I was both troubled and intrigued by the runaway Army blimp happening of last week. If you haven’t heard about the story, a $235 million dollar military intelligence gathering airship broke free from its moorings in Aberdeen, MD. It was stationed at the Army Proving Grounds. The unmanned Intel balloon crashed down in the hills outside of Muncy.
What amazed me was the lack of preparation by the military folks in Maryland responsible for the pricey blimp. Everyone knew a week prior to the accident the remnants of hurricane Patricia would be moving into the Mid Atlantic region. How about showing a little military intelligence and taking some precautionary measures to protect the tax payer’s $235 million dollar asset. It would not have required too much effort to manually deflate the blimp. If no one wanted to take time and do this, the simple action of engaging the helium filled blimp’s auto deflate could have prevented the accident. The auto deflate does exactly what it says, at a certain altitude or by electronic notification it would deploy, releasing helium bringing the ship back to Earth.
The mayhem created a public safety hazard and resulted in wide spread power outages. These outages due to the 6,700-foot tether contacting and dragging power lines. Fortunately the wind guided blimp crashed harmlessly in the Muncy Hills countryside.
I can’t wait to see the total cost of this aviation mishap. Along with the damage, or totaling, of the high tech blimp, you have the scrambling of F-16 fighters to track the ship, and no they were never going to shoot it down. The deployment of law enforcement and emergency services to make sure the flight path and crash site were both clear and protected from the thousands of runaway blimp chasers, and last but not least, will be the recovery, salvage and or repair of the ghost ship. What will be the cost be of one unmanned military blimp mission without orders? I would betcha about a half billion dollars until all is said and done.
Now for the intriguing and interesting part of the story. Ron Mingle is one of my Webb Weekly colleagues; he lives less than a mile from the crash site. On the evening the blimp crashed he called me with a story of the inconvenience it presented to him and his wife. The couple could not get home until 9:30 that night. A state policeman stopped them within seeing distance of the lane to their home. The police officer would not allow them to pass due to reasons of National Security. Even after pleading their case, offering identification that matched the address on the nearby mail box and explaining his wife needed her medication it was a no go. Ron and Steph had to wait for the “alls clear signal”.
Upon Ron relaying this to me it got me thinking – why all the big to do over a big helium filled balloon? There had to be more to the story than this. I knew there was no way people were chasing and making such a big deal over an unmanned blimp. I watched an interview of a woman who had awakened her baby and rushed to the site; a gentlemen was interviewed and was proud that he had chased the balloon over 50 miles; people dropping everything they were doing and becoming a nuisance on the highway; roads being closed and guards being deployed at the crash site. So I headed out to the crash site to investigate, and found a Webb Weekly exclusive!
Before leaving my home, I put on my black op night camo, military surplus issue from the Israeli Special Forces. I purchased it after watching a late night infomercial when I could not sleep. Next I grabbed my night vision sniper goggles, I picked them up at Sauers Trading in Southside. I always knew they would come in handy someday. Most importantly I made sure not to forget my cellular device, it would be needed for communications and visual recon. That is picture taking for those with only a civilian background.
So off I went to the Muncy Hills, Ron had given me pretty good coordinates on the downed target. I soon encountered the personnel guarding the so-called Army blimp. I had to ditch my truck and from that point on I become stealth into the night air. I made it past all guarding the outside perimeter and in the distance I identified the white outline of the blimp hanging in the trees with the use of my night goggles. From there I had to crawl the last 300 yards or so to avoid detection, boy am I glad I have been working out. I was however intercepted by two large German Shepherds, right before the downed ship. Fortunately, I had noticed an outline of a dog on the right pocket of my black op suit; I quickly reached in and found two Country Store smoked sausages. The dogs quickly became my best friends! Not knowing their names, I called them Hillary and Carly. They accompanied me the final short distance.
Upon arriving at the crash site, I couldn’t believe my eyes!
I quickly snapped this photo and slipped quietly unnoticed, along with my newly made four legged friends into the late October night.
You just never know what you will come across in Penn’s Woods.
God Bless America