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Kansas City Storm Blows Blimp Away

September 8, 2001

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A blimp that blew 75 miles away from Kansas City during a thunderstorm probably will not be ready for use during Sunday’s Kansas City-Oakland Raiders game.

The dirigible’s 20-foot mooring mast broke about 8:30 p.m. Friday and floated away from Downtown Kansas City Airport on 50 mph winds.

The unmanned MetLife Blimp landed about two hours later three miles east of Chillicothe, said Joe McBride, a spokesman for the Kansas City Aviation Department. The blimp came to rest on top of a truck on Minnis Burial Vault Co. property.

No one was injured when the blimp broke away or when it landed.

Blimps are equipped with precautions against such occurrences, said Tony Molinaro of the Federal Aviation Administration. Molinaro said the blimp will automatically deflate if it goes too far with no one at the controls.

The blimp was returned to Kansas City on Saturday. It was unlikely it would be used during Sunday’s football game, said a spokesman for High Degree Operations, the Tampa, Fla., company that operates the dirigible.

``We don’t know for sure until we completely assess the damage but I don’t believe right now that we’ll make the game,″ Bob Reisen said.

He said even if the blimp does not appear to be severely damaged, it would have to be carefully checked to make sure all its internal systems are working.

McBride said High Degree employees and airport police tried to stabilize the blimp but the winds were too strong.

``It was futile,″ McBride said. ``The mast snapped and they sort of watched it float off.″

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