‘I’m not climbing.’ New report sheds light on Hollywood plane crash that killed pilot

A recently released investigative report revealed new details surrounding the fatal and fiery banner plane crash in Hollywood last week.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report on the May 17 crash that killed 28-year-old pilot Mitchell Knaus on a Friday afternoon. Bystanders called him a hero as they say he tried to divert the plane from crashing into nearby buildings and instead landing in the street at 450 N. Park Road.

“Whoever it was truly was a hero and went out of their way to not hurt anybody else,” Karen Schiff, a physical therapist at Memorial Regional Hospital Fitness and Rehabilitation Center near the crash, told the Miami Herald at the time.

Knaus was flying a single-engine Piper PA-25-235, owned by Aerial Banners Inc. Another of the company’s planes crashed at North Perry Airport on Thursday. The pilot was trapped but didn’t sustain significant injuries.

Knaus’ plane was manufactured in 1966 and logged a total of 6,326 aircraft hours, the report revealed. It recently underwent an inspection on April 4, the results of which were not detailed in the report.

NTSB investigators examined the accident site and plane, some of which was consumed in flames and could not be tested. The report detailed multiple portions of the aircraft worked normally or as intended.

However, the plane’s propeller and crankshaft flange had signs of torsional overload.

More specifics on Knaus’ flight history were also included in the report. He had a commercial pilot certificate that allowed him to fly single-engine, multi-engine and instrument planes. He had 324 hours of flight experience, 15 of which were in the type of plane he crashed in.

He was hired by Aerial Banners Inc. five weeks before the accident, the report read. The company training process puts new-hires through 40 to 80 hours of classroom, ground and flight training. Records show Knaus completed several written and practical examinations.

‘Everything OK? You are descending rapidly.’

On May 17, Knaus was scheduled to fly a banner for about an hour and a half along Fort Lauderdale beach, the report read.

He took off around 12:25 p.m. from North Perry Airport and picked up the banner shortly after. Shortly after an airport tower controller ask Knaus if he was “OK” because the airplane was not climbing, the report read.

“Banner 430AB [Knaus callsign], everything OK? You are descending rapidly,” the controller said.

“I’m trying to uh ... keep climbing,” Knaus replied.

Knaus’ director of ground operations, who supervised the beginning portion of the flight, said the plane had a “high nose-up pitch attitude” that was more than needed and preventing it from climbing.

About two minutes later, he told the controller he was good and starting to climb again before he frequency changed to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport tower controller.

The NTSB said he did not tell the new controller there was an emergency or any concerns.

Later in the flight, Knaus radioed to the controller that he “might have to drop this banner. I’m not climbing.”

The controller asked if he would like to return to North Perry Airport, which Knaus replied, “I’m at 400 [feet]. I gotta drop this banner over a lake. ... I’m going to be over these oil tanks with like a lake next to it.”

That was the last thing Knaus communicated.

Videos showed the final seconds of the flight when the banner was released and the plane rolled, descended vertically, rolled again and then entered a steep spiraled descent, the report said.