back to article Homemade airship prang closes highway in Oklahoma

A homemade airship went out of control above Oklahoma last week and came down on an interstate motorway, causing startled highway patrolmen to hurriedly close several lanes to traffic. According to reports, the 79-year-old pilot and inventor of the craft was uninjured - but is now in trouble with the feds for not possessing …


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  1. M7S
    Thumb Up

    Excellent stuff

    Whilst I appreciate that he could have caused a major accident, the world progresses by "men in sheds" building things like this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Besides, dirigibles, even hydrogen-filled ones, are sedate enough to not be prone to a lot of speed related accidents. One of the things I dislike about technology-in-wide-production is the sheer amount of red tape it invariably attracts. This guy, well, he's undaunted. More power to him. If the FCC had any balls they'd just give him a licence to experiment with his dirigibles, perhaps provided he reads up on the existing literature. But of course they can't, they're stuck in red tape land.

      1. Steven Knox


        I'm assuming that's what you mean here. I'm assuming that you don't think the FCC's remit over US airwaves covers airships.

  2. The Indomitable Gall

    You landed on the road WHY?!?!?

    "According to Polzein he was forced to come down on the interstate to avoid an even more dangerous descent into trees."

    Descending into trees put one man in danger. Descending on the interstate -- in an unlicensed, illegal vehicle -- puts dozens of lives in danger.

    A man who takes risks should learn to accept the consequences.

    1. Geoff Thompson
      Thumb Up

      Aww Shucks

      I assume he knew it was a quiet road. He is obviously nuts, We need more like him. Did you know the Wright broithers did not have a pilots licence between them? Why no vid or pics? Was there nobody around with a half decent mobile?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Its the middle of Oklahoma, they are lucky to even have an internet connection....

      2. TimeMaster T


        The interstate in OK are long and straight, cars tend to be moving at well over the posted limit because they are "quite".

        By putting a STATIONARY obstacle in the path of oncoming traffic he put other peoples lives at risk, very careless.

        While I agree with other posters that he is should continue, and I would encourage him to do so. But he needs to remember that if he screws up someone else could die if he is not careful, even the Wrights tested in an empty field.

        1. Stoneshop

          With straight roads

          drivers can see miles ahead that something large, slow and not-at-all car-like is descending on to the road. And even with the average attentiveness of OK drivers, and the state of their car's brakes, they should be able to stop without pranging into the blimp, each other or any amount of wayside trees.

      3. Gilbert Wham

        Pilots licence?

        No, they didn't have a pilot's licence. Why, you ask? Because they *flew the first aeroplane*...

        1. Stoneshop

          Stating the bloody fucking obvious

          You're lucky there are no irony, satire and sarcasm detection licenses, because you would fail their exams.

    2. PC Paul

      I'm sorry?

      "Descending on the interstate -- in an unlicensed, illegal vehicle -- puts dozens of lives in danger."

      Exactly what difference does the 'unlicensed, illegal' bit make to the risks?

      1. steve-C

        Legality's effects on reality.

        Surely you know that when a bureaucrat makes marks on paper, the entire makeup of the universe alters to support his will....That's why booze and ciggies as legal and taxable drugs are much safer than mary jane or anything else that's banned.....yet for a period in US history booze was amazingly dangerous.

        Humans really are bell-ends.

        Tux, cos sooner or later Balmer will get Linux banned, at which point it'll become more dangerous than a starving timber wolf with a peeled habenjero up it's ringpiece.

  3. Renato


    Always hindering fun and progress.

    "How to fly" 1st. edition by Santos Dumont in pocket.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      To my knowlge the airship has already been invented...

  4. Boring Bob
    Thumb Up

    Great stuff

    I'm looking forward to my 70's when I'll be old enough not to give a toss about the authorities, safety or laws and things.

  5. alyn

    Old pilots and bold pilots

    I think this breaks the rule about there being no old, bold pilots.

    1. Mike Flugennock
      Thumb Up

      Hear, hear...

      ...and speaking of old, bold pilots -- let's not forget Alan Shepard, landing a craft on the Moon at age 48. As Houston CapCom radioed out on his landing, "...not bad for an old man!" And, of course, John Young, commanding the first Shuttle mission at around age 50ish.

