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Goodyear Blimp


Goodyear Blimp

Spirit of Innovation (N4A), a model GZ-20A blimp (non-rigid airship), is scheduled to retire in 2017.[1][2]
Wingfoot One (N1A) is not actually a blimp, but rather a semi-rigid airship.[3]

The term Goodyear Blimp has traditionally referred to any one of a fleet of airships operated by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, used mainly for advertising and capturing aerial views of live sporting events on television. The term blimp itself is defined as a non-rigid airship – without any internal structure, the pressure of lifting gas contained within the airship envelope maintains the vessel's shape. Since the launch of the Pilgrim in 1925, Goodyear has generally owned and operated airships of this type in its global public relations fleet. However, Goodyear is currently in the process of replacing its three U.S. non-rigid airships (blimps) with three new semi-rigid airships, each of which will have a rigid internal frame. Although technically incorrect, Goodyear plans to use "blimp" in reference to these new semi-rigid models.[3] Wingfoot One, the first such model in Goodyear's U.S. fleet, was christened on August 23, 2014, near the company's world headquarters in Akron, Ohio.[4]


  • Airship fleet 1
  • Lifting agent 2
  • Models 3
    • Historical classes 3.1
  • Dimensions 4
  • Names 5
  • Passenger policy 6
  • Night signs 7
  • Accidents 8
  • Popular culture 9
  • References 10
  • Bibliography 11
  • External links 12

Airship fleet

There is currently one blimp (non-rigid airships) and one semi-rigid airship in Goodyear's U.S. airship fleet:[5][6]

"Columbia" was based in Carson, California and "America" in Spring, north of Houston, Texas from 1969 - 1991. Goodyear relocated "America" to Akron for cost cutting measures. The Houston blimps wintered in Houston and spent the summer traveling North America.[8][9]

All three craft are outfitted with LED sign technology Goodyear calls "Eaglevision." This allows the aircraft to display bright, multi-colored, animated words and images. Goodyear also has blimps operating in other parts of the world. These airships are built and operated by Van Wagner of Orlando, Florida, In May 2011 Goodyear announced it will be replacing its fleet of blimps with three semi-rigid airships built by Luftschiffbau Zeppelin.[10][11]

The new airships are 246 feet long, 52 feet longer than the current blimps. The Zeppelin NT model is also slimmer, has a top speed of 70 miles per hour (versus 50 for the blimp), and has a passenger gondola that seats 12 (compared to seven in the blimp). The gondola even has a bathroom.[12]

Lifting agent

The blimps are filled 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.

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 Goodyear 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 craft, a Zeppelin NT is a departure from this tradition, as it is a Semi-rigid airship that makes use of a structural truss inside the envelope to provide some of its structural strength.


The Enterprise (N1A), a model GZ-20A, flies over the 1981 Indianapolis 500. Goodyear replaced the fleet's old color scheme in 1991.[13]
America (N3A) and Columbia (N4A) prepare for aerial coverage of the 1984 Summer Olympics

"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: Introduced in 1963 and discontinued in 1978 after the Mayflower (N38A) was destroyed by a tornado. The design for this class resembles the U.S. Navy's L class blimp.
  • GZ-20/GZ-20A: This class is what the current American fleet is composed of. Introduced in 1969, with America (N10A) and Columbia (N3A) being the first two. This class is slightly longer than GZ-19. Beginning in 2014. Goodyear will start 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.[14]On August 10, 2015, the California-based GZ-20, the "Spirit of America", was decommissioned. The "Spirit of Innovation" will take over California operations in September 2015. In 2017, Goodyear's second Zeppelin NT will replace Spirit of Innovation in California.[15]
  • 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 largest and most technically advanced ship Goodyear ever had in its public relations fleet, featuring fly-by-wire technology. However, Spirit of Akron was lost in 1999 and the company has not built one since, most likely because of the large expense to build and operate one due to its size and advanced technology.
  • LZ N07-101: In May of 2011, Goodyear announced that it would be replacing its aging fleet of GZ-20s with brand new, state-of-the-art Zeppelin NTs. Goodyear began construction on the first Zeppelin in 2012, and finished in March 2014. It was named "Wingfoot One" in July 2014, and was christened on August 23 by Robin Roberts.[6]

Historical classes


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

According to the Goodyear website, the two active GZ-20 blimps are 192 feet (58 meters) long, 59.5 feet (18 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 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 (121 meters) in length.


Goodyear Type TZ blimp "Puritan" at the 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair

Since 1928, Goodyear had named its blimps after the U.S. winners of the America's Cup yacht race. This naming method is attributed to then-Goodyear CEO Paul W. Litchfield,[16] who viewed the airships as being like yachts in the sky. Although that practice deviated with the introduction of the Spirit of Akron in 1987, the Florida-based Stars & Stripes would be the last to carry this honor, ending in 2005.

In 2006, Goodyear started having the public participate in the naming of their blimps, 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:[17] Puritan, Reliance, Defender, Volunteer, Resolute, Vigilant, Mayflower, Ranger, Rainbow, Enterprise, Columbia, America, Stars & Stripes.[16][18]

Non-cup winners' names:[17] Pilgrim,[19] Neponset,[19] Spirit of Akron,[16] Spirit of Goodyear,[16] Eagle,[16] Spirit of America,[20] Spirit of Innovation,[20] Wingfoot One.[21]

Foreign based blimps have been operated by The Lightship Group since the 1990s: Europa,[16] Spirit of Europe,[22] Spirit of the South Pacific,[22] Spirit of the Americas,[23] Spirit of Safety,[24] Ventura,[25] Ling Hang Zhe (Navigator).[20]

Passenger policy

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.

