Michael Nerandzic, Serbian-Australian Hero Blimp Pilot

by Julia Gorin on June 17, 2011

in airlines and aviation, Australia, heroes, Julia Gorin (colleague), Serbia

Hero Blimp Pilot’s Ethnicity?

Posted by Julia Gorin


I received emailed confirmation that the pilot, Michael Nerandzic, is indeed of Serbian origin. His family is from the village of Trostice near the city of Novi Pazar in Serbia (which the Muslims have been blatantly trying to take — see also last excerpt here).


Yesterday, a top story on “Good Morning America” was about a pilot whose Goodyear blimp was flying near Oberursel, Germany when a loud noise and the smell of fuel flooded the cabin. Not knowing what was happening, the pilot hovered close to the ground and told his three passengers to jump out. The resulting loss of weight caused the blimp to shoot back up into the air, where it burst into flames.
“They found him still at the controls when it crashed. He also steered it away from his ground crew.” — pilot’s wife

The pilot’s name was Michael Nerandzic.

While the last name implies the Australian pilot had Croatian, Serbian or Bosnian roots, because there has been no mention — anywhere — of his ethnicity, with no ethnic group jumping to take credit for the man, that means he was most probably Serb. (We can’t have good Serbs, can we?)

I asked Nebojsa his opinion, and after doing some research, he found a bunch of Nerandzics — “from a Serb exile in Imperial Russian services (late 1700s) to modern-day interior designers. There was also a scientist living in Canada (who used to live in Belgrade), an artist on Youtube, and a Wikipedia editor – all Serbs. I also found a bunch of them in Kursumlija, southern Serbia (suggesting the surname is native to the area).

“On this here page. I found an audio recording of his voice (see bottom). He was either born in Australia, or has lived there so long, that he speaks in the local dialect perfectly, and pronounces his name Aussie-style, rather than Serbian style.”

Aussie pilot Michael Nerandzic dies in airship explosion, 3 passengers saved

Blimp Pilot Michael Nerandzic
D**n. Nice! [Click photo for larger image.]

AN AUSTRALIAN blimp pilot has been hailed a hero after he saved three passengers by ordering them to jump from the burning airship only to then die himself.

Michael Nerandzic, from Balgownie in Wollongong, was attempting to land the A60 Goodyear airship at an airfield at Reichelsheim in Germany, when the blimp caught fire during descent. The 53-year-old and three journalists with him were returning from a local music festival.

It is understood the passengers smelt fuel and heard a loud whirring noise before the blimp caught fire.

Realising the airship was only moments away from disaster, Mr Nerandzic then made the heroic decision to put his own life on the line to save those of his passengers.

Hovering 2m above the ground he yelled for the three passengers to jump from the gondola to safety below.

That decision reduced the ballast weight of the airship which is believed to have caused it to shoot 50m into the air where it exploded with the burning wreckage falling to the ground. Mr Nerandzic was unable to escape and died in the wreckage.

Witnesses said they heard loud noises coming from the air before spotting a “fireball” moments before it crashed into a meadow near the airfield.

“We could hear the cries of the pilot as the fire surrounded him. It was terrible,” one said.

A close friend and former colleague said Mr Nerandzic was a talented pilot with a deep passion for flying.

He said his decision to save his passengers first summed up the type of person he was.

“He has always put other people first. I don’t even think he would have realised he was doing it – it would have just been instinct,” the friend, who declined to be named, said last night. “He will be a real loss to our community.”

The cause of the fire remained a mystery last night but Germany’s Federal Office for Accident Investigation was investigating.

The departed pilot’s website is still online.

Illawarra Mercury: Airship pilot Michael Nerandzic a hero

15 Jun, 2011 04:00 AM

Wife Lyndy in Michael Nerandzic's study

The remains of Balgownie man Michael Nerandzic have been recovered from wreckage of an incinerated blimp in Germany as investigations into the accident continue.

The veteran pilot is being hailed a hero for ordering his three passengers to safety before flames consumed the airship’s gondola on Sunday.

The drop in weight as the passengers disembarked is believed to have caused the burning craft to shoot into the sky still carrying Mr Nerandzic, who would have turned 53 today.

The phone rang hot with condolences yesterday at the home he shared with wife Lyndy.

Upstairs, his study hinted at the colourful working life that took him to the best seat in the house for five Olympic Games.

In 1988, in Seoul, his passengers were the Korean CIA and police carrying out surveillance work.

He clocked up more than 12,300 hours in the air and worked in 24 countries, souveniring rows of promotional caps and access passes for the study walls.

A large framed broadsheet shows a blimp he piloted over Sydney Harbour on Australia Day in 1988, a spectacular spread of ships laid out below.

Opposite, a collection of photos captures billionaire Richard Branson strapped in waterskis, preparing to be towed by an airship with Mr Nerandzic at the throttle.

“He was a character. He was larger than life. He was so, so generous,” Mrs Nerandzic said.

“When they told me what he had done for the passengers it didn’t surprise me one little bit.

“I was just so glad they have retrieved his body. The company’s going to arrange for his body to be flown back to Australia and after that I haven’t thought any further.

“I just spoke to him the night before and we arranged that I would go over there in July.”

The Nerandzics spent the first 10 years of their marriage living out of hotel rooms overseas before settling in the Illawarra.

“He would be in the airship and I’d be in the car with all of our worldly goods in the trailer,” Mrs Nerandzic said.

“When he used to fly fixed-wing I worried, but he always used to say, ‘what’s going to happen with an airship’?”

Mr Nerandzic was returning three passengers to Reichelsheim Airfield, in Oberursel, on Sunday evening when he got into difficulty.

He was flying the Spirit of Safety I, one of two airships leased by Goodyear from Lightship Europe for marketing flights throughout Europe between March until October.

On board were two news crew from RTL television and Joachim Storch, a photographer from Germany’s Bild newspaper.

Mr Storch reported smelling petrol and seeing flames coming from the back of the Gondola, where the engines are positioned.

The airship came about 2m above the ground and the passengers jumped off at Mr Nerandzic’s encouragement.

The Mercury understands eight members of the ground crew were waiting with ballast bags to weigh the craft to the ground, but they were too far away.

Mr Storch reported looking on from the runway as the blimp went up again.

“I heard the screams of the pilot – it was terrible,” he said.

The airship reached a height of about 50m before it came down in a black column of smoke witnessed 20km away.

According to the Goodyear website, the Spirit of Safety airships were specially built by American Blimp Corporation to a length of 39m – about 20m shorter than models operating in the United States and with engines less than half as powerful.

Unlike the German zeppelins of 50 years ago, the Goodyear blimps are filled with non-flammable helium. A statement issued by The Lightship Group said the identical craft had been grounded “until further notice”.

“First and foremost, our thoughts are with the family and friends of the crew members, and also with our colleagues and the passengers involved with the airship tour in Germany,” the statement continued.

Mr Nerandzic was The Lightship Group’s director of operations in Europe, Asia and Australia until April 2009.

In an interview with The Australian newspaper in 2001 he spoke about his passion for airships and the “lifestyle I love”.

“I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I’ve just loved every day,” he said.

More here.

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