JFC’s runaway blimp causes air traffic alert

A blimp bearing advertising for a Tuam based company broke free from where it was tethered at the National Ploughing Championships to roam the air prompting the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA ) to put out an official air-safety alert.

The blimp owned by JFC Manufacturing Co Ltd, a well-known farm plastics company based in Tuam, broke free at the event in Athy, Co Kildare, on Tuesday morning and took off into the air. According to JFC managing director John Concannon the IAA had to be notified as a precaution as the unusual flying object was flying in the direction of Baldonnell airport.

The IAA posted a warning on its website advising that the blimp became airborne at 11.30am. The warning further read: “It is four metres by two metres in size (colour unknown ) with a JFC printed on the side. It is estimated that due to prevailing winds it initially travelled in a northerly direction.”

Mr Concannon added that no safety issues occurred as the troublesome balloon was not up for long due to the release of a safety valve which brought it crashing back down to Earth somewhere in Monasterevin, Co Kildare. However, speaking to the Advertiser from the Championships yesterday afternoon Mr Concannon confirmed that the blimp has not yet been located despite the reward offer of a free chicken house worth almost €300.

Explaining the incident Mr Concannon said: “There was a gust of wind and it got free of its chains and just flew away. I think it’s still in the area. It would have been only up there for a short while because of a valve that’s in it for safety but we had to notify the IAA because it was heading not far from Baldonnell airport. We did the right thing and it didn’t cause much trouble for them.

“There was more damage in terms of cost. The blimp cost €3,500 and to put helium in it is €600 and it was only up for an hour before it took off. It was an inconvenience to us because it’s also a landmark in the Ploughing Championships and a meeting point, but we had to function without it. We’re still currently waiting for someone in Monasterevin to bring it back to us. There’s a 200 foot rope that hangs from it so hopefully it ended up in someone’s garden or somewhere like that,” he said.

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