Navy MZ3A airship #167811 was up all day Saturday, providing a surprise visit to crowds on the boardwalks and "early bird" sunbathers at nearby beaches who were enjoying the first real "hot" day of Spring.
About ready to mark one full year since the first flight, the airship is undergoing mandatory Annual Maintenance Revue this week and is expected to return to the air early next week.
Meanwhile, funding for the airship to continue operating beyond June is a mounting concern. As little as the MZ3A project costs (about $5million per year for the entire operation) there is very little money to go around.
With $250million a day being spent on Iraq, every nook and cranny of the armed forces is being stripped of anything beyond bare funding. The MZ3A's role as a test, training and proof-of-concept vehicle for various promising airborne systems and operations notwithstanding, it remains to be seen whether the proponents of LTA can win continued funding.
One thing the airship has got going for it is a good operating record, the fact that it is already established inventory and the fact that from scratch the Navy people have created the only operational, fully-compliant current-military-standard LTA operation anywhere in the world with everything from tool/hardware inventory to Operational Risk Matrix appropriately documented, codified, quantified, etc.
The next few months should be interesting.
Thanks to Rick Zitarosa for this news item from the colorado Airship-list