Downed blimp goes up -- in cloud of smoke
It took only 29 seconds for an unmanned experimental airship to burn Friday in a heavily wooded area of Greene County where it made an unexpected landing this week.
Lockheed Martin spokesman Keith Little said he could only confirm that the company's High Altitude Long Endurance-Demonstrator, or HALE-D, was damaged after being ignited by a grass fire, but Wayne fire Chief Jeff Hillberry said the aircraft was destroyed.
"They told me it took only 29 seconds for it to burn," Hillberry said. "There's only pieces left scattered around."
The aircraft, described as the first of its kind, was launched at 5:47 a.m. Wednesday by the Army and Lockheed Martin from the company's LTA Persistent Surveillance Systems facility in Akron, Ohio.
Little said the aircraft -- about 270 feet long and 70 feet around and covered with high-strength fabrics -- ascended to 32,000 feet on the experimental flight, but an anomaly on the airship stopped it from reaching 60,000 feet as planned. It was supposed to hover for up to 10 days as officials tested its use for communications relays.
It made a controlled emergency landing about three hours later and was brought down near the sparely populated Ash Tree area of Gilmore, about 9 miles northwest of Blacksville, W.Va.
Firefighters were called about 2:25 p.m. yesterday for a report of a small fire or brush fire near the landing zone, Little said.
"Prior to the arrival of the fire department, Lockheed Martin on-site personnel had the fire under control and it was subsequently extinguished," Little said. "No one was injured. The cause of the fire is under investigation."
Little said several parts of the airship had been removed prior to the fire and that the outer fabric may have been the only thing that burned. He would not say how much it cost to develop the HALE-D.
"They've been there in the woods, cleaning it up and getting ready to haul it away," Hillberry said. "It's been real hush-hush. They wouldn't tell me what happened. They just gave me a name to put on my report and said that's all I needed."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers kicker Boswell puts best foot forward
- Stop by Stanley’s Bar & Grill in Ford City for Thanksgiving dinner
- Clairton no longer distressed
- Robbery nets stint in prison for Marion Center man
- Ford City executive sessions called into question
- McKeesport Area could bring back Air Force Junior ROTC program
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin not grooming successor to RB Williams
- Terror threat doesn’t keep Pittsburgh International travelers down
- McKeesport budget smaller; no tax hike planned
- Elizabeth mayor hails police department’s role in ‘major’ heroin bust in Clairton
- Some ‘food for thought’