  6. The Vociferous Time Waster
    Thumb Up

    Men in sheds...

    ...are the only people with flying cars.

  7. Major N


    Rogue Dirigible sounds like a prog band...

  8. Busby

    why do I always need to think of a title?

    Great bit smile on my face reading this. Nutty eccentrics drive the world forward more of them please.

  9. James O'Brien

    "has been involved in previous blimp-related mishaps"

    Maybe hes lying about his age too :)

    Hindenbeg ring any bells?

    /Need I explain the flames?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Must be a heavy airship

    If I remember correctly, in the U.S. you do not need a pilots license if the aircraft is under 500lbs. That would put it in the ultralight category (along with hang gliders, parasails, etc).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah but...

      do you need to weight it inflated or uninflated? An un -inflated blimp can be well over the 'ultralight' weight if you consider the weight of the burner, the gas bottles etc.

      1. Stoneshop

        Of course it weighs less than 500lb.

        Otherwise it wouldn't fly, would it?

        Apart from that, you're thinking of hot-air balloons. Blimps do not have burners and gas bottles.

  11. Sooty

    Am I the only one...

    Sensing a Darwin Award in the making.

    1. Paul RND*1000

      At 79 years old

      it's probably a little late for a Darwin award and even if he has no offspring (nutty bloke in shed, quite possible) it's not likely that he'll be contributing further to the gene pool (nutty, old, bloke in shed who can get an airship up, but probably not much else).

    2. Tim Schomer
      Thumb Up


      Problem is, at 79 he's probably already procreated so there's probably going to be a couple more generations out there that are potential candidates.

  12. Adrian Challinor
    Thumb Up

    The history of aviation

    .. could have been so different if some jobsworth had turrned up at Kitty Hawk beach and asked "do you two have a license to fly that thing?".

    This is happening in big, wide open area called the USA, not Police State Britain.

    Good on you Marvin.

    1. Mike Flugennock
      Thumb Up

      re: history of aviation

      ...a big, wide-open area called the USA, sadly becoming Police State USA. We're right behind you, Britain.

      Still, a big thumbs-up for old Marvin, for sure. Reminds me of my late father-in-law, who celebrated his 80th birthday with a parachute jump. Banzai, you crazy geezer.

    2. JDB
      Thumb Down

      empty sky

      you do realize that there was a lot less commercial air traffic aloft when the Wright boys were testing their craft, not to mention a bit less interstate road travel that this guy put in danger just to satisfy his hobby. There's the safe and legal way to do this, then there's his "rules don't apply to me, I'll do whatever the hell I please" way. And don't give me the "wide open USA" crap - he landed on the Interstate in Oklahoma, it's not like the state is covered with them, so he obviously wasn't out in the middle of nowhere. I'm sure you'd feel a bit different about his right to play with experimental aircraft if he landed one on your house.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        @ empty sky

        This guy wasn't traversing any commercial air corridors at the altitude he was flying at ! He was probably using the Intersate a nav waypoint being a massive linear feature unlike the surrounding landascape after all this guy is flying VFR probably without GPS - slack cutting needed. Mind you landing on a road in the States a recipe for disaster as the driving standard out there is moronic.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    has he got offspring?

    I suspect he's probably been around too long to qualify for a Darwin award...

  14. Petey

    Keep it up old man!

    Hopefully he doesn't get too deflated by the whole experience and give up...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pity he wasn't in the UK

    For if he had been, Health and Safety would have had him in a care home before you could say "Wilbur and Orville Wright"!

    But seriously, isn't he about 100 years late to be reinventing the wheel?

  16. ITDirector

    But we've got one already

    While the persistence of the man is truly admirable, someone really should point out that we already have airships...perhaps he could try his hand at some nuclear fusion or a way to get fashionably fat low profile tyres to work on snow?

  17. Eddy Ito


    Just what I wanted for the yule holiday. Knowing there are folks like this one gives me hope. Although I can't help but wonder if he recently saw the movie "Up."


