The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the actions of the pilot who disrupted Oregon State University’s graduation ceremony on Saturday by circling Reser Stadium in a small plane towing a “Go Ducks!” banner.

Agency spokesman Allen Kenitzer declined to discuss any details of the probe, saying only that “the FAA is aware of this incident, and we are looking into it.”

While backers of the rival University of Oregon may have gotten a chuckle out of the stunt, fans of the OSU Beavers — especially the 25,000 or so new graduates and well-wishers attending the commencement exercises — were not amused.

The incident came in the midst of the keynote address by Ann Kiessling, a 1971 OSU grad who went on to become a leading biomedical researcher. Kiessling paused as the flyover sent a ripple of dismay through the crowd, then quickly recovered her poise, responding with a hearty “Go Beavs!” before resuming her talk while the plane continued to circle overhead.

“I think people were genuinely insulted, and actually embarrassed for people who support and root for the University of Oregon,” said OSU Vice President Steve Clark, a spokesman for the university.

“It wasn’t even the banner; it was flying over the stadium for five to seven minutes while people were celebrating and enjoying graduation,” Clark added. “It’s just unfortunate.”

The single-engine plane towing the banner did not appear to have any obvious markings, but it was quickly identified as belonging to Cascade Aero Banner, an Albany-based aerial advertising company owned by Pete Brawn.

An OSU alumnus himself, Brawn is a former Marine fighter pilot from Albany who left the service and started Cascade Aero after suffering severe injuries in a 2011 training accident that forced him to ditch his plane off the California coast.

He declined to be interviewed for this story, and so far he has not identified the person who hired him to fly the pro-Ducks banner over OSU’s graduation ceremony.

But his company’s Facebook page has been bombarded with comments — mostly negative, many openly hostile and some downright unprintable.

On Tuesday, however, Brawn posted a lengthy apology on the site, saying he showed bad judgment in accepting the job.

“We knew that the ‘Go Ducks !’ message would be controversial,” he wrote, “but we never imagined the depth of the offense our error in judgment has caused.”

That night he posted an addendum, announcing he would donate his $500 fee from “Saturday’s regrettable banner job” to Kiessling’s nonprofit scientific institute, the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation.

Oregon State also received an apology from University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson, who called to express his regrets for the incident, Clark said.

As for Brawn, Clark said OSU has no plans to pursue any sort of legal action against him.

“We’re frustrated,” Clark acknowledged, “but we realize you can’t legislate tasteful behavior.”

Meanwhile, the FAA investigation continues.

It doesn’t appear that Brawn violated any laws by circling the stadium. According to Corvallis Municipal Airport manager Dan Mason, stadium officials can ask the agency to issue airspace restrictions for specific events, something that’s a matter of course for Beaver football games but apparently wasn’t done in this case.

“As far as I know, no notice was put out about graduation,” Mason said. “Otherwise, (pilots) can fly down to 1,000 feet over the city.”

It’s possible, however, that Brawn might have committed a breach of FAA regulations by covering up or failing to display the aircraft identification number on his plane. The agency’s rules stipulate that all aircraft must clearly display a unique ID number, although that section does not specify the penalties for violations.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be contacted at 541-758-9529 or

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

(32) comments


It was funny and I thought a great stunt .... People are so uptight and if someone wants to fly a plane over graduation, then let's all enjoy the laugh...well done....Go Irish.


It was rude and disrespectful. Grow some manners.

captain america

I hope the graduates aren't permanently scarred by this. I guess after four or five years of listening to professor's drone on and on for hours they will be just fine. Good luck in life Beavers.


It was rude and disrespectful.


Oh brother. Pull up your man-pants, OSU. It's not a big deal. I'm an OSU alumnus and would've laughed if this happened at my graduation.


If it was your one and only kid graduating and you had flown in from far away and then couldn't hear the keynote speaker because of the sound of the plane overhead, you'd be upset. It has nothing to do with "man-pants" as "woman-pants" are probably more durable. That comment you made makes your opinion suspicious.


I would hope my one and only kid could go to a real school instead of a diploma mill.

bill gannon

"It’s possible, however, that Brawn might have committed a breach of FAA regulations by covering up or failing to display the aircraft identification number on his plane. The agency’s rules stipulate that all aircraft must clearly display a unique ID number, although that section does not specify the penalties for violations"

Why doesn't the FAA do something about all these black helicopters flying around? Whats fair for the masses is fair for the government, as well..


