Navy Blimp Heads to Gulf to Aid Oil Spill Clean Up

U.S. Navy file photo

US. Navy via www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com

A Navy blimp -- the MZ-3A Airship -- is en route to the Gulf Coast in order to help with the response to the disastrous Gulf oil spill, the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command announced today, releasing a picture of the airship (at left).

The Coast Guard requested the support of the Navy vehicle to help detect oil, direct skimming vessels, and look for wildlife that may be threatened by oil. The airship began its flight to the Gulf Coast last month, departing from Yuma, Arizona, and should soon reach Jack Edwards National Airport in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

The massive, ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig operated by the company BP exploded on April 20. Tar balls are washing ashore in Galveston, Texas, proving that the spill has now impacted every Gulf state. In Louisiana, oil is trickling inland.

The Washington Post reported today that, in the 77 days since the spill began, BP has skimmed or burned only about 60 percent of the oil it promised regulators it could remove in a single day. In March, BP told the government it had the capacity to skim and remove 491,721 barrels of oil each day in the event of a major spill. As of Monday, however, skimming operations have removed on average less than 900 barrels a day.

In total, about 2 million barrels of oil have been released into the Gulf as of Monday.

The Post reports that the poor results of the skimming operations have led to a "desperate" search for solutions.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Disaster in the Gulf

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