WASHINGTON, October 8 (RIA Novosti) – A Soviet-born entrepreneur’s $35 million zeppelin prototype was punctured by falling debris from a partial roof collapse at a hangar in California triggering a helium leak, according to US media reports.
There were no reported injuries when a piece of roof landed on the 266-foot (81.07-meter) long Aeroscraft airship early Monday morning. Employees were evacuated and a hazardous materials team was summoned to the site in Tustin, California to deal with the helium leak, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Representatives from zeppelin-builder Worldwide Aeros, which was founded by Soviet-born entrepreneur Igor Pasternak, had earlier contacted the federal government about creaking noises in the hangar which is located on a World War II era Marine Corps base, but had received no response, KCBS television in Los Angeles reported Monday.
Pasternak immigrated to the United States in 1993 where he founded a company similar to one he had in Russia manufacturing blimps to be used for advertising.
Pasternak has said the final versions of his Aeroscraft airships, much larger than the prototype that was damaged, will revolutionize cargo transport because airships can carry heavier loads to more remote locations than can traditional aircraft and land vehicles.
The final zeppelin design is expected to be more than 400 feet (122 meters) long and capable of transporting a load of 66 tons (59,874 kilograms).
The damaged prototype was funded by the Pentagon and NASA, which hope to use airships for military and humanitarian missions.
Cleared for experimental airworthiness certification by the US Federal Aviation Administration last month, the accident is a considerable setback for Pasternak and Worldwide Aeros.
A company representative said in September that the firm hoped to hold an untethered test flight “within a few weeks.”