The Latest: Adrift military blimp had residents on edge

AP News
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Posted: Oct 28, 2015 5:35 PM
The Latest: Adrift military blimp had residents on edge

MUNCY, Pa. (AP) — The latest on an unmanned Army surveillance blimp that broke loose from its ground tether at a military base in Maryland on Wednesday and drifted over central Pennsylvania (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

The unmanned Army surveillance blimp that broke loose in Maryland and floated over Pennsylvania for hours Wednesday had residents on edge and students in disbelief.

Jason Jarinko, at teacher at Central Columbia High School in Bloomsburg, says a student gazing out the window alerted him to the wayward aircraft.

He estimates the blimp passed about 200 to 300 feet above the tree line, dragging a long tether that pulled down power lines and caused the school's lights to flicker and eventually fail.

At one point, more than 20,000 people were without power, but most already have it back.

Tiffany Slusser Hartkorn lost power when the tether knocked out a power pole and tree branch on Bloomsburg's outskirts. She says strong winds moved the blimp quickly out of sight.

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4:45 p.m.

The chief spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command says a military blimp that broke loose in Maryland and drifted over Pennsylvania "grounded itself," but the military does not know why it deflated as its descended.

The spokesman, Navy Capt. Scott Miller, says officials did not deliberately deflate the blimp.

He says it was tethered to a mooring station at an altitude of about 6,600 feet when it broke free. He says it is not known how it detached from its mooring, but an investigation is underway.

Miller says two armed Air Force F-16 fighter jets tracked the runaway blimp as it drifted north from Aberdeen Proving Ground. He says there was never any intention of shooting down the blimp.

Pennsylvania State Police say the blimp came down near Muncy, about 80 miles north of Harrisburg.

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4:10 p.m.

Pennsylvania state police say a military blimp that broke loose in Maryland and drifted over Pennsylvania is on the ground and secure.

Bob Reese, a state police spokesman in Montoursville, says it came down in the area of Muncy, near Williamsport.

The blimp caused about 18,000 power outages. Columbia County chief clerk Gail Kipp says the blimp dragged its tether line, which took out power lines and caused widespread outages.

The unmanned Army surveillance blimp broke loose from its ground tether at a military base and drifted over central Pennsylvania as fighter jets tracked it. The aircraft is known as a Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System and can be used as part of a missile defense system.

It's not clear how the blimp came loose.

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3:35 p.m.

A county official in northeastern Pennsylvania says a blimp on the loose over the state has caused widespread power outages.

Columbia County chief clerk Gail Kipp says the blimp is dragging its tether line, which is taking out power lines and causing widespread outages.

About 18,000 customers were out of power.

Bloomsburg University cancelled classes for the day because of the outage.

Residents around the county have been tweeting photos and video of the blimp seemingly getting lower and lower to the ground.

The unmanned Army surveillance blimp broke loose from its ground tether at a military base in Maryland on Wednesday and drifted over central Pennsylvania as two Air Force fighter jets tracked it.

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2 p.m.

The Pentagon said Wednesday that U.S. fighter jets were tracking an unmanned Army surveillance blimp that tore loose from its ground tether in Maryland and drifted north over Pennsylvania.

Details were sketchy, but a statement from the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado said the blimp detached from its station at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, at about 12:20 p.m. EDT.

Two F-16 fighter jets from the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base in New Jersey were monitoring the craft, which was traveling north at an altitude of about 16,000 feet.

FAA officials were working with the military to ensure air traffic safety in the area.

The aircraft is known as a Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System and can be used as part of a missile defense system.

It was not immediately clear how the blimp came loose.