Goodyear provides ‘blimp’ update
During the past week, Goodyear marked what it calls an “important milestone in the company’s plans to replace its current fleet of blimps.” Workers installed a new envelope over the aluminium and carbon fibre framework of the first of its new-design airships. Although they will still most likely be referred to as blimps, the new craft are semi-rigid airships and are being supplied by Germany’s ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik. Personnel from Zeppelin, along with a Goodyear team, are building the airship at Goodyear’s hangar in Suffield, Ohio.
Compared to the current fleet of Goodyear blimps, the new model of airship will be longer, faster and more maneouverable. The envelope applied to the new airship is made of polyester with a DuPont Tedlar film. As it is stretched over each metal truss, the envelope is attached. When complete, the helium-filled envelope will have a volume of 297,527 cubic feet (8,425 cubic metres).
“This is a major project that requires the dedication and skilled handiwork of these combined teams of airship experts. The result will be the only Zeppelin model airship in North America. It represents a strong investment in Goodyear’s airship programme, helping to ensure that Goodyear will remain at the forefront of aerial broadcast coverage and support,” said Nancy Ray, Goodyear’s director of Global Airship Operations.
According to Ray, upcoming construction milestones include the attachment of the airship’s tail fins and passenger gondola. Both are scheduled to take place this year. In early 2014, key steps will include crew training, airship certification, installation of the electronic video boards and eventual christening.
Goodyear owns and operates three airships in the United States. Its blimp fleet generates significant value for the company through visibility at major events, on-camera exposure during television broadcast, tyre sales through support of Goodyear dealer and store promotions, and the goodwill generated by support of non-profit and public service programmes. The tyre maker has built and operated more than 300 lighter-than-air vehicles since 1917, including two large rigid airships – the U.S.S. Macon and U.S.S. Akron. This is the first semi-rigid airship to be built in the 95-year history of the Wingfoot Lake Hangar.