Gotcha! You looked. Banner flying can't go unnoticed.

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Since the 1920's the distinct sound of prop engines has been the hook to catching the eye of unsuspecting viewers of airborne advertising.  "Think about it. When was the last time you saw an airplane pulling a banner that you didn't read it to see what it was advertising, rather you were interested or not," Brian Crews, owner of Eagle Aerial Resources reminded listeners gathered at the A.L Mangham Regional Airport where the new business is based.

Lucky for Brian Crews, Kindle Crews was interested. That's how he proposed to her. She's now the force behind the wind in Eagle Aerial Resources. "You take off down the runway, just like normal," Kindle explained.  "And then he'll (the pilot) come over here to the poles and he'll snag the rope with a hook that's hanging from the airplane and then the banner will pick up. He's got a 350 foot rope. And then he'll take off."

Pilot Dave Fleckenstein makes it all happen. "The best pilot with the ugliest airplane that you'll ever lie eyes on," Brian quipped. The quiet spoken pilot takes up for the 1966 calair converted crop duster. "It flies slow. It's easy to fly. It's easy to maintain. They're inexpensive, comparatively speaking and it's very rugged," Fleckenstein explained while buckling in the open air pilot's seat.

Tough enough to pull a wordy message of seven foot lettering made from parachute rip stock nylon.  "The maximum banner we can pull with that airplane is 50 letters. That makes that banner about 240 feet long," Brian explained. "We normally like to keep it to about 32 letters. It takes us about 3 1/2 hours to assemble the message."

Since 9/11 some restrictions have been placed on banner flying. In open air venues with crowds of more than 50,000, pilots can't get any closer than a mile and a half away. They can fly only 30 minutes before or after the event.

Today local businesses got some air time in exchange for water and chicken fingers at the Crews' ribbon cutting, but Brian, an ex-Marine, offers free public service banners for returning soldiers. "For one hour we will pull a banner that says, ' Welcome Home ' and the service man's name, and fly it around their hometown," Brian said.

The advertising comes with a price. For about an hours worth of advertising you can expect to pay about $350.

And when the commercial is over Dave drops everything and flies home. As easy as he snagged the banner, he lets it go. In what appears as slow motion, the banner drifts to the ground from where it started.

Eagle Aerial Resources can be contacted at (936) 366-3013.

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