The Goodyear Blimp is any one of a fleet of airships (or dirigibles) operated by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, used mainly for advertising purposes and capturing aerial views of live sporting events for television.[3] The term blimp itself is defined as a non-rigid airship—without any internal structure, the pressure of lifting gas within the airship envelope maintains the vessel's shape.

Wingfoot One (N1A) is not actually a blimp, but rather a semi-rigid airship built by Luftschiffbau Zeppelin.[1]
Spirit of Innovation (N4A), Goodyear's last true blimp (non-rigid airship), was retired on March 14, 2017.[2]

From the launch of the Pilgrim in 1925 to the retiring of the Spirit of Innovation in 2017, Goodyear generally owned and operated non-rigid airships in its global public relations fleet. In 2014, Goodyear began to replace its three U.S. non-rigid airships (blimps) with three new semi-rigid airships, each of which have a rigid internal frame. Although technically incorrect, Goodyear continues to use "blimp" in reference to these new semi-rigid airships.[1] Wingfoot One, the first such model in Goodyear's U.S. fleet, was christened on August 23, 2014, at the Wingfoot Lake Airship Hangar, near the company's headquarters in Akron, Ohio .[4]

Airship fleet Edit

The Spirit of Goodyear (N3A), one of the iconic Goodyear Blimps which was based at Wingfoot Lake

In May 2011, Goodyear announced it was replacing its fleet of non-rigid airships with three semi-rigid airships built by Luftschiffbau Zeppelin.[5][6]

Goodyear's U.S. fleet consists of three semi-rigid airships (model LZ N07-101):[7][8]

The new airships are 246 feet (75 meters) long, 52 feet (16 meters) longer than Goodyear's old model, the GZ-20. The Zeppelin NT model is also slimmer, has a top speed of 70 miles per hour (110 kilometers per hour) (versus 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour) for the blimp), and has a passenger gondola that seats 12 (compared to seven in the blimp). The gondola also contains a restroom.[11] Both craft are outfitted with LED sign technology Goodyear calls "Eaglevision". This allows the aircraft to display bright, multi-colored, animated words and images.

Goodyear has also leased blimps operating in other parts of the world. These airships were built and operated by The Lightship Group of Orlando, Florida. In 2012, The Lightship Group was acquired (along with the American Blimp Corporation) by Van Wagner Communications LLC, and operated as the Van Wagner Airship Group until November 17, 2017, when it was purchased by Airsign Inc.[12][13][14] They currently operate an airship for Goodyear in China.[15]

Lifting agent Edit

The Goodyear blimps are inflated with helium. The helium is maintained under low pressure, so small punctures do not pose serious consequences for the blimp. One inspection element of the blimps is to look into the envelope for pinpoints of light which are indicative of small holes.

Prior to the Zeppelin NT, the Goodyear blimps were non-rigid (meaning their shape is not maintained by a rigid internal structure) dirigibles (directable/steerable airships). Inside their exterior envelope, the blimps are fitted with air-filled ballonets. As the blimp ascends or descends, the internal ballonets expand or contract to compensate for density changes and to maintain uniform pressure in the envelope. The latest Goodyear airship, the Zeppelin NT, is a departure from this convention, as it is a semi-rigid airship that makes use of a truss inside the envelope to provide some of its strength.

Models Edit

Enterprise (N1A), a model GZ-20 blimp, flies over the 1981 Indianapolis 500. Goodyear replaced the fleet's old color scheme in 1991.[16]
America (N3A) and Columbia (N4A) are moored in preparation for the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Wingfoot Two (N2A), a model LZ N07-101 semi-rigid airship, takes off to provide aerial coverage of the 2016 NBA playoffs.

"GZ" stands for Goodyear–Zeppelin, stemming from the partnership Goodyear had with the German company when both were building airships together. However, these models came many years after this partnership had dissolved during the start of World War II. The GZ-1 was the USS Akron (ZRS-4), the U.S. Navy's fourth rigid airship used for several tests including as a flying "aircraft carrier".

