An unmanned aerostat was struck by a manned airship at roughly 9:15 p.m. Thursday, in high winds, during a heavy rainstorm at Elizabeth City, N.C, leaving one man seriously injured. The accident took place at a TCOM facility. TCOM is a blimp manufacturer and maintenance company. The 216-foot manned Skyship 600-series blimp had been tethered, but broke free and collided with the aerostat. Multiple early reports state the pilot of the manned blimp survived the accident but suffered head, limb, and possible abdominal injuries. His aircraft was lifted up about 60 feet before it struck the aerostat and crashed. Both the blimp and the aerostat were destroyed.
TCOM aerostats are unmanned tethered balloons intended to serve as surveillance communications or early warning platforms. The Skyship 600 carries a 13-person gondola (including the pilot) and is capable of 65 mph with a normal cruise of 35. It is powered by two Porsche 930 engines (225 hp each) or two Lycoming TIO-540 300-hp engines. TCOM told local news that the pilot of the Skyship was not a TCOM employee.