Blimp makes surprise landing at Lincoln airport

An airship crew from Lightship Group Inc. of Orlando, Fla., wrestles a Hangar 1 Vodka blimp onto the ground at Lincoln Regional Airport on Wednesday, May 18, 2011. The airship made an unplanned stop in Lincoln when one of its ground crew pickup trucks needed repair and low, overcast skies south of Bangor made the stop advisable, officials said.
Nick Sambides Jr.
An airship crew from Lightship Group Inc. of Orlando, Fla., wrestles a Hangar 1 Vodka blimp onto the ground at Lincoln Regional Airport on Wednesday, May 18, 2011. The airship made an unplanned stop in Lincoln when one of its ground crew pickup trucks needed repair and low, overcast skies south of Bangor made the stop advisable, officials said.
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Posted May 18, 2011, at 3:01 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — A pickup truck’s mechanical problems and increasingly low skies south of Bangor forced the new Hangar 1 Vodka blimp to make an unscheduled but safe landing at Lincoln Regional Airport on Wednesday, its pilot said.

The 128-foot-long, 45-foot-tall airship landed safely at about 3:50 p.m. after circling the Lincoln area for about an hour as its ground crew assembled their mobile mast. It likely will remain docked at the mast near the end of Runway 17 for one to three days, pilot-in-charge Bret Viets said.

“We could easily leave town in a day but with the bad weather south of here we might be here for a little while,” Viets said Wednesday.

Closed for the airship landing, the airport will reopen when the blimp leaves, town Public Works Department Director David Lloyd said.

The blimp, which is filled with 69,000 cubic feet of helium, was headed south from Limestone, where it had just been assembled, to Florida, where it will kick off a national publicity tour next week for the San Francisco-based distillery, which is located in an old airport hangar.

The ground crew was in the Lincoln Lakes region when its truck problems were discovered. Coupled with the gloomy weather forecast, the problem made landing in Lincoln seem like a safe bet, Viets said.

The first word town officials received of the airship’s imminent landing came when a ground crew member telephoned Town Clerk Shelly Crosby at about 2:45 p.m. seeking permission to land. Within 10 minutes, the blimp began circling Lincoln’s skies, drawing about 20 people to the airport, including Lloyd, Town Manager Lisa Goodwin and PK Floats Inc. owner Alton Bouchard, whose company makes seaplane floats and is located just off the runway property. Several motorists along West Broadway pulled alongside the road to gawk at the airship, including one so enamored of the blimp that she blocked Airport Road for a few minutes.

The ground crew scrambled to assemble the mast and dig it into the soft soil adjacent to the runway.

“I found it interesting how much ground support they [airships] need to be able to land,” Goodwin said. “It’s kind of exciting, really.”

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the starting point of the Hangar I Vodka airship’s journey to Florida. The blimp was assembled and lettered in Limestone at the Loring Development Authority.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/05/18/news/blimp-making-emergency-landing-at-lincoln-airport/ printed on September 17, 2014