AKRON, Ohio – The High Altitude Airship prototype’s maiden voyage Wednesday did not end well.
The expensive, high-tech and fortunately unmanned airship crashed in a controlled descent in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania when something went awry a couple of hours after it took off from Akron.
Lockheed Martin’s High Altitude Long Endurance Demonstrator, which took flight at 5:47 a.m. from its Akron Airdock base, went down in a heavily wooded area in rural Gilmore Township, Greene County, Pa., a nearly two-hour drive south of Pittsburgh. Company officials said it is too soon to speculate on what the crash means for the Akron airship program.
No one was hurt on the ground, officials said. The airship, which also goes by the acronym HALE-D, was filled with nonflammable helium.
The silvery aircraft resembled a giant Jiffy Pop container as it deflated on top of trees.
The U.S. Army, which funded the airship program, will handle the investigation into what went wrong, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The remote-controlled airship flew as high as 32,000 feet – a bit more than 6 miles – when the decision was made to bring it down.
“We had some anomaly,” said John Cummings, Army spokesman. “We were supposed to get up to 60,000 feet.”
The flight was intended to last for days with the airship returning to Akron in the same type of controlled descent.