They're a staple of the spring break season. Banner planes can be seen one after the other flying across Bay County's beaches.
During a flight Monday afternoon, something went terribly wrong. A yellow aircraft crashed into the woods on Vinson Road off Highway 79 west of Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. The plane's wings were a mangled mess. Miraculously the pilot, James Land, 60 years old, managed to walk away with only minor injuries. Paramedics took him to Bay Medical Center where doctors released him later that day.
Land told emergency officials his plane's engine lost power. Whether pilot error played a role will ultimately be up to the Federal Aviation Administration. While that investigation got underway Monday, NewsChannel 7 found out the type of training banner pilots go through.
The company "Aerial Banners Incorporated" owned the aircraft that crashed. On its website, it said it offers a complete F.A.A. approved program. Taking 7-10 days to complete, Aerial Banners said its pilots participate in up to 50 hours of ground work, flight instruction, and an F.A.A. observation flight.
NewsChannel 7 called Aerial Banners several times Monday. Whoever answered refused to answer any questions, only to say the company planned to conduct its own investigation into the accident.