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Virginia Under a Shadow: That Aircraft Blocking the Sun? A Gigantic Blimp

Mapping mission has Navy blimp over Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Blimp on a mission. (Photo courtesy U.S. Navy.)
Blimp on a mission. (Photo courtesy U.S. Navy.)
Miss that gigantic blimp hovering over parts of Virginia and DC? Look again: It'll be around for a while.

The blimp is actually a U.S. Navy MZ-3A airship on a mapping mission, and over the next several days will head as far north as Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland and southwest near Culpeper, VA.

On Oct. 5, it will travel to New Jersey, the Navy said.

During portions of its flight, the blimp will be in specially reserved airspace near Reagan National Airport.

Some fun facts from the U.S. Navy:

  • The blimp can remain afloat and stationary for more than 12 hours at a time.
  • The MZ-3A is government-owned and contractor-operated. The contractor is, Integrated Systems Solutions, Inc.
  • ISSI airship pilots have completed Special Awareness Training for the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area and have previously operated within the DCA SFRA/FRZ.
  • Built by American Blimp Corporation, the MZ-3A is propeller-driven by two 180 horsepower Lycoming engines producing a top speed just under 50 knots with an operational payload capability of up to 2,500 pounds.
  • The manned 178-foot LTA craft can perform various missions in support of technology development for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) concepts.

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