March 17, 2014
Bigger, Faster Blimp Airship Unveiled By Goodyear
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The Goodyear Blimp has long been associated with major sporting events across North America and the iconic dirigible is now being replaced by a bigger, faster model, according to the tire maker.
Unveiled on Friday at Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake hangar in Suffield, Ohio, the new airship is scheduled to conduct test flights over northeast Ohio in the coming weeks. At the unveiling, the company also announced an online contest to name the new blimp.
“The completion of the new blimp marks the beginning of a new era for our airship program and reflects Goodyear’s commitment to remaining at the forefront of aerial broadcast coverage and support,” said Paul Fitzhenry, senior vice president, global communications. “This airship will offer enhanced aerial television coverage capabilities, increased flight range to cover more events and an unparalleled passenger experience.”
The company said the newest airship is the first in a new fleet of Goodyear blimps that will be different in structure, look and operation than the existing fleet of blimps. The new helium-filled dirigible is 246 feet long, over 50 feet longer than the current blimps. The new airship includes a new paint design while keeping Goodyear’s logo and classic blue and yellow branding on a silver envelope. The gondola has seating for up to 12 passengers and includes larger, wrap-around windows that offer panoramic views.
The new blimp also has cutting-edge on-board avionics and airline flight controls. While previous blimps were operated the with a manual airline flight system that dates back to the 1920s, the new craft has custom-built, computer-controlled avionics. The updated electronics work hand-in-hand with an on-board computer to control engine thrust and piloting the craft. Tail fin movements will be controlled by a manual joystick device. These updates bring a more precise in-flight operation of the airship, as well as during take-off and landing. The new craft also has a top speed of 73 mph, much faster than the current maximum around 50 mph.
The new blimp was assembled at Goodyear’s Ohio facility by an international team of engineers and technicians from Goodyear and Germany’s ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik. The tail fins, gondola and other parts were built in Germany and delivered to the US for construction. The balloon-like body of the dirigible is made out of polyester and a synthetic film from DuPont called Tedlar. The envelope encompasses a semi-rigid internal structure, another feature that differentiates this airship from previous Goodyear blimps.
The contest to name the new blimp runs through April 4 and name submissions can be made through Goodyear’s official website or Facebook page. The contest winner will be invited on-board the new blimp for a day of activities. Nine runners-up will also receive a set of Goodyear tires.
Goodyear has built over 300 lighter-than-air vehicles to date, including two large rigid airships – the USS Macon and USS Akron. This new craft is the first semi-rigid airship to be built in the 95-year history of Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake hangar. It is slated to replace the previous “GZ-20” model that provided 45 years of service.