Sudden Storm Cited In Airship Crash

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The NTSB last week released its factual report on the June 16 crash of a Goodyear blimp in Coral Springs, Fla. The airship was returning to its base in Pompano Beach at 5:25 in the afternoon after about two hours of flying in the Miami Beach area in good weather. The pilot told the NTSB that on approaching the landing area, he saw several lightning bolts hit the ground. Since the landing procedure requires a ground crew, the pilot chose to fly on to the west and wait for the storm to pass rather than endanger the crew. The pilot said the weather deteriorated rapidly, and he encountered heavy rain, lightning and severe downdrafts, and the airship was unable to climb, make headway or maintain directional control even with full power. The ship was pushed down, striking trees and powerlines, and came to rest on the ground in an industrial complex. The envelope was torn, the right propeller was damaged and the lower fin was damaged. The two pilots on board were unhurt. The NTSB's probable-cause report will not be out for several more months.