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"Crash kills Fresno, California pilot, wife"



Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Crash kills Fresno pilot, wife
Mazzei Flying Service co-owners, son-in-law die near San Diego.
By Marc Benjamin
The Fresno (CA) Bee


George Brannan was an experienced pilot who had not lost the touch on the
Cessna 210 he loved so much.

His son, Jim Brannan of Fresno, said he went flying with his 77-year-old
father Friday afternoon, the day before George; wife Georgeanne, 79, both of
Fresno; and son-in-law John Bryner, 47, of Pacific Grove departed on a trip
to San Diego for a college graduation from which they would not return.

Shortly after takeoff Monday from Ramona Airport, 30 miles northeast of San
Diego, their plane crashed, killing all three, Jim Brannan confirmed
Tuesday.

Brannan said the weather was rainy and cloudy Monday in the mountains
surrounding the foothill airport.

"They waited and waited Monday," Brannan said. "I don't know if they thought
it had cleared. Right now, we are all just speculating, but something
happened very quickly after takeoff. I have tried to talk to FAA Federal
Aviation Administration, and I haven't heard anything."

Following a flight with his dad, Jim Brannan had no qualms about his
father's piloting abilities.

"On Friday, I started quizzing my dad about his last flight review, so I
went up with him Friday afternoon," said Jim Brannan, 52, who with his wife,
Patrice, owns 50% of Fresno-based Mazzei Flying Service flight school. His
parents own the other half.

"Gosh, he flew so good and I was so proud of him. He was still as sharp as
he ever was as a pilot, so I had no second thoughts about him flying down
there. As a son, I was just real proud of him."

The 75 students in the flight school would pump George Brannan about his war
years and commercial flying, and the elder Brannan was more than willing to
offer advice.

George Brannan was a commercial pilot with Pan Am. During World War II, he
piloted flying boats to Brazil and Colombia to get rubber for the war
effort.

He left Pan Am and started a vending business in the mid-1950s but returned
to flying by the late 1970s. His Cessna was his pride and joy.

"I don't think anyone could fly it better than him," Brannan said. "We
understand it was somehow weather-related. It was kind of foggy, so they
elected to land up in the foothills because it wasn't foggy there at the
time."

Word had trickled out Tuesday about the Brannans, and Jim Brannan was
fielding calls from people across the country.

"They just had a capacity for friendship," Jim Brannan said. "They were just
unbelievable, they had so many friends. If you are a friend of theirs, you
are a friend for life."

Thursday would have been George and Georgeanne Brannan's 57th anniversary,
he said.

The Brannans are survived by two daughters and two sons, as well as 13
grandchildren.

Bryner, who also has four children, spent much of his life in Fresno,
graduating from California State University, Fresno. He was an agronomist
and water consultant. He often worked for Westlands Water District trying to
secure additional water for Valley agricultural interests, Jim Brannan said.

FAA officials said the plane crashed shortly before noon Monday, not long
after it took off from Ramona Airport. The pilot had filed a flight plan for
Fresno, one investigator reported.

State and federal investigators have not confirmed the identities of those
on the plane. It might be two or more days until the remains are positively
identified, a spokesperson for the San Diego County Medical Examiner's
Office said Tuesday. Officials said that there were two males and a female
aboard the plane.

Investigators at the scene near Lake Wohlford, a hilly rural area near
Escondido, reported the aircraft crashed in an avocado grove.

In the San Diego FAA office, spokesman Jerome Pedzick said investigators at
the scene reported "pretty much complete destruction." Weather in the area
was "extremely poor" in fog and rain, he said.

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