Army Blimp Breaks Loose, Drifts For Hours Over Pennsylvania
A slow-moving, unmanned Army surveillance blimp floated over Pennsylvania for hours causing electrical outages as its tether hit power lines, after it broke loose from its mooring at a Maryland military facility.
The 240-foot helium-filled blimp, which had two fighter jets on its tail, came down in at least two pieces Wednesday near Muncy, a small town about 80 miles north of Harrisburg, the state capital. No injuries were reported.
The radar-equipped blimp, fitted with sensitive defense technology, escaped from the military’s Aberdeen Proving Ground around 12:20 p.m. Authorities said it drifted northward, climbing to about 16,000 feet. It covered about 150 miles over about 3 hours.
“I had no idea what it was. We lost power at work, so I looked outside and saw the blimp,” said Wendy Schafer, who was at her job at a spa and salon in Bloomsburg.
Two F-16s were scrambled from a National Guard base in New Jersey to track the big, white craft as it floated away because aviation officials feared it would endanger air traffic. But there was never any intention of shooting it down, said Navy Capt. Scott Miller, a spokesman for the nation’s air defense command.
The blimp – which cannot be steered remotely – eventually deflated and settled back to Earth on its own, according to Miller. He said there was an auto-deflate device aboard, but it was not deliberately activated, and it is unclear why the craft went limp.
He said it was also unknown how the blimp broke loose, and an investigation was underway.
People gawked in wonder and disbelief as the blimp floated silently over the sparsely populated area, its dangling tether taking out power lines.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.