  • GZ-19/19A: Introduced in 1959 with the Mayflower (N4A) and discontinued in 1978 after the Mayflower (N38A) was destroyed by a tornado. The design for this class is similar to the L class blimp built by Goodyear for the U.S. Navy.
  • GZ-20/20A: This class was introduced in 1969, with America (N10A) and Columbia (N3A) being the first two. The Europa (N2A) followed in 1972 and was based in Italy, the first Goodyear blimp operated outside of the United States. These airships were larger than the GZ 19 blimps. Beginning in 2014, Goodyear began retiring the GZ-20 and replacing them with the Zeppelin NT. On February 23, 2014, Spirit of Goodyear was retired in Pompano Beach after the 2014 Daytona 500.[17] On August 10, 2015, the California-based GZ-20, the Spirit of America, was decommissioned. The Spirit of Innovation, took over California operations in September 2015 until its retirement in March 2017 as the last remaining GZ-20. In fall of 2017, Wingfoot Two will be relocated to California.[18]
  • GZ-22: The only airship in this class was the Spirit of Akron (N4A). Originally built in 1987 to show the U.S. Department of Defense that airships were still militarily viable, it was the most technically advanced airship Goodyear ever had in its public relations fleet, featuring fly-by-wire technology. However, Spirit of Akron was destroyed in a crash in 1999 and the company has not built one since, most likely because of the increase in manufacturing and operating expenses due to its advanced technology.
  • LZ N07-101: In May 2011, Goodyear announced that it would be replacing its aging fleet of GZ-20 blimps (non-rigid airships) with Zeppelin NT airships. Construction began in 2012 on the first of three new semi-rigid airships; completed in March 2014, Wingfoot One was christened on August 23, 2014, by Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts.[8] Wingfoot Two, the name of Goodyear's second semi-rigid airship, was unveiled in April 2016.[19] The third finished the fleet in 2018. Shaesta Waiz, the youngest woman to fly solo around the world, christened Wingfoot Three during an August 30 ceremony in Akron, with the traditional smashing of a bottle of champagne across the bow. "Wingfoot Three will serve as a beacon for me to continue my work inspiring and celebrating aviation with others," said Waiz. She joined a list of other famous Goodyear airship christeners, including Amelia Earhart and astronaut Sally Ride.[20]

Historical navy classes Edit

Dimensions Edit

A Goodyear blimp, near Manchester, England evening of 30 April 2012

According to the Goodyear website, the now retired GZ 19 and 19A blimps were 150 and 157 feet (46 and 48 meters) long respectively, and the GZ-20/20A blimps were 192 feet (59 meters) long, 59.5 feet (18.1 meters) tall, and 50 feet (15 meters) wide. For comparison, the largest airships ever built, the Zeppelin company's Hindenburg, LZ-129, and the Graf Zeppelin II, LZ-130, were both 804 feet (245 meters) long and 135 feet (41 meters) in diameter. That is, over four times as long and over twice as wide as the current Goodyear blimps. The largest blimp ever made by Goodyear was the U.S. Navy's ZPG-3, at 403 feet (123 meters) in length.

Names Edit

Puritan (NC7A) at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair

Since 1928, Goodyear had traditionally named its blimps after the U.S. winners of the America's Cup yacht race. This naming method is attributed to then-Goodyear CEO P. W. Litchfield,[21] who viewed the airships as "aerial yachts". Although that practice deviated with the introduction of the Spirit of Akron in 1987, the tradition ended with the Florida-based Stars & Stripes in 2005.

In 2006, Goodyear began having the public participate in the naming of their airships; they dubbed this the "Name the Blimp" contest. Spirit of Innovation was the first airship to be named by the public.

The America's Cup winners' names:[22] Puritan, Reliance, Defender, Volunteer, Resolute, Vigilant, Mayflower, Ranger, Rainbow, Enterprise, Columbia, America, Stars & Stripes.[21][23]

Non-cup winners' names:[22] Pilgrim,[24]Neponset,[24]Spirit of Akron,[21]Spirit of Goodyear,[21]Eagle,[21]Spirit of America,[25]Spirit of Innovation,[25]Wingfoot One,[26]Wingfoot Two.[19]

Foreign based blimps have been operated by The Lightship Group since the 1990s: Europa,[21]Spirit of Europe,[27]Spirit of the South Pacific,[27]Spirit of the Americas,[28]Spirit of Safety,[29]Ventura,[30]Ling Hang Zhe (Navigator).[25]

Passenger policy Edit

The only passengers that Goodyear will allow on the blimps are corporate guests of the company and members of the press; it has been Goodyear's long-standing policy that no public rides are offered. However, for over 50 years, it had to offer limited public rides at its Miami, Florida, winter base on Watson Island as part of its land-lease deal with the city in order to operate from the island. That practice ended in 1979 when the base was moved to Opa-locka, Florida.

During the period in which Goodyear supplied tires for IndyCar, it was a tradition that the pole position winner at the Indianapolis 500 would get a ride in the blimp in the days leading up to the race.[31]

During the period in which Goodyear was a corporate sponsor of the All American Soap Box Derby,[citation needed] the winners of the World Championship races held each July in Akron, Ohio were awarded a ride in the blimp.[32] Typically these rides were given on the day following the annual race, but if weather prohibited the blimp from flying on that day, the champions were given an award letter from Goodyear. This letter was basically a lifetime ticket for one blimp ride to be taken whenever arrangements could be made between all parties involved.

