Submitted by Gerry Clare

Roving Reporter

Blimp Crop
Photo courtesy of Tom Clare

“It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a blimp?”  No, the sight over the south end of Amelia Island on Friday afternoon was actually a US Navy Airship, landing at the Fernandina Beach airport for training exercises this week for a capabilities and flight demonstration and will be seen in the area between March 25th and April 1st.

The 4th fleet is hosting the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s MZ-3A Airship’s stay and exercises  in the Mayport vicinity. The airship is normally based at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. It can hold equipment for Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Intelligence operations, mostly for different crime operations, such as illicit trafficking and has been seen in the Florida Coast areas since 2006.

It is 178 feet long, can travel at about 45 knots with 1 pilot and 9 passengers and its ceiling is 9,500 feet.  The windy conditions this weekend certainly kept it docked.  Even though it looks like it is hovering , it is tethered.

In July 2010 the airship helped in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill recovery operation in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  It is government owned and contractor operated, but can be used by Department of Defense and other governmental agencies.

So, keep your eyes skyward and wait for this reporter’s follow-up next week for comments on what it looks like inside…

March 25, 2013 12:30 p.m.

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