  18. Steve Hall 1
    Thumb Up

    Yup, fair play to the bloke

    He may be a bit low on the planning and organisation stakes, but you have to admit, looking at the images, the boy did good doing that in his shed.

    I can't even make a home-made cupboard without it being condemned.

  19. RW

    @ M7S

    "the world progresses by 'men in sheds' building things like this."

    Bad example. Men in sheds who build useful devices have more gumption than this old codger. Notice that the Wright brothers, the quintessential men in sheds, had the brains to do their test flights at Kitty Hawk where no one would be endangered by crashes.

    And besides, the era of men in sheds building useful devices seems to be nearly over. Maybe a lot of innovative software still comes out of sheds, but at least it doesn't endanger lives by crashing on a freeway. It restricts its crashes to the guts of computers.

    As for the inventor himself, the applicable platitude is "There's no fool like an old fool."

    Where are the curmudgeon, bah-humbug, and Scrooge icons, pray tell?

    1. Gary Turner

      Raspberry to you

      >Notice that the Wright brothers, the quintessential men in sheds, had the brains to do their test flights at Kitty Hawk where no one would be endangered by crashes.

      They chose Kitty Hawk for its consistent winds, not out of concern for safety. At that stage of development, any farmer's field would have been equally safe for bystanders.

      >And besides, the era of men in sheds building useful devices seems to be nearly over. Maybe a lot of innovative software still comes out of sheds, but at least it doesn't endanger lives by crashing on a freeway. It restricts its crashes to the guts of computers.

      What an odd, inane statement. Surfboards, hang gliders, the CRT, and the stepped airfoil (almost) no stall wing, air brakes, and automatic oilers were all invented by amateurs in their sheds. These examples just popped into mind. A little research would reveal a plethora of like examples. Who knows what is being worked on in some enthusiasts' garages that will end up a part of our everyday lives?

    2. Mike Flugennock

      Men In Sheds Era over...?

      ...ehhh, don't be too sure. There's a couple of fairly recent examples that come to mind: Hewlett and Packard, for one, and Steve Wozniak, for another.

  20. cookieMonster Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Good for him

    Better than rotting away in some bloody old folks home.... fair play to him and I wish him all the best in his efforts.

    And for the whiners out there .....

    If the Feds (and most bloody officials) out there had their way we'd never get anywhere so shut the f&%^ up!!

    Happy christmas to ye all ... Last day and it's beer o' clock.

  21. Graham Bartlett

    "process of trial and error"

    Oh yes indeedy. Enough errors, and you get your trial in court...

    And seriously, a plastic patio chair? I'm not exactly Mr Hippo (160lbs) and I've mullered one in the past just by sitting down a little too hard. Would I want this to be the only obstacle to raspberry-jam-ness several hundred feet below? Not much.

  22. Tanuki
    Thumb Down


    This 'thing' doesn't sound like an airship.

    It sounds much more like what my RADAR-friends call a 'return'. And that means you remain a target until you're confirmed friendly.

  23. Mike Flugennock

    So, look... is what this geezer did any different from what the Wright Brothers were doing over a century ago, or what Robert Goddard was doing in the 1930s?

    Also, even allowing for traffic concerns... isn't this what every private light-aircraft pilot is trained to do, even if only informally -- if you're in trouble, and trying to get yourself down without killing yourself, look for an open stretch of highway? I'm sure that's happened many, many times.

    Pint of beer icon, because, what the hell; here it is, Merry Christmas.

  24. werrington

    Reminds me of a classic Bean moment....

  25. Horridbloke

    I can't believe...

    ...there's only been one comment referencing the motion picture "Up".

    (Apart from this one).

  26. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    More power to the flying wrinklies


    Good on ya mate, well done.

    Next time I hope you get clear all the way interstate....and then some.

    We need more people like this.

    Chocks away (if you can have chocks on a dirigible)

  27. Clive Harris

    Re. So, look...

    << isn't this what every private light-aircraft pilot is trained to do, even if only informally -- look for an open stretch of highway? >>

    I'm not sure what they teach where you come from, but, over here in Australia that's the last place you'd try to land. Virtually all highways here are surrounded by overhead power and telephone lines. You (usually) won't survive hitting one of those.

