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Mon, May 22, 2023

Pilot Killed in Florida Banner-Towing Mishap Identified

No Ground Injuries Reported in 17 May Accident

On Wednesday, 17 May 2023, a Piper PA-25-235 Pawnee—an aircraft widely utilized in agricultural application operations—went down in Hollywood, Florida, coming to ground in close proximity to a Target retail store and Memorial Regional Hospital.

A recording of a citizen’s 911 call set forth: "Hi. I'm on North Park Road, right in front of Target, and it looks like a small airplane just crashed in the road. It's on fire; yes, it exploded." The female caller added: “I heard a loud boom and it immediately engulfed in flames. So I would say that whoever was in it did not likely get out.”

Hollywood police identified the aircraft’s pilot and sole-occupant as 28-year-old Mitchell Knaus, a friend of whom informed a South Florida news outlet that Knaus had “been a commercial pilot for some time.”

Daniel Corti, with whom Knaus resided, reported the young pilot had relocated from California to South Florida only six-weeks prior to the accident.

Mr. Corti further stated: "The morning of the accident, we went jogging together in the park close by the house and then we just [said] goodbye, see you later tomorrow or tonight, and then the accident happened.”

The accident aircraft, according to Federal Aviation Administration officials, belonged to Aerial Banners, a well-established aerial advertising concern with locations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, New Jersey, New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta.

NTSB investigators arrived at the accident-scene on Thursday 18 May and commenced relocating the aircraft’s wreckage to a secure site.

An NTSB spokesman subsequently reported 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 stated: "I know he 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 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, Mr. 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 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.

FMI: www.aerialbanners.com

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