace)

Towing a banner down the beach at a slow airspeed of 40 mph really works out your stick and rudder skills – it’s great practice! Below are some photos from the banner tows:

To drop off the banner, a similar method to pickup is used, with the aircraft descending over the banner stands, pitching up, and releasing the banner over the field. A video example is shown below:

After dropping off the banner, we flew over to Perdido Winds Airpark (AL08), a private grass airfield owned by a friend of Haley and Rod. Of course, with Rod flying the Carbon Cub, we had to do a little formation flying!:

Thanks, Haley, for showing me what banner towing is all about!
-Swayne Martin
Twitter: @MartinsAviation

Shrimp Force Two In The Sunset

Shrimp Force Two In The Sunset

About The Author

If you want to become a pilot, I want to make your journey just a little easier. I'm a First Officer for Envoy Air, one of the largest regional airlines in the world, and have partnered with industry leaders like the U.S. Air Force to teach about various aviation careers. For a full bio, click the "About" tab above. Use the "Contact" tab to shoot me a message.

2 Responses

  1. Briggs Christie

    That looks like a special type of fun. Gives you a hint of old school barnstorming. However, I have a question:

    How is it that you seem to do all of your flying with young, attractive women?



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