|Spirit of Innovation visits |
|Posted: Wednesday, October 8, 2008 9:11 pm |
|For 80 years, Goodyear blimps have adorned the skies as very visible corporate symbols of the tire and rubber company that began operations in 1898. |
Today, these graceful giants travel more than 100,000 miles across the United States per year as Goodyear’s “Aerial Ambassadors.”
The blimp tradition began in 1925 when Goodyear built its first helium-filled public relations airship, the Pilgrim. The tire company painted its name on the side and began barnstorming the United States. Humble beginnings to an illustrious history.
Over the years, Goodyear built more than 300 airships, more than any other company in the world. Akron, Ohio, the company’s world headquarters, was the center of blimp manufacturing for several decades.
During World War II, many of the Goodyear-built airships provided the U.S. Navy with a unique aerial surveillance capability. Often used as convoy escorts, the blimps were able to look down on the ocean surface and spot a rising submarine and radio its position to the convoy’s surface ships — in essence acting as an early warning system. Modern surveillance technology eventually eclipsed the advantages of the airship fleet, and in 1962 the Navy discontinued the program.
Today, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company no longer mass-produces airships. In the United States it operates three well-recognized blimps: the Spirit of Goodyear, based in Akron, Ohio; the Spirit of America, based in Carson, Calif.; and the Spirit of Innovation, in Pompano Beach, Fla.
Spirit of Innovation
The Spirit of Innovation patrols familiar airspace over Pompano Beach.
Designated a GZ (Goodyear-Zeppelin) 20A, the Spirit of Innovation, at 192 feet long, 59.5 feet tall and 50 feet wide, is easy to see as she floats above a football stadium or golf course at 1,500 feet. She most recently could be seen over Union City,
The airship has three pilots and is supported by a crew of 16, two base maintenance personnel and a public relations manager. The crew follows the airship in a bus, nine-passenger van and a 40-foot specially-outfitted tractor-trailer rig.
The Spirit of Innovation was the first Goodyear blimp to be named by the general public through a Web-based “name-the-blimp” contest. It is the newest member of the fleet and was christened on June 21, 2006, by Lesa France Kennedy, president of International Speedway Corporation and a member of NASCAR’s board of directors, along with Lynn Keegan, wife of Goodyear Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Keegan.
Major events that the Spirit of Innovation, along with previous Florida-based blimps, has covered include: Super Bowls; ABC Monday Night Football; NCAA College Football; NASCAR in Charlotte, Daytona and Miami; NASDAQ Tennis at Key Biscayne, Fla.; US Open Tennis, New York; Turner Sports, Fox Sports and ESPN Major League Baseball; NBA Finals and the Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show.
The Spirit of Goodyear
The Spirit of Goodyear took its place in the Goodyear fleet of airships on March 15, 2000, when it was christened by America’s first woman in space, NASA astronaut Dr. Sally Ride.
Based at Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake Airship facility in Suffield, Ohio, the Spirit of Goodyear often flies the skies over the home of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, which has its headquarters in nearby Akron.
In addition to the familiar nose-to-tail blue panel above the mid-line (equator) of the Spirit of Goodyear, there is a blue panel below the mid-line. This panel is designed to improve the visibility of the day sign lights. EagleVision, the electronic sign configuration on the port side, provides high resolution for text, graphics and video.
Naming its blimps is a very personal thing to Goodyear. Each name is a proud handle that represents something important to Goodyear or brings recognition to a proud tradition. The Spirit of Goodyear was so named to honor the tens of thousands of loyal, hard working associates of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.
The Spirit of Goodyear, like the Spirit of Innovation, will travel that part of the United States bordered by the Rocky Mountains to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Gulf of Mexico to the south and Canada to the north. A Goodyear blimp is not limited to the United States, however, and may occasionally visit Canada or Mexico.
The Spirit of America
The Spirit of America was christened Sept. 5, 2002, during a ceremony in Akron. The name of the ship was chosen as a tribute to the patriotic spirit of the United States. Performing the christening was Letitia Driscoll, mother of NYPD officer Stephen Driscoll, who was killed in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept.11, 2001.
In addition to four pilots, the Spirit of America operation has a crew of 16 including aircraft mechanics, radio and television technicians, riggers, heavy-duty maintenance mechanics, ground handlers and a public relations manager. Three support vehicles complement the Spirit of America’s operations, including an 18-wheel tractor-trailer mobile maintenance vehicle, a 22-person MCI bus and a nine-passenger van.
The Spirit of America follows a line of California-based Goodyear blimps (Columbia 1968-92 and Eagle 1992-2002) that have appeared in dozens of movies, including Disney’s “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo,” “Condorman” and “Flight of the Navigator.” Other feature films are “Two Minute Warning,” “Black Sunday,” “The Junkman,” “Amazing Grace” and “Chuck, Oh God, Book Two,” starring George Burns, “Strange Days” with Bruce Willis, the remake of “Miracle on 34th Street” and the original “Gone in 60 seconds.” Television features included ABC’s “Generation,” the Aaron Spelling Christmas special, “The Three Kings,” HBO’s “1st and Ten,” Disney’s “Wish Upon a Star,” “Who’s the Boss” starring Tony Danza, “Pacific Blue,” the final episodes of “Cheers” and “The Nanny,” “Ally McBeal” and, most recently, HBO’s “Arli$$.”
Published in The Messenger 10.8.08