I live just near the finals for our local airport. Today while in the backyard I saw a Cessna fly overhead for landing, it was a tricycle gear and looked like a 150/152, but may have been a 172. There was a long pole that appeared to be coming out of the tail, although there is a small chance it could have been from the wing on the other side of the aircraft from me. It wasn't very wide in diameter (I couldn't tell even an estimate), was maybe around two-thirds of the length of the aircraft, was painted the same white as the aircraft and capped at the end by a black piece that appeared to be hemispherical.

Does anybody know what this pole could be?

  • $\begingroup$ You didn't happen to take a picture, did you? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ Could it be a runway calibrator aircraft? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 11:17
  • $\begingroup$ Are you certain it wasn't a 205/206/207 or a Caravan? $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 2:42
  • $\begingroup$ No sorry, I did not take a picture as he did not make another circuit. It looked like a 150 or 172 to me, but could have been a 200. I am certain it was not a Caravan, much smaller. $\endgroup$
    – Woodman
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ Backlink to a related newer question, but with photo aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/82481/… $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 21:55

1 Answer 1


What you describe does not match any banner tow rig I am familiar with, and I have towed banners.

What it sounds like is a magnetometer, which might be on a survey aircraft. They can be on a boom (stinger) or sometimes towed. I have seen them on Cessna 182, 210 and 208 aircraft, as tail mounted booms.

Magnetometers are typically used for geophysical survey work. Towed magnetometers may be more sensitive and might be useful for detecting submarines, mines, etc. The P-3 typically has a rear boom with a magnetometer or magnetic anomaly detector (MAD).

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ image of one: lakecentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/8-IMG_0483-TDH.jpg (obviously not mine, taken from lakecentral.com/product_sec/c185-survey-tail-boom) $\endgroup$
    – Baldrickk
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Baldrickk, yup. Most are skinnier tubes, but obviously not all. Some also articulate, to provide additional tail clearance. The geophysical guys do allot of grass and dirt strips, and sometimes high DENALT conditions, so the takeoff attitude may be a bit nose high. Then the boom is lowered in flight, usually with an electric winch inside the plane. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 16:20

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