The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York announced the acquisition of two 192 foot aerial blimps, formerly the flagship fleet of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The news came as a surprise to Jehovah’s Witness church members across the U.S., where the recent focus has been the development of its new Warwick New York compound, which will be home to the church’s Governing Body.
According to financial records obtained, the sale of the 2 blimps was recorded at 38.6 million dollars and includes a 3 year contract for the 2 union pilots currently manning both crafts. While Watchtower has agreed to fulfill the pilot contracts, it has stated privately that it will train its own volunteer staff to fly the airships in conjunction with its policy to employ only trusted Jehovah’s Witness workers.
“We are exceptionally pleased to have these blimps at our disposal, and we expect to fully utilize their efficiency for transportation as well as their instant recognition, which will be a much needed boost to our ministry and our JW.org website.” stated Watchtower Public Relations officer J.R. Brown.
During a one-on-one interview, Brown claimed that shuttling the 7 members of Watchtower’s Governing Body back and forth to Warwick, New York, and its other upstate locations has become costly and time-consuming, with insufficient attention being drawn to the imminent departure of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Brooklyn’s trendy Dumbo neighborhood.
“We feel that our current logo has become too static, and our message would be better delivered by a well-recognized mobile transport, such as a blimp.”
Brown noted that while the iconic Watchtower sign overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge has been a beacon to Jehovah’s Witness visitors for nearly 100 years, the exit from the borough will leave a void both for Witnesses and for potential converts.
“Jehovah’s people have made excellent use of modern video and internet services, and we visualize our recognizable blue square logo floating between New York City and the upstate area as a way to mobilize JW.org and let the citizens of New York State know that we are moving, but not disappearing.”
When queried on the specifics of logo implementation, Brown revealed that Watchtower will use a combination of recognizable blue square logos, Biblical quotes, and images of current Governing Body members to attract attention to the church’s web site and their popular evangelical leaders.
“Our first Governing Body member to appear on the blimp will be Brother Steven Lett, who is exceptionally gifted with his animated expressions and simple kind-hearted smile. He loves children, and we feel that the positive response from his appearance on JW Broadcasting warrants his appearance on the blimp.”
The recent developments which have come to light concerning this purchase have revealed the well concealed secret as to why Watchtower has delayed the erection of a building on one of their most valuable but undeveloped properties – the 85 Jay Street location. This 135,000 square foot locale comprises an entire city block, and until this week it was speculated that Jehovah’s Witnesses were delaying construction due to their relocation to Warwick New York by early 2017. However, as Brown revealed, the true designation of this immense rectangle of real estate will serve the function of being Brooklyn’s first Helium airship docking station.
“Working with Brooklyn’s zoning commission was a challenge for us considering the unusual nature of our request for rezoning, but we feel that our God Jehovah has blessed our efforts to use this land for the next year as a springboard to our mobile preaching campaign. The ability to shuttle our 7 Governing Body members is an added bonus.”
The decision to allocate more than 38 million dollars for this project has critics of Jehovah’s Witnesses questioning the timing of this expenditure. In a recent broadcast, Governing Body member Samuel Herd disclosed that the organization will implement cutbacks in personnel, while imposing a moratorium on expansion projects outside of the US. But according to spokesman Brown, Herd and his colleagues have placed a high priority on the blimp shuttle and advertising program, particularly in view of the limited time they will have to fly over New York City before vacating Brooklyn entirely.
One of the most notable opponents to the Watchtower Blimp is New York billionaire and presidential hopeful Donald Trump. When asked about the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ new acquisition, Trump immediately blasted the fundamental Christian organization and stated that their proposed schedule for daily flights back and forth to upstate will interfere with his own helicopter flight paths North of Manhattan.
“I can’t believe zoning allowed this group of unpatriotic cult members to clog the flight paths of New York City with their religious publicity stunt” said Trump. “I mean, the blimp is huge, just look at it – it will do nothing for the great city of New York and nothing to help make America great.”
Trump was probed as to whether his comments would alienate Jehovah’s Witnesses, who comprise nearly 2 million adherents in the US. He replied “What the hell do I care about those people – they don’t vote.”
Additional criticism surfaced recently when it was revealed that Watchtower is spending money at an alarming rate to complete the Warwick project, maintain thousands of Kingdom Hall worship centers, and now to fund the blimp project. While the organization claims it has no problems with incoming donations, experts say that tens of millions of dollars are expected to be paid out in child abuse mishandling cases being litigated across the US and worldwide. These payments have not been factored into the current expenditures, and expectations are that Watchtower will take a significant hit in its financial portfolio as a result.
Governing Body member Stephen Lett, mentioned earlier, could not be reached for comment on the pending litigation, but his administrative representative issued the following statement:
“Stephen Lett has made it clear that the accusations against the organization are apostate driven lies, and anyone who perpetuates these lies is mentally diseased.”
When asked why he would not personally comment, his assistant revealed that Lett was currently meeting with the 6 other Governing Body members in a closed session to discuss the blimp graphics and upcoming flight schedules.
While test flights are currently underway in upstate New York, Jehovah’s Witness spokesman Brown announced that the official first flight of the Watchtower blimp will take place on Wednesday March 23rd 2016. This is significant because this date represents the Witnesses’ Memorial celebration, an annual event which is the only date during the year JWs are encouraged to celebrate. This also coincides with the weekly Wednesday meeting of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and it was announced that for the first time in its history, the Governing Body will meet, not in their Columbia Heights conference room, but in a specially modified meeting room aboard the new Watchtower blimp.
Once reaching the new Warwick complex, the Watchtower leaders are expected to make a brief announcement to commemorate the event, then use both of the acquired blimps to shuttle each Governing Body member to undisclosed locations in the New York / New Jersey area to deliver speeches for their celebration, which begins after sundown. To distinguish the 2 vessels, the blimps have been named JW-1 and JW-2.
What are the future plans for the Watchtower blimps? According to the Jehovah’s Witness logistics management team, two football field sized concrete tethering stations are being constructed at Warwick to permanently secure the 2 blimps, along with an enclosed maintenance building where repairs and modifications will be performed. If the program is successful, according to Brown, Watchtower will evaluate whether the same advertising method could be used in other locations in Canada, Australia, and the U.K.When asked if weather might be a factor for the upcoming flights, spokesperson Brown admitted that if this were the case, Watchtower has already arranged suitable helicopter flights for the leadership of the organization so no Governing Body member will miss a critical speech that evening.
Said Brown: “We used to rely on the sign in Brooklyn which admonished people to read God’s Word the Bible Daily. Now that we are leaving Brooklyn we need to replace that sign with modern technology and a way to catch people’s attention while they are driving on the freeway or sunbathing in the back yard. The blimp is the answer.”