The European Goodyear blimp is operated by Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei, a commercial passenger flight operator, and the Goodyear Zeppelin NT is regularly used for public flights around Germany outside of sport seasons.[33]

Night signs Edit

For years, Goodyear has fitted its blimps with a night sign. From neon tubes, to incandescent lamps to LEDs, these signs have helped the company advertise its products and also deliver public service messages from various organizations such as local governments.

  • Neon-O-Gram Originally called NeonGoodyear, was first fitted on Defender in the 1930s. Neon tubes on the sides of the blimp which usually spelled out 'Goodyear'.
  • 10 Panel Incandescent Bulbs
  • Skytacular: In the mid-1960s, the GZ-19 Mayflower (N4A) was fitted with over 3,000 incandescent lamps of red, yellow, blue and green on both sides that for the first time featured animation. Usually moving stick figures, ticker messages or colorful patterns. A small gas turbine had to be attached to the blimp's car in order to power the Skytacular night sign.
  • Super Skytacular: Same technology as Skytacular, but with more than 7,000 lamps on both sides. Super Skytacular was fitted on the new longer GZ-20 blimps in 1969.
  • EagleVision

Accidents Edit

  • Wingfoot Air Express, while transporting passengers from Chicago's Grant Park to the White City Amusement Park, caught fire then crashed through the skylight of the Illinois Trust & Savings Bank on July 21, 1919, killing one crewman, two passengers, and ten bank employees.[34]
  • Columbia, tail number N10A, was buzzed repeatedly by a radio-controlled model airplane when the blimp flew over a field used for R/C model flying; the R/C pilot then intentionally rammed his model airplane into the blimp, tearing a three-foot hole through the envelope.[35] The blimp made a "hard landing" at a nearby airport. The R/C pilot, John William Moyer, was identified by other flyers at the field and was later arrested. The incident occurred on September 30, 1990.[36]
  • Spirit of Akron, tail number N4A, crashed on 28 October 1999, in Suffield, Ohio, when it suddenly entered an uncontrolled left turn and began descending. The pilot and technician on board received only minor injuries when the blimp struck trees. The National Transportation Safety Board report identified that improperly hardened metal splines on the control actuators sheared, causing loss of control.[37]
  • Stars and Stripes, tail number N1A, crashed on June 16, 2005, in Coral Springs, Florida, when it was caught in a strong thunderstorm that eventually pushed the aircraft into trees and powerlines. There were no injuries in the crash, although the pilot and passenger were trapped for a number of hours until the powerlines could be de-energized.[38] The National Transportation Safety Board accident report claims the cause of the accident to be the pilot's "inadequate in-flight planning/decision which resulted in an in-flight encounter with weather (thunderstorm outflow), and downdrafts..."[39]
  • Spirit of Safety I (built by American Blimp Corporation), registered as G-TLEL and owned and operated by Lightship Europe Limited, (but operating in Goodyear livery), caught fire while on landing approach to the Reichelsheim Airport and crashed on June 12, 2011, near Reichelsheim, Hesse, Germany. The pilot, Michael Nerandzic, flew the airship low enough that passengers could jump to the ground, and all three did indeed leap to safety. Nerandzic then, while still able to maintain some control on the burning blimp, climbed away so that fire or wreckage would not hit the escapees; soon after, Nerandzic died in the blimp's fiery wreck.[29][40]

Popular culture Edit

In 1983, the city of Redondo Beach, California, near the blimp base airport in Carson, California,[41][better source needed] adopted resolution number 6252 recognizing the Goodyear Airship Columbia (since retired) as the "Official Bird of Redondo Beach".[42]

The blimp is mentioned in the song “It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube.