The name is re4gistered to 745 Buchannon in Corvallis. To many a graduation is a solemn event. And respect should be shown to the visiting invited speaker. Mr. Brawn would probably desire similar respect for a wedding or memorial service in his family. Did he really have a client? Who? Registration numbers are very important especially with large gatherings following 9-11.


As for it being "not a big deal" I disagree. Flying one time over the stadium with the banner might be considered funny, but circling for 5 to 7 minutes is just plain rude. It would potentially drown out the commencement speaker, or at the very least distract from her words. That person traveled a long way to speak to the graduates. Also for the graduates - that is not an every day occurrence. To miss 5 to 7 minutes that cannot be repeated is a shame.

For you on this post saying "man up" and "put on your big boy pants" - what if it were your child and you couldn't hear his/her graduation? Would you think it's still ok?


Good grief OSU. Stop being the metaphor of a beaver.
You are SOOO upset about an airplane flying over your stadium but don't care that the US does 40 drone strikes a day on average and kills innocent civilians abroad. Your graduates now so stop acting like a bunch of sniffling 3 year olds. It is time to put on your big kid pants.

"and they(OU) wonders why we don't like them"
No. Nobody wonders why a bunch of uptight, nanceys hate OU.

IMO it was the only enjoyable part. That keynote speaker was bO~ring. Perhaps we all owe a bit of thanks to the pilot. He assuredly stopped me from cutting my wrist during that ceremony.


Nottobitter - I don't think anyone at Oregon State hates University of Oklahoma...that is what you meant when you typed "OU" multiple times? Because if you are speaking of the Beavers rivals, UofO or UO, you may want proof read before posting. PS Why the hate on female anatomy? Your mom delivered you from that part commonly referred to as the "beaver", so I guess that would make a beaver a pretty magical thing. And much tougher than most.


Wait - OSU is being "industrious" in all of this? Or "wet"? I for one, think the beaver is the perfect metaphor for a University with such a strong engineering program, not to mention water and ocean resources. Still trying to figure out Nottoobitter's point...

With best regards,

Will Overhead, '33
The Fishwrapper


I'd watch it with the hate speech slang if I were you Nottoobitter. Calling people out for what you perceive as their nancy ways is abusive speech. Graduation ceremonies are allowed some ceremonial fuss and celebration without the disgusting college sport fanatics ruining it for everybody again.


eat a phallic you homo.

Hate speech. lol. Abusive speech. lol. You sound like every socialist homo Iv ever met.

go get you "free" health care and vaccinations. I hear you can now become the opposite gender and become the first "lady-man" of the nation.


People really need to lighten up a bit.


If it were, say, a streaker running across stage with 'go ducks!' painted on their chest, that would be one thing. This was an unwanted extended distraction that interrupted the keynote.


Nottobitter - I don't think anyone at Oregon State hates University of Oklahoma...that is what you meant when you typed "OU" multiple times? Because if you are speaking of the Beavers rivals, UofO or UO, you may want proof read before posting.

PS Why the hate on female anatomy? Your mom delivered you from that part commonly referred to as the "beaver", so I guess that would make a beaver a pretty magical thing. And much tougher than most.


Sorry I don't keep up with collage names and abbreviation. In fact I couldn't give a f#ck less.

My mom had 3 C-sections. There is nothing magical about a sweaty c#nt.


Please. All these ducks acting like they wouldn't whine if it was the other way around. These are the same kids who CRY at football games when they loose. Infants.


It's a sad time that our country has come to this. 50 years ago if someone had done this do you think it would of made headlines? And if so, would it of been in the same light? Probably not. People knew how to laugh at something amusing. Why fun is life being so uptight? Who has the time to worry about such trivial things?
50 years ago the pilot flying would have likely been a WWll vet that had fought for the freedom he had to do such a thing. And if I'm not mistaken this pilot has served his country as well. When we loose the ability to laugh at such an event what hope do we have as a whole? I'm also curious who was trying to listen to the speech.. Every graduation I've been to sounds like whaaa wa wa wa waaahh. I doubt anyone missed they're only child's name being called as they received they're 10 seconds of glory amongst the hundreds of other people doing the same. For most graduations are about as torturous and less entertaining than a funeral anyway.. A moment of something out of the ordinary is always a welcome relief in these ritual torture sessions we go through to pat each other on the back and act like we did something special. Woo hoo. We paid $150k to an institution to get a piece of paper to go out and make 50k a year and sweat or asses off trying to pay back or loan.
Grow up people. Liked it? Good. A moment of laughs. Didn't like it? Suck it up, cry to mama and thank a soldier for the freedom to voice your opinion.
And I doubt seriously the little plane over head drowned out any words of wisdom you may have needed to succeed with your new diploma.
Here's to more laws, less freedom, fewer laughs and a "safer" world. Enjoy America.


