N.C. Lighter-Than-Air Company Expanding

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One of the more interesting landmarks to spot while flying in a small airplane is a blimp hangar. There aren't that many of them, they are huge and unmistakable, and they bring to mind the kind of low and slow treetop flying that many GA pilots find appealing. One of those hangars can be spotted near Elizabeth City, N.C., where TCOM builds airships and various kinds of lighter-than-air vehicles. And apparently the market for lighter-than-air is growing, because last week the company broke ground for a new 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. The space will be used to build unmanned, tethered balloons, known as aerostats, as part of an Army contract. TCOM also will develop and test an aerostat for an emergency communications system for use during natural disasters.

The company's blimp hangar is about 1,000 feet long, and once launched Navy "K" airships during World War II. The airships were instrumental in combating enemy submarines that prowled the coastline. TCOM has operated at the Elizabeth City site since 1973.