A giant fluorescent-yellow, football-shaped object seen by thousands of Sydney residents floating across the city sparked fears of a UFO landing tonight [June 21].
A police spokeswoman said residents jammed police and radio station switchboards with reports of the strange bright light hovering above their suburbs, some from as far away as Sydney's northern beaches. But the light was definitely not from a UFO but the Whitman's chocolate company blimp, she said.
National UFO hotline senior operator Ross Dowe said the Melboume-based service recorded its busiest night in five years with more than 1,000 calls from worried Sydney residents between 6pm and 7:30pm (AEST).
Dowe said some callers were panicked by what they had seen but all had been reassured that the object was a blimp on its way from Bankstown Airport to the Sydney Football Stadium to film a rugby union test match game between Australia and France for Channel 7.
Even more calls were expected to be received by the hotline's three operators when the 40-metre-long, 20-metre-high blimp left the stadium later tonight, he said.
"Some people were saying it was brighter than the moon and a lot of people were scared of it," Dowe said. "People around the Beacon Hill area were quite concerned. We had quite a lot of calls from that area."
Other calls came from western suburbs such as Parramatta, Bankstown and Penrith plus Mona Vale, Mosman and Frenchs Forrest in the north. Several others called from Bondi and Rose Bay in Sydney's east.
The American chocolate company has used the blimp to advertise its products over suburbs in Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide. Blimp pilot Kelvin White said this was the first time the blimp had floated above Sydney. It had caused similar panic among residents in other cities it had hovered over, he said.
The airship contains 69,000 cubic feet of helium and is powered by two 72 horsepower engines. It sheds a golden, orange light from two 1,000 watt bulbs and features Whitman's logo written across it in green ink.
Original file name: CNI - Blimp panics Aussies
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