“….we wanted to crash the thing; but we had to sneak around a bit to do so….due to the fact that the FAA would not sanction a deliberate mid-air collision. So in order to carry out the operation we left Tillamook and went out over the
“….a fully loaded Cessna 172 under remote control; while the airship was cruising at just over 90mph at 3,000’; with the plane descending towards it from the starboard side at about 150mph, as though it were on approach to a runway.
We crashed the Cessna into the top of the airships’ hull just forward of the vertical stabilizer. A perfect hit! You could see panels buckle and an almost knifelike slash though the hull where the left wing of the airplane had sheared away upon hitting and cut through. Also, a large amount of the airplanes’ fuel was blown out in a terrific spray which caught on fire and was almost instantaneously put out from the lack of oxygen when the helium began venting through the airships’ side…..”
“…there is a fabulous shot on the cabin video right at the time of impact; of Thorson and Roberts (pilot and co-pilot) reacting to the impact; they’re seriously occupied for maybe a minute and half……the fire alarm going off and the overhead screens indicating the ships’ heavy condition because of a loss of lifting gas…then the alarms shutting down almost immediately because of both the fire suppression and the computer measuring out ballast drop to compensate for the lost of lift…..We had lost over 11,000 lbs of lifting capacity inside of one minute; but the automatic dropping of water ballast overcame that exactly as it was designed to do…..and these two guys are grinning like crazy! Because that’s’ it; the ship actually settled a total of 160 feet, stabilizes, and continues on at cruise speed….”
“….and Thorson chooses to continue flying farther…with several landings on the surface of the ocean to pick up some Turtle Airship personnel from the boats and a television crew. We flew a total of 10 more hours; with speeds up to 164 mph….It was phenomenal! Especially in light of the fact that half the Cessna is still hanging outside the hull; the geodetic frame and the strength of the carbon had combined to shrug off that much of the force of impact. It looked like a puny harpoon stuck in the side of Moby Dick.
When we finally returned to Tillamook we had maybe 20,000 spectators lining the roadsides, the dock, and out in the bay in everything that could possibly float. Setting down amidst all those boats was the most difficult part of the entire project. The FAA had representatives there; but what were they to do?
We took film crews later on Friday into the hull itself to photograph the extent of the damage. The Cessna was still embedded in the hull, panels blown out, and two of the sixteen gas cells completely deflated. Total time for repairing this damage was 14 hours; and inflation took another 20. Within one weekend, the ship was fully operational again.”
“…..at one point I was asked what we would be christening the new airship……..how about “VINDICATOR”?