Airship Maker Suing Over Hangar Collapse

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The Navy is being sued for $65 million by the makers of a new type of airship after the aircraft was wrecked when the roof of a hangar it was in partially collapsed on it. Aeros says the hybrid airship itself was worth $35 million but the total losses from the mishap total $65 million. The company says the Navy knew the building, a former Second World War blimp hangar at Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, California, had structural problems when it leased the space to Aeros. The firm says the Navy didn't tell the company about decades-old engineering reports that called for immediate repairs to the roof truss that ended up failing. A 50-foot-by-70-foot section of the roof fell almost 180 feet onto the airship, writing it off. The company filed a claim for compensation from the Navy but it was rejected without explanation, according to Aeros.

The airship features a system to compress helium, allowing the aircraft's buoyancy to be adjusted both ways in flight. Aeros had hoped to have the aircraft in production by this year. The company's lawyers said they discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request that the Navy had engineering reports dating to the 1980s and 1990s warning of problems with the roof. The military closed the facility in 1999 but Aeros was using the hangar under an agreement with the Navy. The Navy has not responded to the suit.