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Goodyear blimp.

The Goodyear Blimp is the collective name for a fleet of blimps operated by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for advertising purposes and for use as a television camera platform for aerial views of sporting events. Goodyear began producing airship envelopes in 1911 and introduced its own blimp, Pilgrim, in 1925.

Contents

Fleet

Spirit of America, docked at its Carson, California airstrip

Today there are three blimps in the fleet operating in the United States which are:

All three of the craft are outfitted with LED sign technology Goodyear calls "Eaglevision." This allows the aircraft to display bright, multi-colored, animated words and images.[1]

Goodyear also has blimps operating in other parts of the world, including one in China. These airships are built and operated by The Lightship Group of Orlando, Florida.

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. In fact, one inspection element of the blimps is to look into the envelope for pinpoints of light which are indicative of small holes. The blimps have infrequently been hit by small-arms fire from the ground. Also, birds can hit blimps and make small beak holes. These incidents have not resulted in any serious consequences to the blimp or its crew.

The blimps are equipped with internal bladders in the envelope, and as the blimp ascends or descends these bladders expand or contract to compensate for density changes and to maintain uniform pressure in the envelope. For safety reasons, the average lifecycle of a blimp is around twelve years. After that time the neoprene-impregnated polyester fabric that holds the helium is retired.[2]

Classes

The three modern types of Goodyear blimps, since the 1960s, are: GZ-19, GZ-20 and GZ-22.

The GZ stands for Goodyear-Zeppelin, stemming from the partnership Goodyear had with the German company when both were building airships together. However these three classes came many years after this partnership had dissolved during the start of World War II. The GZ-1 was the USS Akron, the U.S. Navy's flying aircraft carrier.

  • GZ-19: Introduced in 1963 and discontinued in 1978 after the loss of Mayflower (N38A). The design for this class resembles the U.S. Navy's L class blimp.
  • GZ-20: This class is what the current American fleet is composed of. Introduced in 1969, with the America (N10A) and Columbia (N3A) being the first two. This class is slightly longer than GZ-19. The GZ-20 uses two fuel injected Continental I0-360's, producing 210 horsepower each.[3]
  • 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 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. The passenger car is now in a museum in central Ohio.

Specifications

According to the Goodyear website, the three 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, 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.

Blimps are non-rigid (meaning their shape is not maintained by a rigid aircraft internal structure) and dirigible (directible/steerable) airships. This terminology is seldom used in connection with blimps, being associated more with the great rigid airships of the past.

Typical cruising speed is 35 mph in zero wind. Top speed is 53 mph on the GZ20. Maximum range is limited to around 900 miles, or twenty-four hours without refueling. However, cross country ferrying are usually limited to about 300 miles per day, usually amounting to up to eight hours of flying.[4]

Names

The Spirit of Goodyear has a distinctive yellow stripe under the logo.

Since 1926, 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, who viewed the airships as being like yachts in the sky. This practice seems to have been discontinued. All three U.S. based blimps have names beginning with the words "Spirit of...".

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

Non-cup winners names: Pilgrim, Spirit of Akron, Eagle, Spirit of Goodyear, Spirit of America, Spirit of Innovation.

Foreign based blimps: Europa, Spirit of Europe, Spirit of the Americas, Spirit of the South Pacific, Ventura.

Passengers

The GZ-20 blimps Goodyear operates in the U.S have seating for only six passengers. No seatbelts are required.

The only passengers that Goodyear will allow on the blimps are corporate guests of the company and members of the press. No public rides are offered. This has been Goodyear's longstanding policy.

However, for over 50 years, it had to offer limited public rides at its Miami, FL 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 Airport, FL. Some of Goodyear's famous passengers have been Ronald Reagan, Johnny Depp and Harrison Ford.[5]

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. It consisted of 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 turbine engine 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

Crashes

  • The Spirit of Akron, tail number N4A, crashed on October 28, 1999 in Suffield Township, 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 impacted with trees. The NTSB report claims that improperly hardened metal splines on the control actuators sheared, causing loss of control.[7]
  • The 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 power lines. There were no injuries in the crash,[8] The NTSB 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..." [9]

