AKRON (Sept. 20, 2001) — The world of sports returned somewhat to normal a week after the Sept. 11 hijackings and terrorist attacks. It did so, however, without one of its most recognizable figures.
As of press time, Goodyear still did not have clearance for its three blimps in North America to resume flight. The airships—two in Akron, one in California, sat in hangars, awaiting the OK from the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We continue to monitor the situation on a day-to-day basis,” a spokeswoman for the Goodyear airship fleet told Tire Business. “I haven't heard an update.”
The Blimps have been on the ground since returning from sporting events on the weekend of Sept. 7-8. Events they were scheduled to fly over the following weekend were canceled or postponed.
By Sept. 20, Goodyear had already canceled plans to fly blimps over two major sporting events, the spokeswoman said. Those were the Ohio State at UCLA college football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Sept. 22, and the Cleveland Browns' home game against the Detroit Lions the following day.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 hijackings and subsequent crashes of four commercial airliners, many non-commercial flights are still banned by the FAA. Goodyear's blimps fall under that umbrella.
“As always, we cooperated with the aviation authorities,” the spokeswoman said, noting that the blimps are slated to fly over upcoming sporting events. She would not say how much advance notice Goodyear needed from the FAA in order to get the blimps there on time.
Once returning the blimps to flight, Goodyear plans to use the dirigibles' giant message boards to convey messages related to relief efforts.
“I can tell you that as America comes to terms with this terrible tragedy, we respect and understand the concerns of the public and the teams,” the spokeswoman said. “When it is appropriate to do so, we look forward to flying public service and disaster relief messages, as well as providing aerial images for television and news (broadcasts). Everyone's thoughts at this point are with the folks who have been affected by this terrible tragedy.”
It is not uncommon for the ships to stay on the ground for extended periods. All Goodyear blimps undergo two weeks of maintenance twice a year, the spokeswoman said. The ships will undergo some minor maintenance while they're grounded now, but that won't be in lieu of other scheduled maintenance.
Goodyear, which also has blimps based in South America, and Europe, has been flying over sporting events for 76 years.