Goodyear blimp crashes in Germany

Company won't ground U.S. airships

June 15, 2011

A Goodyear-branded blimp crashed at an airfield in Reichelsheim, Germany, June 12, killing the pilot. According to The Associated Press, three passengers were on board and leaped to safety at the pilot’s warning. The German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation is investigating the accident.

The airship, owned and operated by Lightship Europe Limited, had been on a media flight carrying photographers over a festival, according to Goodyear spokesman Scott Baughman. The company said that the airship caught fire at Reichelsheim Airfield, but that it could not speculate on causes.

Goodyear said June 13 that the airship involved in the accident was an A-60+, and that it would not ground its U.S. fleet, which comprises GZ-20A models.

“The safety of our passengers and the safe operation of our airships are of paramount importance to us,” Goodyear said on its Facebook page. “In more than 85 years of operating airships, no passenger has been seriously injured.” It later added that third-party vendors such as Lightship Europe Limited have operated airships for the company for more than 15 years without serious incident.

Goodyear said in a statement that the aircraft was one of two chartered for marketing purposes in Europe, and that the other has been withdrawn from service until further notice.

The Lightship Group, parent company of Lightship Europe Limited, reported the death of pilot Mike Nerandzic on its website. “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,” the company said. “Our thoughts at this time go to his wife and family, his colleagues past and present and his many friends worldwide.”

As AOPA previously reported Goodyear will be replacing its fleet, with Zeppelin LZ N07 – 101 model airships, with construction starting in Akron, Ohio, in 2013.