Update 2:21 p.m.: Statement from Aeros
Following news that an experimental airship being built by Worldwide Aeros was damaged when a roof collapsed at a Marine Corps Air Station military base on Monday, we received the following statement from John Kiehle, the company's director of communications:
We are grateful nobody was injured by the incident that took place this morning in Tustin, and are currently evaluating further details about damage sustained by the Aeroscraft vehicle. While unfortunate, our initial assessment show that the damage is reparable. Aeros will not be able to provide further comment until after conducting an internal review of the site and vehicle, after which time we can provide additional information.
— KPCC staff
1:01 p.m.: A hangar roof collapsed Monday morning in Tustin, damaging a $35 million experimental airship.
Orange County fire officials said there's a giant hole in the roof of one of the huge concrete hangars on the former Marine Corps Air Station military base.
Orange County Fire Authority spokesman Steve Concialdi said debris from the partial roof collapse damaged the 200-foot-long experimental airship inside the hangar, causing a helium leak.
He said hazardous-material crews stopped the helium leak.
The cause of the collapse isn't known and there were no injuries.
The airship is made out of ultra-light carbon fiber and aluminum underneath its high-tech Mylar skin. Inside, balloons hold the helium that gives the vehicle lift. Helium is not flammable.
The dirigible is being developed by Worldwide Aeros, which says it will be capable of carrying 66 tons of cargo.
The Department of Defense and NASA have invested $35 million in the prototype because of its potential to one day carry more cargo than any other aircraft to disaster zones and military bases.
The company says the cargo airship's potential to carry more cargo more efficiently than ever before would provide the U.S. military with an advantage on the battlefield and greater capacity to save more lives during natural disasters.
The airship can take off vertically, like a helicopter, then change its buoyancy to become heavier than air for landing and unloading.