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Mon, May 29, 2023

Second Florida PA-25-235 Banner Plane Accident Reported

Two Pawnees Lost in Eight Days

On Wednesday, 17 May 2023, a Piper PA-25-235 Pawnee—an aircraft widely utilized in agricultural application operations—went down in Florida’s Broward County, coming to ground in close proximity to Hollywood, Florida’s Memorial Regional Hospital. The aircraft’s pilot and sole-occupant, 28-year-old Mitchell Knaus, was killed in the mishap.

Mr. Knaus was employed by the aircraft’s owner, Aerial Banners, a well-established aerial advertising concern with locations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg, Florida; New Jersey; New York City; Los Angeles, California; Houston and Dallas, Texas; and Atlanta, Georgia.

On Thursday, 25 May 2023, a second banner-towing Piper PA-25-235 Pawnee owned and operated by Aerial Banners went down in Broward County shortly after departing Pembroke Pines’ North Perry Airport (HWO).

Responding HWO airport security and Pembroke Pines Fire & Rescue personnel rendered assistance to the pilot, who suffered significant injuries and was transported to the aforementioned Memorial Regional Hospital.

The pilot’s survival is likely attributable, in part, to the fact the aircraft impacted the ground in an upright, wings-level attitude and remained so.

Aerial Banners owner Bob Benyo stated: "Thoughts and prayers for the pilot, he’s in the hospital, he’s expected to make a full recovery, so he’s in our prayers.”

Mr. Benyo added: "It’s horrifying, especially after last week’s event—absolutely horrifying."

Mr. Benyo set forth the pilot involved in the 25 May accident had logged more than one-thousand-hours in the PA-25-235.

The cause of the accident, which occurred just after 12:00 EDT, remains unclear. The pilot, whose name remains undisclosed, was reportedly conducting a training exercise prior to the aircraft’s descent and subsequent impact with the ground.

The Pawnee’s wreckage has been removed from the airfield’s operational surfaces and secured pending the arrival of NTSB investigators.

Mr. Benyo averred Aerial Banners, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Federal Aviation Administration are making ready to investigate the accident, stating: "I’m working with the investigators, as I’ve always have in the past. They will determine what happened, what was the probable cause. The preliminary report will be out in another week or so, and the final, as you know, takes about a year to get."

In the aftermath of the 17 May accident, an NTSB spokesperson reported the late Mr. Knaus had amassed only 325 hours of total flight time and less than twenty-hours in the PA-25-235.

Senior NTSB investigator Brian Rayner added: "I know he [Knaus] was a recent hire with this company. He had gotten extensive ground training and classroom training. He had a total of 13 to 15 hours of actual flight experience in this make and model airplane."

In the moments prior to the 17 May mishap—which occurred at approximately 12:35 PDT—an air traffic controller made the following radio transmission: "Banner Zero Alpha Bravo, everything okay? You’re descending rapidly.”

Terminating the transmission, the controller addressed his coworkers, stating: “Everybody, full staff, I have an aircraft in distress.”

Speaking to the subject of local air traffic controllers, NTSB investigator Rayner set forth: “They were speaking back and forth and the controller had some concerns about the pilot’s altitude and he reassured the controller that he was going to continue the flight and then the conversation changed somewhat later in the flight.”

Notwithstanding the Pawnee’s coming to ground on a public street in the vicinity of a busy intersection, no ground injuries were reported.

Rayner remarked: “It’s fortuitous. It’s a tragedy whenever you have a fatality but the fact that we have no ground injuries is heartening because sometimes we don’t fare as well.”

The NTSB has thus far disclosed the 17 May accident aircraft departed Florida’s North Perry Airport (HWO) towing a sizable banner advertising Aerial Banners' services.

Between 2014 and 2019, Aerial Banners aircraft were reportedly involved in five incidents and accidents, including a 2019 instance in which one of the company’s pilots lost his life when the aircraft he was flying struck the side of a Fort Lauderdale-area condominium and plummeted 14-stories, coming to rest on a swimming pool deck.



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