    I was taught to NEVER try landing on a highway. Much better a field, park, golf course or even a large backyard. You'll bend the aeroplane, but you've a fair chance of walking (or staggering) away. I've even heard of people surviving landing in a tree!

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Flying Finn

    There's a similar guy but succesful in Finland. Made a plane from VW motor, wood and greenhouse plastic film with hardly any education or flight training, only from experience of flying RC planes.

    Flyed first lane for about 70h, was caught and fined. Sold that plane and it ended up into a museum:

    He made a second plane, flied with it and was caught and sentenced for a 4 months suspended prison sentence.

    He claims there's even third plane in a secret place, and there's rumors about fourth but he denies the existence of the fourth.

    The guy is 62 now, and could still be flying some plane.

    I've seen the Tiira 1 in the museum, and it's quite rough looking. Most of the parts are taken from whatevers been laying around. The control sticks bearing is a 4 inch iron nail! That blimp guy has a long way to go compared to this crazy finn.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    small picture here...

  30. Anonymous Coward

    film of some of this Makes Emergency Landing%2C FAA Investigates&vt1=v&at1=News&d1=71100&LaunchPageAdTag=News&activePane=info&rnd=16377702

  31. Il Midga di Macaroni
    Thumb Up

    Having a project keeps you sane

    If he just sat around doing nothing all day, he'd be dead or insane within a year.

    I don't see any difference between this incident and any of the thousands of light plane forced landings which happen every year.

  32. Darren Lovell

    @ Geoff Thompson

    "Did you know the Wright broithers did not have a pilots licence between them?"

    There's a very simple explanation for that: The Wright brothers' maiden flight was the first officially documented case of powered flight therefore there were no sorts of laws, regulations or licensing for air travel. Why would you license or create legislation for something that was considered impossible at the time?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Read the article

    This guy want all the way down to Texas in this thing so I can't be that crap and Lewis where in the article does in mention an Interstate let alone alone landing on one. He crash landed near a school. Intersates don't run through towns to my knowledge. Top bloke shame there are so few of his type still about and so many politically correct, risk-averse, autocratic worms.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    This probably costs him a lot of money...

    ...if he's not careful, he's going to die interstate.

  35. Big Bear

    @Darren Lovell

    Any plethora of patent squatters would and seem to do!

  36. SimpleUser

    At AC, 11:22 GMT

    'Intersates don't run through towns to my knowledge.'

    Yo, they do, some of them at least - the I 75 straight into Dallas/ Texas as an example.

    Merry Christmas to you all out there.

  37. Hannibal Lecter


    The closest I-75 comes to Dallas is Atlanta, GA -- roughly 900 miles away.

    Dallas/Fort Worth has plenty of Interstates (I-20/I-30/I-35(E&W)/I-45/I-345/I-635/I-820), but I-75 is not among them. I suspect you're confusing it with US-75, which is not an Interstate.

  38. Andus McCoatover

    @werrington - Mr. Bean link

    Had a quick dash to the toilet before I wet myself!

    Thanks for the link!

    Seasons Greetings, Andus.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interstates vs towns: I-5 goes through Seattle etc

    "Intersates don't run through towns to my knowledge"

    I-5 (Interstate 5) runs through Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland. I-5 was actually designed that way, so it's *not* a case of cities/businesses/etc springing up around busy highways, because those cities were there first. I-5 is not some piddly little short interstate either - it's over 1000 miles long and runs all the way from Canada to Mexico, although there is room for debate as to whether Seattle qualifies for 'piddly' status ;) but Tacoma's status in that regard was confirmed decades ago. ;)

  40. kain preacher

    @Interstates vs towns

    % does the same thing in California. So does 80,280,580,680,780 205, 10, 8, 410, 405

  41. Daniel B.


    I was half expecting this geezer to claim he's going down to South America.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sooty: how could it be a Darwin award when he's in his seventies ?

    At least if it is, he's leaving it to the last minute :-)

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I admire his spirit, but he should be old enough to know he has the responsibility to stay away from everyone else when he tries his projects out. Landing on the highway is a definite fail.

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