I think you missed the content of the article. The pilot was flying without identifying registration visible, which is against the law. I don't know if I can post links here, but here's a photo of the plane during commencement:


In contrast, here is how it looked before the company bought it:


Others on another article questioned if the pilot was at the required 1,000 feet minimum above the stadium, as well.


Not sure if your referring to me as missing the content.
I didn't.
So if he's not breaking the law then there is no issue..?
If its 999 ft is that a problem? Seriously?? People aren't upset that he "broke the law". That's not what all the crying is about.
Would there be the same whining and crying and " I can't hear, boo hoo" if it said Go Beavers??
Read the law then.
You don't have to have large numbers on an antique airplane.
If he's running a business he can't do it with an illegal airplane. The FAA is up your as# every time you sneeze anyway. And there's no reason to fly below 1000 ft and risk your license for $500!!!
Come on man. I don't think I'm missing the point.
Kleenex stock has got to be thrilled with our society today.


Hey, Getalife. Thanks for the reply. Interestingly, I was doing a little math and he was flying just above 1,000 feet.... *sea level*! He's about 350 feet (or more) too low! He should be at least 1,000 feet above the tallest structure, which he was not, by far. Check this out, the second photo in the slide show at the top is perfect for doing a little geometry. The tow line, which I confirmed from comparing the length of the airplane to the line in a close up is a standard 100 meters for these sorts of tow banners. What's the length of a football field? About 110 meters, so include the length of the banner and airplane and they are almost the same length by just a few feet.

So, look at this:


He was flying roughly 730 feet above ground level, which for downtown Corvallis is at 300 feet above sea level, plus the elevation of the structure. He was too low by hundreds of feet, I think.


Please... I graduated from OSU myself, and it's a looong ceremony with lots of speakers. Five to seven minutes out of three hours is just not a big deal. My own kid graduates next year, and I wouldn't care if this happened. Lighten up, folks.


What a bunch of whining ninnies! Good grief. I’m an OSU alum, and I absolutely HATE the Ducks with a passion. That being said, even I was able to laugh and acknowledge this as pretty funny prank. Giving credit where credit due, etc.

The only thing about this whole over-blown affair that was in “poor taste” is the rancor and hand wringing of all butt-hurt drama queens.

Lighten up, Beavs.

Oh Please
Oh Please

You're the one sounding like a ninny.

If you hated "them" with such a passion you wouldn't refer to "them" by that name (much less capitalize it).

It was funny, if you're a classless, boorish loser. You know - like MOST hole fans are.



I don't know why you put the word "them" in quotes, I don't know what "name" you're thinking I referred to "them" as, I have no idea what "hole fans" are, and I don't know what "FTd!" is supposed to mean.

All of your English difficulties aside, as I said before, lighten up, Beavs. Or, in other words, stop taking life (and yourself) so dang seriously.


The most amazing part of this article is the fact the OSU graduated "25,000 or so new graduates." What is that about 89% of the student body? Maybe the same person who did the math for the pilot did the math for the person who wrote this article. BTW, the OSU website puts the number graduating at 5.900.


"the 25,000 or so new graduates and well-wishers attending"

"and well wishers"...Duh? Reading can be difficult, I'm sorry.


In truth, an event like this has absolutely no power to detract from the celebration at hand: hard-earned degrees accomplished with 4+ years of diligence and patience; freedom from expensive tuition, hardass professors and a lack of parking.

How are we still focusing on this little 'annoyance' in the past? Our society has a significant problem with legitimizing things that do not deserve our attention - false enemies, false wars, false threats in general. We are wasting our time and destroying our present ability to positively appreciate and be appreciated.

Perhaps we are more controllable and exploitable when we are constantly motivated by the fear of others. We are in need of some serious conscious evolution.

Kathy Guempelein
Kathy Guempelein

I have sat through a few of these Graduations and thought to myself they were a little too long and boring. Had something of this nature happened then I would have laughed hilariously regardless of what school was being displayed. Suck it up Beavers and quit blubbering!!!

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