May 5, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
There isn’t a more familiar flying machine anywhere than the Goodyear Blimp.
Actually there are three Goodyear Blimps based in the United States: the Spirit of Goodyear in Akron, Ohio; the Spirit of Innovation in Pompano Beach, Fla.; and the Spirit of America in Carson, Calif.; as well as leased blimp operations in Europe and China.
Major events attended by large crowds just wouldn’t be the same without a Goodyear Blimp overhead, providing aerial TV coverage and flashing messages on its electronic signs.
Now with the existing blimps nearing the end of their life cycles, Goodyear will “take the next evolutionary step in our airship program," said Nancy Jandrokovic, Goodyear’s director of Global Airship Operations.
On May 3, Goodyear announced a new pact with the German Zeppelin manufacturer ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik “to supply The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company with airships well into the next decade.”
The Zeppelin LZ N07–101 model airships will be built with teams from both companies at Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake Airship Hangar near Akron, Ohio, Goodyear said. Construction of the first airship will start in 2013; it is expected to fly in 2014.
Goodyear said that the new airships will be 246 feet long, considerably larger than the current 192-foot-long ships. The airships, each to be powered by three Lycoming IO-360 engines, will “fly faster, carry more passengers, and include state-of-the art avionics and flight control systems.” Each will cost about $21 million including technical support.
Most Americans associate the word blimp with the name Goodyear. Products from Goodyear Aeronautics are associated with aircraft as far back as the Wright Brothers. AOPA Senior Vice President and Editor in Chief Thomas B. Haines explored that rich history, and got some cockpit time, as he related in his video-illustrated feature, “One giant icon: Flying a piece of aviation history,” in the May 2009 edition of AOPA Pilot .
"The Goodyear blimp is one of the most recognizable brand icons in the world. An event isn't considered truly special unless the Goodyear blimp is there to provide aerial coverage," said Richard J. Kramer, Goodyear chairman, CEO, and president. "I am pleased this investment will ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to experience the joy of seeing the Goodyear blimp grace the skies.”
"We are extremely pleased to renew the Zeppelin connection with the famous Goodyear blimp program," said Thomas Brandt, CEO of ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH & Co. KG. "Goodyear and Zeppelin worked together almost 90 years ago to bring rigid airship technology to America and we’re thrilled to be working together again."
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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