Goodyear's new state-of-the-art airship makes its first flight


March 20, 2014

Goodyear's new airship will enter service this northern summer

Goodyear's new airship will enter service this northern summer

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The Goodyear blimp may have been flying around for almost 90 years, but it still manages to turn heads. On Friday, there was another reason to look beyond nostalgia for the days of the great airships of old as Goodyear unveiled its new state-of-the-art blimp to the media, Goodyear associates and dealers at its Wingfoot Lake hangar in Suffield, Ohio. Built in partnership with the Zeppelin company, the new craft that replaces the 45-year old GZ-20 blimp fleet is not only larger and faster, it isn’t even a blimp, but a semi-rigid airship.

Unless you’re an aeronautical history buff, the connection between a tire manufacturer and a blimp may seem tenuous, but during the heyday of airship travel before the Second World War, Goodyear was also a major builder of blimps and airships, including the US Navy’s USS Macon and USS Akron, and for many years, the Goodyear blimp was the only operational dirigible in the world.

Goodyear has been flying its famous blimp at sporting events and other public exhibitions to televise games, drum up publicity for the company, and raise money for local charities since 1925, and it’s gone through a number of design changes, but the version unveiled last week is the most radical re-engineering of the airship yet.

Larger, faster, and more maneuverable than its predecessor, the as yet unnamed airship is 246 ft (75 m) long, which is over 50 ft (15 m) longer than the current blimps. The envelope that holds the low-pressure helium gas is made of DuPont Tedlar polyester spread over a semi-rigid frame. This means that the craft is technically no longer a blimp or dirigible because the structure of the envelope is no longer supported entirely by the gas inside. There’s also a new livery that retains the Goodyear logo and the traditional blue and yellow branding on a silver envelope.

Slung underneath the envelope is a longer, streamlined gondola that seats up to 12 passengers with larger wraparound windows and new seats for greater comfort. Additionally, new avionics and flight controls see the manual control system replaced with computerized fly-by-wire systems that transmit instructions from the pilot to the three vectoring prop engines and control surfaces for greater precision and safety.

The new airship hits a top speed of 73 mph (117 km/h), which is an improvement on the 50 mph (80 km/h) that the GZ-20 manages. According to Goodyear, this increase in speed will allow the airship to attend events much farther from its home base.

A joint project by Goodyear and ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik, the tail fins and gondola were built in Germany and shipped to Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake hangar for assembly beginning in March 2013. According to Goodyear, this is the first semi-rigid airship to be built at the hangar in its 95-year history.

"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," says 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."

As part of the airships commissioning, Goodyear is running a "Name the Blimp" contest, which is open to residents of the United States and runs until April 4. This is the second time that Goodyear has let the public name one of its airships, the first being the Spirit of Innovation in 2006, which is based in Pompano Beach, Florida.

The airship is scheduled to begin test flights over Northeast Ohio later this month before going into service in the northern summer.

Source: Goodyear

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

What a silly species we are. We know that helium is finite and stocks are depleting fast, yet do nothing to restrict its use. If the only applications were frivolous ones, such as advertising like this, then no harm is done. See:

But that is not the case. Helium is essential for some medical equipment, MRI scanners being prominent. When the helium runs out, such equipment will cease to be available to the medical profession for diagnosis and thus treatment of serious conditions.

Future generations are really going to love us. We have used all the cheap oil, leaving them only the expensive stuff; have failed miserably to deal with climate change, leaving them (and many of us) with conditions that will almost certainly be unbearable exacerbated by a completely inadequate food supply. If that list were not bad enough, we continue to deplete helium in order to advertise a particular brand of tyre instead of protecting valuable medical equipment. Sad, very sad.

Mel Tisdale

We're not running out of helium. Re-read the article you posted. We're running out of "cheap" helium. Helium is extracted from natural gas. I would not call natural gas "finite."

Jeff Olney

I think hydrogen is a viable alternative to helium; especially if helium seems to be limited and hydrogen is not.

The cause of the Hindenberg is still unknown (many theories though). I believe that with newer technology, one could build a Hindenberg type airship and still be able to use hydrogen as the lifting gas (perhaps have it combined with an inert gas to make it less flamable?).

I think the new semi-rigig Goodyear airship is cool. I am hoping it will lead to rigid airships that people can take for air cruises.


In what sense is this radical Goodyear re-engineering? The design appears to be little more than a license built Zeppelin NT. It's the same length and passenger capacity as the Zeppelin NT07 and visually identical to the Zeppelin judging from the photograph. Goodyear even buys the tail assembly from Zeppelin.

