PHILADELPHIA (Aug. 25, 2000)—Goodyear plans to rebuild its Stars & Stripes blimp, which tore in half Aug. 19, after a "freakish" wind caused the 192-foot-long ship to collide with its mooring mast while attempting to dock at the PNE-Northeast Philadelphia Airport.
The Florida-based craft, one of the flagships in the Goodyear´s seven-blimp fleet will be rebuilt and returned to the air early in 2001, the company said.
A Goodyear spokesman said the blimp was completing "typical sightseeing passenger flights" that morning when an unexpected gust of wind blew the airship backward into the mast, puncturing the envelope´s neoprene skin and allowing 200,000 cubic feet of helium to escape.
"It caused some damage, but the important thing is no one was hurt," the spokesman said.
Six passengers and a pilot exited from the cockpit´s side door safely onto the ground, he said.
The blimp had visited a preseason NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tennessee Titans the evening before and was scheduled to leave for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
The spokesman said it isn´t strong winds that usually pose a problem for Goodyear blimps and their pilots. "It has more to do with when winds come unexpectedly as gusts from different directions," he said. "This is more of a challenge from the pilot´s point of view."
A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said an inspector was sent to the accident site, but a report has not yet been released. "After sending an initial investigator, we follow up with the company´s personnel," he said. "We should have a report released shortly."
The FAA is calling the incident a "ground occurrence," because the blimp was not in flight during the accident, the company spokesman said.
Stars & Stripes is the third Goodyear airship damaged within the past 10 months. The company´s Spirit of Akron crashed Oct. 28 in the woods near its Portage County, Ohio, Wingfoot Lake hangar during a routine night sign flight due to mechanical problems. The blimp´s two pilots left the crash with minor injuries.
The Spirit of the South Pacific suffered damage Aug. 10 in Australia when wind lifted the blimp into the air and then it crashed to the ground.