In January 2019, the College Football Hall of Fame inducted the Goodyear Blimp as its first-ever nonhuman inductee.[43]

References Edit

  1. ^ a b Ewinger, James (March 14, 2014). "Goodyear rolls out newest blimp (Cody B)with the help of Zeppelin". The Plain Dealer via Plain Dealer Publishing Co. and Northeast Ohio Media Group. Archived from the original on July 21, 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2014. The three trusses mean that the new airship is semi-rigid. As such it is not a blimp, which is defined as non-rigid... But Goodyear's newest airship will still be called a blimp. 'The term Goodyear Blimp is so universally recognized that the company is proud to have it continue, regardless of any technical difference,' said Goodyear spokesman Doug Grassian.
  2. ^ "Goodyear retires blimps but keeps familiar form in flight". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. March 14, 2017. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2017. Goodyear has let the helium out of the last of its fabled fleet of blimps, but the company's flight program will continue.
  3. ^ "Blimp Schedule". Archived from the original on 4 July 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  4. ^ Cohen, Aubrey (August 25, 2014). "Goodyear's New 'Wingfoot One Cody B' Isn't a Blimp". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hearst Seattle Media, LLC. Retrieved September 4, 2014.
  5. ^ "Goodyear blimps to be replaced by German Zeppelins". Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  6. ^ Dixon Murray, Teresa (May 2011). "Goodyear's 3 aging blimps to be replaced with bigger, faster airships". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
  7. ^ "Goodyear - Current Blimps". Archived from the original on July 4, 2017. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Heldenfels, Rich (August 23, 2014). "A new blimp is christened: Wingfoot One makes its formal debut". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  9. ^ FAA (2014). "N-Number Inquiry Results: N1A". FAA Registry – Federal Aviation Administration. Retrieved September 9, 2014. N-Number: N1A... Status: Valid... Certificate Issue Date: 08/27/2014...
  10. ^[bare URL]
  11. ^ Mike Hembree (February 18, 2015). "With new model on the way, Goodyear blimp makes final flights". USA Today Sports. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  12. ^ "Van Wagner buys The Lightship Group, American Blimp Corp. - New York Business Journal". Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  13. ^ "Company History". Lightships. Archived from the original on November 25, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2010.
  14. ^ "Acquisition Positions AirSign as World Leader in the Airship Industry". Aviation Pros. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  15. ^ "Lightships :: Client Highlights >> GoodYear". Airsign. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  16. ^ "Goodyear Blimp Gets A Face-lift Ship's New Color Scheme Will Debut In February". tribunedigital-sunsentinel. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
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  18. ^ "Goodyear Blimp "Spirit of America" Retires; Transition To High Tech Fleet Continues" (Press release). Goodyear. July 26, 2015. Archived from the original on August 7, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  19. ^ a b Haidet, Ryan (April 8, 2016). "Goodyear unveils Wingfoot Two airship in Akron". WKYC. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
  20. ^ Patterson, Thom (August 2018). "Wingfoot Three Completes Goodyear's Fleet of New Zeppelins". CNN. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
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  22. ^ a b "America's Cup Winners". Herreshoff Marine Museum. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
  23. ^ "Goodyear Blimp | History & FAQ". Akron, OH: The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Archived from the original on 2 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  24. ^ a b "The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Records". Akron, OH: The University of Akron. August 8, 2002. p. 7. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  25. ^ a b c "Goodyear Blimp | Our Fleet". The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  26. ^ "Wingfoot One Selected as Winning Name for New Goodyear Blimp" (Press release). Goodyear. 21 July 2014. Archived from the original on 26 July 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  27. ^ a b "Lightships :: Client Highlights >> GoodYear". The Lightship Group. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
  28. ^ "Return of Goodyear Airships to Europe is a success" (Press release). PR Newswire Europe Ltd. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
  29. ^ a b Nathan Klein, "Heroic Aussie pilot in airship tragedy", The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), June 14, 2011, retrieved June 13, 2011.
  30. ^ "Dirigível Goodyear". Goodyear of Brasil. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
  31. ^ "The Legends of the Brickyard" – 1985 Indianapolis 500 Highlight Film, ESPN
  32. ^[dead link]
  33. ^ "Goodyear Zeppelin Hovers Over Frankfurt". Skyline Atlas. September 13, 2020. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  34. ^ "Chicago History". Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  35. ^ "Man Arrested as Model Plane Buzzes, Punctures Goodyear Blimp". Los Angeles Times. October 1990. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  36. ^ "Man Will Stand Trial In Goodyear Blimp Attack". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on June 21, 2018. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  37. ^ "IAD00LA002". Archived from the original on October 10, 2006.
  38. ^ Wikinews:Goodyear blimp crashes in Florida
  39. ^ "ATL05CA100". Archived from the original on October 11, 2006.
  40. ^ "Pilot stirbt bei Luftschiff-Absturz" [Pilot dies in airship crash]. Der Spiegel (in German). June 12, 2011. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  41. ^ "Our Fleet: America". Goodyear. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  42. ^ "December 12, 1983 Meeting Minutes". Redondo Beach City Council. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
  43. ^ "Goodyear Blimp Named Honorary Member of College Football Hall of Fame".

General and cited references Edit

External links Edit