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calendar   Tuesday - June 14, 2011

Blimp Crash In Germany

Blimp Pilot Sacrifices Himself To Save Passengers


It is with great sadness that we report the death of Captain Mike Nerandzic, one of the world’s most experienced Airship Pilots. With a total of 26 years airship piloting experience covering more than 18,000 flight hours in 24 countries, Mike has been a leading Chief Pilot on Lightships for 20 years. Our thoughts at this time go to his wife and family, his colleagues past and present and his many friends worldwide.

- Lightships.com


image

“Safety Together” read the message on the blimp. Moments later it was a crashing fireball



AN AUSTRALIAN blimp pilot has been hailed a hero after he saved three passengers by ordering them to jump from the burning airship only to then die himself.

Michael Nerandzic, from Balgownie in Wollongong, was attempting to land the A60 Goodyear airship at an airfield at Reichelsheim in Germany, when the blimp caught fire during descent. The 53-year-old and three journalists with him were returning from a local music festival.

It is understood the passengers smelt fuel and heard a loud whirring noise before the blimp caught fire. Realising the airship was only moments away from disaster, Mr Nerandzic then made the heroic decision to put his own life on the line to save those of his passengers.  Hovering 2m above the ground he yelled for the three passengers to jump from the gondola to safety below.

That decision reduced the ballast weight of the airship which is believed to have caused it to shoot 50m into the air where it exploded with the burning wreckage falling to the ground. Mr Nerandzic was unable to escape and died in the wreckage.

Witnesses said they heard loud noises coming from the air before spotting a “fireball” moments before it crashed into a meadow near the airfield.

“We could hear the cries of the pilot as the fire surrounded him. It was terrible,” one said.

Amateur video of part of the crash here; news report video at links above and below.

Witnesses - the passengers and ground crew I’d guess - reported smell fuel and hearing a loud whirring noise from one of the engines.


image



The wife of a Wollongong blimp pilot, who died saving three airship passengers in Germany, has said her husband was “larger than life” and “a character”.

Speaking to the Illawarra Mercury today, Lyndy Nerandzic said she was not surprised to hear of husband Michael’s heroic actions in the last minutes of his life.

“When they told me what he had done for the passengers, it didn’t surprise me one little bit,” she said.

imageBlimps are filled with helium, which is a gas that does not burn. Blimps do not have any internal support structures like the framework in the old Zeppelins. Once mostly filled with helium, the bag (ie the “envelope") is kept firm by the assistance of an inner bag called a ballonet, which contains regular air. As the blimp rises and the helium expands, the ballonet deflates. When the helium contracts, the ballonet inflates and takes up the volume.

I could not find detailed information on blimp design, but from the way this crash happened I do not believe that they are built with a big dump valve on top like hot air balloons are. Such a valve might have saved this pilot. Or maybe not; we’ll never know.

While helium by itself is fairly rare in nature, large amounts of it are freed as part of the natural gas purification process.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 06/14/2011 at 12:00 PM   
Filed Under: • HeroesNews-Briefsplanes, trains, tanks, ships, machines, automobiles •  
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