June 13, 2011Goodyear Blimp Catches Fire, Pilot Killed
By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
A Goodyear A-60+ blimp caught fire in Germany on Sunday evening as the pilot tried to land; the three passengers were able to leap to safety, but the pilot was killed. Witnesses said they heard a loud engine noise and smelled fuel as the blimp hovered about six feet above the ground at Reichelsheim Airfield, according toThe Sun. The pilot, Mike Nerandzic, 53, of Australia, yelled at the passengers to leap out of the cabin. As they left the aircraft, it shot up into the air about 150 feet and exploded, then crashed into a field where it was consumed by flames, according to online news reports. The passengers were reporters for local news outlets on a photo-taking flight.
The aircraft is one of two owned and operated by Lightship Europe Limited and leased to Goodyear. The second blimp has been withdrawn from service until further notice, the company said in a statement. A former colleague, who declined to be named, told The Telegraph that Nerandzic was a skilled pilot. "He always put other people first," the colleague said. "I don't think he would even have realized he was doing it -- it would have just been instinct. He will be a real loss to our community." The cause of the accident is under investigation. "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the crew member, and also with our colleagues and the passengers involved with the airship tour in Germany," Goodyear said. The company had recently announced that it will be replacing its famous blimps with zeppelins starting in 2014. The photo is from Germany's BILD video report.