Blair Hyatt was jogging down the street last Friday evening when he saw a blimp coming down out of the sky.
“All of a sudden, I hear the engine, the propeller that steers the blimp. I was like, ‘That’s really low!’ Then I was like, ‘That thing’s landing!’”said Hyatt, a Kensington resident.
“I’ve been running down Delaware Avenue for 10 years now. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Hyatt started videotaping with his phone and watched as a man leaped from the cockpit as the blimp hovered feet above the ground, sprinted to the front, grabbed a ripcord and held it fast, trying to pull the blimp away from the traffic on nearby Delaware Avenue. He was dragged nearly 50 feet before the blimp deflated and wrapped around nearby wires
Patrick Walsh, CEO of Gainesville, Florida-based Airsign, which owns the blimp, commended the blimp’s pilot for resolving the situation as safely as possible.
“The pilot did a really good job. He was very calm and collected during the whole process,” Walsh said. “It was a very slow touchdown. Even though it was an unplanned landing, it didn’t hurt anybody on the ground.”
The blimp made the unplanned landing around 7 p.m. on May 20 on a construction site in Fishtown after it spent the day floating over Philadelphia with an advertisement for Bostick Adhesives, a Wisconsin-based industrial company.
Walsh said the pilot, who has more than 10 years of aviation experience, was forced to land after he noticed problems with the engine of the blimp – a thermal airship model.
“What took place in Philadelphia was we had two days of great flights with no issues whatsoever,” Walsh said. “Then the pilot noticed some engine roughness during the flight. It was the first time this ever happened.”
Despite the pilot restarting the engine mid-air a few times, the problems persisted, according to Walsh – so the pilot decided the safest option was to make an unplanned landing in a vacant area. He aimed for a grassy field on the Delaware River, but a last-minute gust of wind blew him over into the construction site on Delaware Avenue.
"If the pilot was a risk-taker, he could have pushed back to the airport," Walsh said. "He could have been forced to land in an area not of his choosing. It could have been a much more congested area."
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident, but confirmed the blimp was licensed and operating legally at the time.
See Hyatt's video of the incident below.