Navy blimp begins oil-spill duty

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. — A Navy blimp has started looking for oil and distressed wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Coast Guard commander of the operation, Tony Lombardi, said today that initial flights are over the coast of Alabama, but the missions will be expanded as needed and as the weather allows.

Observers are typically operating from an altitude of 300 to 500 feet in the 178-foot-long airship, which can come to an almost complete stop. Lombardi says the crew will radio directly to boats below when they see oil or wildlife that needs attention.

So far, the blimp has spotted problems with boom that needed repairs. It’s operated by a Navy contractor and staffed by the Coast Guard.

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