Most of us have been at a large gathering somewhere, a sports event or a beach, and have seen an airplane fly by pulling an announcement or an advertisement of some type. This is called airplane advertising and this method of getting a message out has proven to be very effective.
Have you ever wondered how they get such a huge banner into the sky? After all, if the banner were attached to the plane before it took off, two problems would result. First, the banner would be dragged across the runway, damaging it. Second, The drag of the banner would make the take off either impossible or more difficult, making the drag time even longer.
It takes a plan, good quality materials, and a skillful pilot to make this happen. First, the airplane takes off without the aerial banner, but with a device called a “grapnel hook.” This is attached to the tail of the plane but the hook end is hanging in the pilot’s window.
Once the airplane is airborne, the pilot releases the hook from his window and lets it fall. The hook falls below the plane and is ready for the next part. Meanwhile, on the ground the banner is folded up, but it has a lead pole attached to the front. A harness is attached to that and a pick up rope to that. Finally a loop of rope connected to the lead rope is draped between two poles about five or six feet off the ground.
Next the plane flies over the open area where the loop of the airplane sign is visible. As he passes low over the area, the hook dragging below the plane is designed to catch the loop, pulling the lead rope and then the banner into the air. The moment he reaches the pick up area, he pulls back on the stick and throttles the engine, making the plane soar upward at a steep angle. The hook snags the loop of rope, and pulls the banner up into the sky. If for some reason his hook misses, then he circles around and tries again.
But how does the banner stay upright and not, like a kite, spiraling in the wind? First, the tail end of heavy billboards or banners has tiny parachutes that catch the wind and keep it straight. Then the bottom has weights that keep that edge closest to the ground. The letters are usually seven feet tall and the banner might be up to fifty letters long. So everything must be planned just right so that the drag is not too great or too little.
When the pilot has completed his mission over the designated area, he will fly the banner back to the drop off place, fly low again, and, release the hook so the banner falls to the ground unharmed. This way it is reusable if that is appropriate.
Some larger planes have developed a method of taking off with the banner behind, being careful not to damage it before it is airborne. But the small prop planes are still using the above method to get the banner into the air safely.
All this may seem like a lot of trouble, but the result is worth the effort. Thousands will see the banner, both at the event and on the way to and from it. The message will get out and people will be influenced by the message. But not all aerial advertising companies are alike. Some simply take an order and contract it out. Since 1996, AirSign has been leading the industry by taking personal care of their customers using the best pilots, sharpest looking planes, and providing accountability for their work through free GPS tracking. Give them a call and find out what they can do for you!