Sometimes Goodyear has a contest with the dealers of its tires. If a customer buys four new Goodyear tires, he or she is entered into a contest to go up in the blimp. The winner must go to the nearest blimp base to take his or her flight.

During the period in which Goodyear supplied tires for Indy cars, 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.[26]

Night signs

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 back in the 1930s. Neon tubes on the sides of the blimp which usually just 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


  • 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 21 July 1919, killing one crewman, two passengers, and ten bank employees.[27]
  • 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.[28] 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. The incident occurred on September 30, 1990.[29]
  • 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.[30]
  • Stars and Stripes, tail number N1A, crashed on 16 June 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.[31] 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..."[32]
  • 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 12 June 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.[24][33]

Popular culture

In 1976, Goodyear allowed use of its blimps for the filming of Black Sunday, based on the novel by Thomas Harris, about a distressed former prisoner of war blimp pilot who helps Middle Eastern terrorists attack the Super Bowl with a lethal device attached to the airship's car. Two blimps were used for the conclusion. The base scenes were shot in Carson, California, using the Columbia. The Super Bowl scenes were shot in Miami, Florida, using Mayflower, which was smaller than Columbia.

In 1983, the city of Redondo Beach, California, near the blimp base airport in Carson, California,[34] adopted resolution number 6242 recognizing the Goodyear Airship Columbia as the "Official Bird of Redondo Beach."[35]


  1. ^ Mackinnon, Jim (September 6, 2012). "Piece by Piece, Goodyear's New Airship Arrives at Wingfoot Hangar".  
  2. ^ a b "Goodyear's Zeppelin plan and how they are going to phase out their current fleet of GZ-20s". buildablimp. August 1, 2015. Retrieved August 1, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Ewinger, James (March 14, 2014). "Goodyear rolls out newest blimp with the help of Zeppelin".  
  4. ^ Cohen, Aubrey (August 25, 2014). "Goodyear's New 'Wingfoot One' Isn't a Blimp".  
  5. ^ "Our Fleet". Goodyear. 
  6. ^ a b Heldenfels, Rich (23 August 2014). "A new blimp is christened: Wingfoot One makes its formal debut".  
  7. ^ FAA (2014). "N-Number Inquiry Results: N1A". FAA Registry -  
  8. ^ "Remember the Goodyear blimp?". Bayou City History. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  9. ^ "The Victoria Advocate - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  10. ^ "Goodyear blimps to be replaced by German Zeppelins". Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  11. ^ Dixon Murray, Teresa (May 2011). "Goodyear's 3 aging blimps to be replaced with bigger, faster airships". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  12. ^ Mike Hembree, Special for USA TODAY Sports (18 February 2015). "With new model on the way, Goodyear blimp makes final flights". USA TODAY. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  13. ^ "Goodyear Blimp Gets A Face-lift Ship`s New Color Scheme Will Debut In February". tribunedigital-sunsentinel. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  14. ^ "Iconic Goodyear Blimp Retires after Daytona 500" (Press release). Goodyear. 2014-02-24. Retrieved 2014-02-26. 
  15. ^ "Goodyear Blimp "Spirit of America" Retires; Transition To High Tech Fleet Continues" (Press release). Goodyear. 2015-07-26. Retrieved 2015-07-31. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f "Goodyear Announces Winner of Nationwide Contest to Name Newest Blimp" (Press release). PR Newswire Association LLC. 21 June 2006. Retrieved 17 June 2011. 
  17. ^ a b "AMERICA'S CUP WINNERS". Herreshoff Marine Museum. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  18. ^ "Goodyear Blimp | History & FAQ". Akron, OH: The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Retrieved 17 June 2011. 
  19. ^ a b "The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Records" (PDF). Akron, OH: The University of Akron. 8 August 2002. p. 7. Retrieved 17 June 2011. 
  20. ^ a b c "Goodyear Blimp | Our Fleet". The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  21. ^ "Wingfoot One Selected as Winning Name for New Goodyear Blimp" (Press release). Goodyear. 21 July 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  22. ^ a b "Lightships :: Client Highlights >> GoodYear". The Lightship Group. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  23. ^ "Return of Goodyear Airships to Europe is a success" (Press release). PR Newswire Europe Ltd. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  24. ^ a b Nathan Klein, "Heroic Aussie pilot in airship tragedy," The Daily Telegraph 14 June 2011, retrieved 13 June 2011.
  25. ^ "Dirigível Goodyear". Goodyear of Brasil. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  26. ^ "The Legends of the Brickyard" - 1985 Indianapolis 500 Highlight Film, ESPN
  27. ^ "Chicago History". Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  28. ^ "Man Arrested as Model Plane Buzzes, Punctures Goodyear Blimp". latimes. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  29. ^ "Man Will Stand Trial In Goodyear Blimp Attack". tribunedigital-orlandosentinel. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ Wikinews:Goodyear blimp crashes in Florida
  32. ^ [2]
  33. ^ "Pilot stirbt bei Luftschiff-Absturz,", Der Spiegel (in German), 12 June 2011, retrieved 13 June 2011 
  34. ^ "Our Fleet: America". Goodyear. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  35. ^ "December 12, 1983 Meeting Minutes". Redondo Beach City Council. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 


  • "The Goodyear Blimp," Quintessences: the Quality of Having It (New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 1983) pp 44–45.

External links

  • Official Website
  • The Goodyear Blimp, Today and Yesterday: A complete guide to Goodyear's advertising blimps
  • Goodyear upgrades from blimps to Zeppelins
  • Poll: Should Goodyear Still Call Their New Zeppelin NT Airships 'Blimps'?
  • A blimp is a blimp. These aren't.
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