Florida Banner Aircraft Attorneys

Podhurst Orseck attorneys have nearly a half-century of experience handling a variety of aviation litigation matters, including banner aircraft accidents. We routinely work with industry professionals and expert witnesses to investigate these types of accidents.

Banner Aircraft Accidents

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has conducted investigations of banner towing aircraft accidents and determined that a majority of banner towing accidents are associated with one or more of the following circumstances:

  1. the banner pickup maneuver;
  2. entanglement or twisting of towlines, or;
  3. loss of aircraft engine power.

The other primary source of litigation concerning this activity arises with restrictive ordinances and the right of a pilot or company to fly banners.

Banner towing operations are generally prohibited under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 91.311, unless the FAA has granted the operator a certificate of waiver under a FAA Form 7711-2 (Application for Certificate of Waiver or Authorization).  Pilots engaged in banner towing are required to follow all normal aircraft operation and altitude rules when flying in compliance with the waiver, including all rules governing the class of airspace that the aircraft is present in.  Due to restrictions in place since the attacks of September 11, 2001, aircraft are expressly prohibited from flying “across” a stadium.  Today they are required to remain outside the stadium boundary.  Additionally they must comply with any restrictions contained in notices to airmen (NOTAMs) posted by the FAA regarding a particular event.

Before operating an aircraft under the terms of a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization, the authorization holder is responsible for providing all necessary ground and flight training to his pilots.  Each pilot must receive a specialized check ride focusing on banner pickups, slow flight caused by the extreme drag of the banner, and a comprehensive ground school review of the general operations regulations.

Arguments Supporting Banner Towing

The dispensation of a waiver is a privilege.  In addition to federal regulations, state and local ordinances can further restrict the operation of banner towing aircraft, in many cases prohibiting any flight.   Banner tow operators have attempted to argue around these restrictions in a number of ways.  Two of the most popular arguments are preemption of law and freedom of speech.

Federal courts have visited challenges to a waiver revocation or initial denial by upholding the FAA’s discretionary authority in this area. Specifically, courts have relied on the text of 49 U.S.C. § 44701(f), which provides that the Administrator may grant an exemption from air safety regulations, “If the Administrator finds the exemption is in the public interest.”  Likewise, 14 C.F.R. § 91.903(a) provides that the Administrator may issue a waiver of certain safety rules, “if the Administrator finds that the proposed operation can be safely conducted under the terms of the certificate of waiver.”  Lastly, FAA Order 7210.3U, chapter 18 provides for the discretionary issuance and cancellation of certificates of waiver.