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Blimp Pilot Describes Unexpected Landing Near I-95 In Fishtown

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The pilot of a blimp forced to make an emergency landing has spoken exclusively to Eyewitness News about the moment he realized his engine had failed in the middle of a flight over Philadelphia.

Trevor Thompson was forced to make in unexpected landing Friday just off Interstate 95 in Fishtown.

"I knew I could land," Thompson said. "It was a matter of finding a spot to land."

trevor thompson
Pilot Trevor Thompson (credit: CBS)

It was Thompson's third run above Philadelphia in two days and had planned to return to where he had taken off from at Kroc Center Field in Camden. But around 6:30 p.m., it became clear that wasn't happening.

"We were flying about one mile north of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge when we had our first engine failure," Thompson said.

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The blimp, or thermal airship, owned by Air Science and displaying adhesive company Bostik, was restarted -- but then failed again -- so Thompson decided on what he calls a precautionary landing.

"Unfortunately, the engine failed for a third time when I was coming in for a landing on a green field," Thompson explained, "and the wind pushed me backward, and I was able to put it down in a construction spot."

Without full engine power, a thermal aircraft will operate pretty much like a hot air balloon, hence the less than ideal landing area in the 1900 block of Richmond Street in Fishtown.

Once it was on the ground, good Samaritans jumped into action.

"I pretty much stopped the car, went over the barrier and tried to help the pilot," said Ray Haines.

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Personal items inside the blimp's carriage were damaged, but Thompson and his passenger escaped injury.

"People came out and they helped us, and they were friendly, and it was a good experience," Thompson said. "It was a good experience in a bad situation."

The FAA continues to investigate the incident.

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