AKRON (May 31, 2002) — Goodyear has begun construction on a new airship, the “Spirit of America.” The newest blimp will replace the Los Angeles-based “Eagle,” which the tire maker will retire this fall after 19 years of service.
The Spirit of America is being built at Goodyear´s Suffield, Ohio, airship hangar, home of the Akron-based “Spirit of Goodyear” airship. It is the same type of blimp—a GZ-20A—as the three other ships in Goodyear´s North American fleet: The “Stars & Stripes” in Pompano Beach, Fla., the Eagle and the Spirit of Goodyear.
Like the rest of the fleet, the Spirit of America will have EagleVision state-of-the-art aerial sign technology, for promoting non-profit, public service and company product information, Goodyear said.
“Our airships have a proud 77-year tradition of serving as Goodyear´s aerial ambassadors and are regarded as American icons,” said Sam G. Gibara, Goodyear´s chairman and CEO. “By naming our newest blimp the Spirit of America, we embrace and honor the patriotic spirit of our nation. The Spirit of America will serve as an inspirational symbol of our corporation and our home country. We can also look forward to its continued presence at many of the nation´s most prestigious sports events.”
Over its “career,” the Eagle appeared on popular television shows including the final episode of “Cheers,” and in movies such as 1994´s “Miracle on 34th Street” and “Strange Days” with Bruce Willis.
A familiar sight at major sporting events, the Eagle provided aerial coverage of Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Finals, U.S. Open Golf, The Rose Bowl, PGA and LPGA tournaments, NCAA football and more than 100 Major League Baseball and NFL games, among other events.
Following the 1994 earthquake in San Francisco, the Eagle assisted officials with special disaster area survey flights as well as by providing public service emergency messages on its aerial sign.
Like the other GZ-20A airships, the new blimp will measure 192 feet long and 59 feet high, hold more than 202,000 cubic feet of helium and air, have a maximum speed of 50 mph and cruising speed of 30 mph, and can carry a pilot and six passengers.
The Eagle and its crew will make a cross-country trip to Goodyear's Wingfoot Lake hangar in August. After the christening of the Spirit of America, it will be flown back to its West Coast home in time for a fall schedule of TV coverage and public service missions, the company said.