LOCAL ECONOMIES They Love Their Balloon

Notes LOCAL ECONOMIES They Love Their Balloon

Bigger towns might consider it a boondoggle or an eyesore. But the depressed West Texas ranching town of Marfa (pop. 2,500) is delighted about the economic benefit of a 240-ft. radar surveillance balloon that the Customs Service has tethered nearby and plans to fly at an altitude of 14,000 ft. One of six in a planned network along the Mexican border, the helium-filled aerostat can spot suspected drug-smuggling planes up to 200 miles away, then flash data to authorities who will try to intercept the aircraft.

The Marfa installation alone will cost $18 million. Its benefits include some 30 new technical...

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