In May 2011, Goodyear announced it will be replacing its fleet of three blimps with three semi-rigid airships built by Luftschiffbau Zeppelin.
The new airships are faster, quieter, larger, easier to fly and more manoeuvrable than the blimps it introduced more than 90 years ago. Still, the company plans to keep calling the new models blimps “Because a Goodyear Semi-rigid Dirigible doesn’t roll off the tongue”.
The switch to dirigibles offers a similar-looking, cigar-shaped flying machine but one that’s nearly the length of a football field and about 15 metres longer than the old blimps. With room for three engines instead of two, it will be able to hit speeds of over 110 kilometres per hour.
The quieter engines also will provide an advantage in covering golf tournaments. The ability to hover will allow a pilot to better position the aircraft to capture NASCAR race finishes and key moments in a baseball game.
Construction began in 2012 on the first of three new semi-rigid airships; the first completed in March 2014.
Assembly of Wingfoot One began in March 2013 at Goodyear's Wingfoot Lake hangar. An international team of engineers and technicians from Goodyear and Germany's ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik worked side by side to complete the build project. Parts such as the tail fins and gondola were built in Germany and shipped to the U.S. for assembly. The balloon-like body of the airship – the “envelope” – is made of polyester with an innovative film from DuPont™ called Tedlar®, surrounding a semi-rigid internal structure, which differentiates this airship from previous Goodyear blimps.
Spirit of Innovation, a model GZ-20A blimp (non-rigid airship), was retired on March 14, 2017, and Wingfoot One (N1A), the first such model in Goodyear's U.S. fleet, was christened on August 23, 2014, by Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, near the company's world headquarters in Akron, Ohio. Wingfoot Two, the name of Goodyear's second semi-rigid airship, was unveiled in April 2016.
Wingfoot One (N1A (model LZ N07-101), based in Pompano Beach, Florida
Wingfoot One N1A
Wingfoot Two (N2A) (model LZ N07-101), based in Suffield Township, Ohio
Wingfoot Two N2A
All three craft will be 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.
The new airships are 246 feet long, 52 feet longer than Goodyear's old model, the GZ-20. 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.
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.
Overall Length: 246.4 ft
Maximum Width: 64.79 ft
Maximum Envelope Width: 46.45 ft
Overall Height: 57.57 ft
Internal Framework: Aluminum and Carbon Fiber Trusses
Envelope Material: Polyurethane, Polyester and Tedlar film
Envelope Volume: 297,527 cu.ft
Envelope Life: 10 years+
Maximum Weight (without Helium): 19,780 lb
Maximum Speed: 73 mph
Gondola Seating: Up to 14
Gondola Weight Empty: 2,626 lb
Number of LED Lights: 82,656
Static Lift: 2,940 lb
Maximum Dynamic Lift: 1,102 lb
Total Usable Lift: 4,042 lb
Engines: 3 Vectored, 200 hp
Endurance: 24-40 hr
Inside Gondola Noise Level: 64 decibels
Outside Gondola Noise Level: 69.43 decibels