Seeing this ship in the sky won't be a novelty in the San Francisco Bay Area. Airship Ventures was selling sightseeing rides around the region on a Zeppelin NT07 from 2008 to 2012, but the exorbitant ticket cost eventually doomed the operation.

BTW, blimps, semi-rigid and rigid airships are all "dirigibles".


There's a wiki that says Goodyear contracted with the Zeppelin Company in 2011 for the purchase of three N07-101 airships with planned operation to being in 2014. That suggests that the only construction that Goodyear could manage was to assemble the Zeppelin kit.


I would like to know more about the engines.


@ Jeff - What would you call natural gas then? As you say it, the only option available after finite is infinite, which everybody knows is not the case (unless you've got some inside information on star mining to share with the world).

@ BigWarpGuy - How would "less flamable" work? Would that make the passengers less dead if something similar to the Hindenburg happened again?


Is there a single person out there that would set foot in a hydrogen filled dirigible ? Not me man ! Something about being cooked alive. I think it would make for popular TV though, everybody would be glued to the screen, waiting for that single small static spark, to relive the past again.

Jay Finke

@ Mel Tisdale

The cost of extracting helium from the atmosphere is not prohibitive it is just more than extracting helium from natural gas sources.


@ Jay Finke

Images of the Hindenburg burning in your minds eye ignoring the reality that it was not the hydrogen that started the fire. Hydrogen is flammable and hard to contain but that does not mean that it is inherently unsafe. The fuel air ratio has to be right for there to be a fire and keeping the hydrogen content of the air around the lift chambers too low for it to burn in not a problem nor is it difficult to keep the hydrogen content in the lift chamber too high for it to burn. Keeping the airships skin from bursting into flames because of unbalanced static discharge is not difficult either. More people died per passenger mile in cars than in airships in 1937. but road accidents don't get newsreel coverage and a moronic radio announcer calling the death of 36 people one of the worst disasters in history. "Oh the humanity!"


Mel, You've drunk the cool aid. We aren't running out of helium and never will besides these airships use a very tiny, tiny fraction, (way, way less than one percent) of the helium used on Earth. And with fracking we will have cheap gas and oil for, at least, a couple hundred years.

Have you ever wondered why a warmer Earth will ONLY bring disaster as claimed by these people? What about the millions of acres of new farm land that will open up in the northern areas. Fewer storms and hurricanes (which are caused by the difference in colder northern and warmer southern temperatures; a difference that will lessen according to Gore's documentary).

During the seventies we were told we were going into an ice age and it would bring disaster on mankind. Maybe you should consider that the environmentalists who gain their livelihood from scaring the people of Earth into giving them billions of dollars for their "research" and want to rule the world with their ideas of utopia would say just about anything for their personal gain. And if a colleague disagrees with them they are fired and black listed from their occupation permanently. That's why there are so few skeptics speaking out (except the co-founder of Greenpeace and a few other brave people that have the courage to speak out about the B.S. that their fellow environmentalists are claiming. Look him up).

There is a group of weather experts who do not derive their livelihood from government grants (they make very good money) and, as a group, they do not agree with the alarmists view of a man caused warming problem. Who are they? Television meteorologists. PBS did a documentary on their skepticism and a large majority do not buy into this alarmism. Just think when was the last time you heard one of them mention global warming as a problem?


Slowburn@ Ever had a car battery blow up in your face ? I have ! You can't sell me that hydrogen is safe, it however makes a great bomb though.

Jay Finke

Yeah... Bad question to ask but does anyone know why helium isn't a controlled gas by the US government anymore and a Proper harvesting method?

Something to do with bacteria exchange and heat exchange.

Anyways Hydrogen is safe depending on the containment field, the Hindenburg was the causality of exploration. During the time it was invented the last thing on peoples mind was safety. Just like the Atom bomb, just like the V2 rockets. Technology warfare competition was about push the limits of humanity. But either way I saw the new blimp design and it's impressive but deceiving because of the structure and it's base design.

Btw you can't mix hydrogen with another gas and it's poisonous to mix helium.

So everyone just relax eat a banana, and throw it to the Doc when you done so we can fuel the time machine.

Timothy Herlihy

Actually I just had a funny thought on heat exchange of helium particles. The cooling and heating of helium in 2 compartments based on control of temperature.... Naa it's to dangerous and cost a lot of energy to the point will have to put solar sails on it.

Timothy Herlihy
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