Primer on banner towing

This doc was made in reply to a thread on RonPaulForums about a couple of supporter pilots that wanted to get into banner towing. It contains quite a bit of information that is useful if you are thinking about hiring a banner towing operator or getting a flying billboard made.

Banner towing requires:

a short training course or familiarity with the procedures and some flight time / practice with someone already doing it.

a FAA waiver - that's a bit of paperwork and showing an FAA inspector that you know how to pick up and drop banners, emergency procedures, etc.

modifications to the aircraft - specifically a tow hook and release device. If the aircraft is already outfitted to tow gliders, you have most of the equipment needed to tow banners.

It's kind of a pain, but not that hard to get setup and qualified.

The FAA document: “Information for Banner Tow Operators” FAA/FS-I-8700-1 should be consulted for information on procedures, equipment and the waiver process.

banners come in 3 varieties:

Letter banners – these are generally 5' or 7' tall letters in a single line. Equipment to tow a single message per flight costs about $1,200, which is what some banner tow operators will charge for one or two flights. If you have pilots willing to tow for free or cost, it would be well worth investing in this. Equipment to tow multiple banners (pick up, tow, drop, pickup, etc.) will typically run around $6,000. Used equipment is available for somewhat less.

here is an excellent writeup about the letters and banner for this type:

Towed Billboards – These are much larger, can be multi-line and contain graphics. Not all aircraft can tow them due to increased drag. One company that is in the business of towing, charges the following rates to make Flying Billboards (up to 30' x 100'):

hand painted - $1.75 per square foot
computer generated - $2.75 per square foot

Keep in mind that prices vary a lot! So shop around. Here is a place that charges $2.00 per square foot:

which could be lower or higher than the first listing, depending. They also charge $400 an hour to tow, which is a lot less than some places.

here's a series of pics of the pickup and drop:

One of the Meetups got a 20' x 40' aerial billboard made and including the flight, this cost $2,500.

Sky Signs – These fly at night and are the scrolling LED lights that are so impressive to watch. The display is 8' x 36'. There is only one manufacturer/supplier and it costs $20,000 to get set up with one. Once modified, that aircraft will never again be able to fly faster than 80 mph, unless the equipment is removed. These can also be attached to helicopters, blimps and hot air balloons. There are currently 200 sky sign operators in the USA and a total of 400 worldwide. The helicopter and hot air balloon versions are modular and can be removed. There is also a smaller and less expensive version for smaller aircraft.

Rates for displaying a skysign message vary, but $600 - $1,200 for a whole flight is typical. You can also get “spots” for $100 - $150. A spot is 10 repetitions of your message. Other people will be advertising during the same flight.

Some types of banners can also be flown on or below hot air balloons, behind some types of ultra-lite aircraft and deployed/towed by parachute jumpers (must have a PRO rating! - this is not for amateurs!!).

Generally, banner towing aircraft are older, as they must be able to fly low and slow, while most newer aircraft are built for speed. Pilots with less than 2-300 hours of logged flight time should not attempt banner towing. There are a number of schools that teach banner towing, this one is 7-10 days:

the page lists the various FAA stuff you need to go through. There are shorter classes, and people have gotten certified without going through a class.

Here's another one that is 3-4 days:

Something else to keep in mind is TFR's or Temporary Flight Restrictions. They are put in place for a number of reasons, but basically you can't fly over any event that has a seating capability of over 30,000 people unless you are above 3,000' or 3 miles away. That basically turns your banner into fine print. Banners are normally flown at 1,000' and best viewed at a 45 degree angle. If you run into a TFR, it's best to tow your banner 30 minutes AFTER the event lets out along the area highways, which will be a major traffic jam.

Some areas have permanent flight restrictions, including military bases and ALL Disney facilities! If Bush is in the area, you have to stay 10 miles away.

These have everything to do with protecting (monopolizing) profit and nothing to do with public safety. To learn more about this nonsense, check out:

NOTAM/TFR info can be found here:

Equipment: There are a number of places that sell banner towing equipment. The oldest and best known company is: Artcraft Aerial Banner Mfg, LLC, formerly Gasser Banners. Their web site is at:

Their FAQ page briefly discusses FAA regs, cost to get started in the business, how banners are launched, how fast to tow (55-65mph) and how large Billboard type banners can be:

here is another supplier that has pics of the equipment:

If you are covering costs for a supporter who is flying at cost, keep in mind that aviation fuel is selling for $5 a gallon and a typical single engine plane doing banner towing will drink 8-11 gallons an hour, so about $50 an hour in fuel. If they are coming in from out of town, hanger space is typically $30 - $50 a night (though it's $160 a night in Chicago!!!) and you need to provide food, lodging and ground transport for the pilot and ground crew as well as fuel to get there and back home.

As an aside, if you are a Ron Paul supporter and a pilot, banner certified or not, have a hot air balloon, parachute, ultra-lite, etc. I'd like to talk to you. I'm working on something...

hope that helped!

tangent4ronpaul AT yahoo DOT com

Thanks for forwarding. Here is further info. Get bids from local companies for best price.

High Exposure frequently flies in KC area and quoted $1400 for letter banner & 1 hr fly time
Mark Strick of MARK’S FLYING SERVICE in Springfield, Missouri quoted $650 for letter banner & 1 hr fly time.
Jeff Leone - 772-233-3688 / (large flying billboard - approx. $1,200)

The companies make the sign and tow it. Negotiation Point: If you plan 2 or more fly dates, ask for a discount. The company stores the banner or billboard at their facility for the second flight.

Current FAA regulations require that the aerial banner tow be completed 1 hour prior to the start of a stadium game.

Deb Wells