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Goodyear Type TZ / ‘L’ Class



In order to train pilots and other personnel, Goodyear decided to build and operate a fleet of small non-rigid airships. These would not only prove useful as training craft, but also as experimental ships to test new materials and techniques required for the rigid airship programme.

Between July 1928 and August 1940, twelve commercial airships were built by Goodyear, eleven of the Type TZ, which was an enlarged and improved version of "Pilgrim", and one larger Type PA. Various sizes of envelope were used, but finally a standard size of 123,000 cu ft was employed on all of the TZ type in service after 1932.

First of the fleet was "Puritan" of 86,000 cu ft, which flew on July 2, 1928. For the next ten years, "Puritan" was in more or less continuous service until completely wrecked in a hurricane on September 21, 1938, at Springfield, Mass. Next to fly was "Volunteer" in April, 1929, to be followed by "Mayflower", "Vigilant" and "Defender", all named after winners of the America's Cup yacht races.

These TZ ships could accommodate four to six passengers and the pilot in their totally enclosed cars, and were powered in their final form by two 145 h.p. Warner Scarab engines.

Operations were based on five airships during the summer months, With "Defender" based at Akron until retirement in 1934, "Volunteer" at Los Angeles, and the remainder either touring or operating at one or other of the two main bases. As ships were lost or retired they were replaced by new or rebuilt ships. When "Vigilant" was wrecked at Piedmont in November 1930, the car and fins were fitted with a new envelope to become "Columbia" re-entering service in July, 1931. The new "Reliance" first flew in November, 1931, and she was followed by "Resolute" in 1932, "Enterprise" in 1934, "Rainbow" in 1939, and "Ranger" in 1940.

The outbreak of war curtailed the commercial fleet's operations until the summer of 1946, when a new fleet was established to continue the tradition. The fleet, however, did not go into retirement. All the ships then in commission, plus a replacement car for "Ranger", saw service with the U.S. Navy as training L-Class ships throughout the war period.

Goodyear had supplied the Navy with J-1 in 1922 and G-1 in 1935, but it was not until 1937 that an order was placed for the first of the L-Class (L-1) which was based on the TZ type commercial ship of 123,000 cu.ft. In 1940, L-2 (ex- RANGER) and L-3 were ordered and these were followed by the five former Goodyear fleet ships (L-4 to L-8) and 14 production models of which Goodyear built ten (L-13 to L-22). Over twenty of the type were used for wartime training.

The L-1 was followed by the prototype of a new class of naval airship which was destined to be built in larger numbers than any other single airship type, either rigid or non-rigid; the K-Class.

The second “Ranger” was a replacement for the first. Completed after outbreak of war and delivered direct to U.S.N. as L-8 at Moffett Field, 26-2-42. The car returned to Goodyear in 1946 and was stored. Rebuilt as GZ-20 type for AMERICA, 1968-69.

Immediately after the war, Goodyear bought back from the Navy four complete L-ships and one K-ship to form the basis of a new commercial fleet. Goodyear were not the only company to be interested in the airship, however.

The Douglas Leigh advertising company purchased no less than 29 surplus L and K-ships in February, 1946, and began operating some of them in various parts of the United States with advertising for Ford, M.G.M., Mobilgas, and many other sponsors. However, the coming of television advertising and the high cost of replacing the war-surplus ships soon began to tell, and by the early 1950s Goodyear were alone as commercial airship operators in America.

Total production: 18.

The only other Goodyear-built airship to be used commercially, other than those of the Goodyear fleet, was the ex-Navy L-19, N65N. Originally built in 1944, the airship was delivered to a German company and made its first flight at Stuttgart on March 16, 1956. It became D-LAVO, later D-LISA, and was used for aerial advertising in Germany until sold to Japan in 1968.

The post-war Goodyear fleet, which began operations in May, 1946, were given names used before by the pre-war ships, although there was no connection between them and the previous ships of the same name. Navy L-14 became "Mayflower", L-16 became "Enterprise", L-17 "Volunteer", and L-18 "Ranger", all in service by May, 1947. The single K-ship (K-28) became "Puritan" and was the largest commercial airship ever operated by Goodyear, with an envelope of 425,000 cu.ft. She entered service in March, 1947, but due to the high operating cost was withdrawn just over a year later in April, 1948.

Cars from three of the pre-war fleet (L-4, L-5, and L-8) were also acquired in 1946 and placed in storage as spares. The car of L-8 has since been used in a modified and improved form for the "America" in 1968. As-with the pre-war fleet, several rebuilds took place during the 1950s and 1960s to keep one or two ships always in commission up to 1968 when a major expansion programme got under way.


In 1964 Goodyear blimp Mayflower cruised over New York City with two chemists and 250 lb of air sniffing equipment to detect sulpherdioxide gases expelled from industry.

Type TZ (NAVY L-CLASS) 1938

Engines: 2 x 145 hp Warner Scarab.
Length: 149ft.
Maximum diameter: 39ft 6in.
Volume: 123,000 cu ft.
Maximum speed: 60 m.p.h.
Cruising speed: 45 m.p.h.
Range: 335 miles.
Endurance: 61 hours.
Useful load: 2,150 lb.

Engines: 2 x145 h.p. Warner R-500-2/6.
Volume: 123,000 cu ft.
Length: 149ft.
Max Dia: 39ft.


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