The Goodyear Blimp in popular culture

  • The first time the Goodyear Blimp was used to air a sporting event was the 1960 Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. A CBS producer paid $1,000 to place a camera and cameraman on a blimp to get live aerial shots during the game.[10]
  • In the 2009 Movie Space Buddies. when budderball puts a space suit on and mudbud pulls his paw he farts and the suit inflates. Mudbud replies 'Oh would you look at that. it's the Goodyear Blimp!.
  • The Mayflower (N4A) appears in the Beatles 1965 movie 'Help'.
  • A Goodyear blimp can be seen in several shots of the Deep Purple live at the California Jam in 1974, released on DVD.
  • The Goodyear blimp is shown in the 1974 H.B. Halicki film, Gone in 60 Seconds. During a night scene at Ascot Park, the blimp marquee is shown displaying the message "LOCK YOUR CAR OR IT MAY BE GONE IN 60 SECONDS".
  • In 1976 Goodyear allowed use of its blimps for the filming of the movie Black Sunday based on the novel by Thomas Harris, about a distressed former P.O.W. blimp pilot that 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, CA using the Columbia (N4A). The Super Bowl scenes were shot in Miami, FL using the Mayflower (N1A), which was smaller than Columbia. This led to visual errors where the blimp changes in size.
Goodyear Blimp Erasers being handed out at the Northwest Aviation Trade Show
  • Perhaps the most famous use of the blimp was in Brian DePalma's 1983 gangster film Scarface. The main character of the film, Tony Montana sees the blimp with the words "The World is Yours..." written in the lights.
  • In the 1986 movie Flight of the Navigator, the audience is teased at the beginning of the movie when a large ominous shadow passes over a crowd of people. The camera then pans over and shows a shot of the Goodyear Blimp passing at low level.
  • Rapper Ice Cube's 1993 single "It Was a Good Day" contains the line "Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp, and it read, 'Ice Cube's A Pimp'".
  • Rapper Nas's single "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)" contains a line "I take a glimpse into time watch the blimp read 'The World Is Mine'". That line refers to the Goodyear Blimp when it says 'blimp', and also refers to the aforementioned scene from Scarface.
  • Rapper Pimp C states that he "keeps the dope fiends higher than the Goodyear Blimp", in Three Six Mafia's song "Sippin' On Some Syrup".
  • In the 1989 film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure the protagonists invent an anachronistic sighting of the Goodyear Blimp in order cause a distraction and escape from a group of cowboys who are chasing them.
  • In the 1991 comedy film What About Bob?, Bill Murray's character, Bob Wiley, says of his psychiatrist Leo, after Leo's violent outburst: "He's so high above us, we're like ropes on the Goodyear blimp."
  • The Goodyear blimp is referenced in the Pixar film Cars as the Lightyear Blimp, which has the same colors as the blimp. In real life Goodyear promoted the movie by covering up the Good and the Winged Foot and replacing it with the words Light.
  • In Stroker Ace, Clyde Torkle expands his advertising by promoting his company, Clyde Torkle's Chicken Pit on the neon text of the GoodYear Blimp at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
  • In All Marketers are Liars, Seth Godin refers to the Goodyear Blimp as a "shining example of old media."
  • The Tragically Hip song Titanic Terrarium contains the line "His greatgrandfather worked for Goodyear/he'd see the blimp on Sundays/wonder what the driver knew about making rubber tires."
  • In 'You Ain't Got Nothing' by Lil' Wayne, Fabolous says: 'It's been a good year, maybe I should buy a blimp, 'cos ya boy stays above the game".
  • Psychedelic '60s act The Vejtables sing about the blimp in the song "I Stole the Goodyear Blimp".
  • In the 1981 Movie The Cannonball Run, over J.J. McLure referring to Morris Fenderbaum as the "Chocolate Monk", Jamie Blake retorts that he can "...say that, 'cuz you're riding around with the Goodyear Blimp!", referring to J.J.'s colleague Victor Prinzim.
  • In the Hunter S. Thompson story Mescalito, he tells the story of how "Yesterday a dope freak tried to steal the Goodyear blimp and take it to Aspen for the Rock and Roll festival..."
  • In 1992 Mattel released the Goodyear Blimp as a die-cast vehicle in its Hot Wheels toyline. The mold has been used many times since, including re-releases of the Goodyear livery.

Bibliography

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

References

External links








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