HOLLYWOOD – Officials Thursday identified the pilot of the banner plane that crashed near a Hollywood mall on Wednesday afternoon as Mitchell Knaus, 28. His friends knew him as Mitch.
Concerns about the flying altitude of a banner aircraft were discussed between the Knaus and air traffic control shortly before the crash that killed Knaus.
During an on-site press conference, Brian Rayner, Senior Air Safety Investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the aircraft was a Piper Pawnee PA25-235 operated by air banner.
He said the plane left North Perry Airport around 12:30 p.m. and was headed for the coast. During the flight, the pilot held a conversation with air traffic control.
“They chatted back and forth, the air traffic controller had concerns about the pilot’s altitude and reassured the air traffic controller that he would continue the flight. And then I think the conversation changed a little later in flight,” Rayner said.
NTSB investigators said they were gathering as much evidence as possible to determine what led to the crash.
Rayner said much of the flight was captured by cameras on buildings, cell phones and a television station’s helicopter.
“The FAA Flight Standards Office dispatched a team of inspectors who did much of the on-site work for me yesterday. We are influencing the salvage of the wreck and will take it to an aircraft salvage facility where we will proceed.” “A closer examination of the wreck. We’ll go to the power station tomorrow,” he said.
According to Raner, the investigation will examine three aspects: the pilot, the machine and the environment.
As for the pilot, Rayner said he will focus on his training and flying experience.
“According to company records, he had approximately 325 total hours flown, had just been hired, had only been with the company two weeks and had an estimated 13 to 15 hours total flying experience on this make and model aircraft,” he said.
Knaus’ roommate Daniel Corti passed the scene of the accident. He said Mitch moved here from California less than two months ago to take the job as a banner pilot. He described him as “truly a great man with plans for his future. Good values, helpful, really nice and pleasant person,” Corti said.
Rayner said as for the plane, they would go through the wreckage and the plane’s maintenance records.
The environment takes into account the weather conditions and air traffic environment, including discussions with air traffic control.
Video showed the plane swaying up and down before crashing.
Rhonda Martinez said she saw the plane before the crash and knew it was in trouble.
“I saw the plane flying low to the left and I saw the yellow plane with a banner and it seemed like it was losing altitude because it was flying in a down position and that seemed awfully low for a flying plane,” he said she . “Honestly, my dad was in pilot school once and I know the plane that was flying was in trouble.”
Rayner commended the Hollywood police and fire department for their quick response and efforts to secure evidence for the investigation. He said he was also grateful no one was hurt on the ground.
The NTSB is looking for witness videos. Anyone who has any can mail it in email@example.com. They are specifically looking for a video where you can hear the sounds of the engine to help clarify this tragedy.