AKRON (Jan. 16, 2004) — Work is underway in Akron to repair Goodyear's “Spirit of America” blimp after it crashed Dec. 3 in Carson, Calif.
The tire maker said the airship, one of the company's three in North America, will be repaired at Goodyear's Wingfoot Lake airship hangar near Akron. The repairs are expected to last several months, with a possible return to service by late summer, a spokeswoman said. She declined to disclose the cost of the rebuilding project, citing competitive reasons. “To us they're priceless,” she said of the blimp fleet. “…They're the best marketing tool in the world.”
The blimp crashed shortly before 10 p.m. last month as it was attempting to land at its home air dock in Carson. Only the pilot and a photographer were on board, and they did not sustain any major injuries. According to the local sheriff's department, the blimp was not accurately lined up with its ground moorings for landing. The pilot tried to pull up to circle again, but the blimp instead struck a truck at a nearby plant nursery and landed in 4-foot piles of mulch, police said at the time.
The Goodyear spokeswoman said the gondola suffered minor structural damage, and the envelope had a tear. Otherwise, the engine, fins and props were not damaged. She said the tire maker is evaluating its blimp schedule, but so far there are no plans to send the other two blimps—based in Ohio and Florida—to cover any of the Carson blimp's commitments. The Florida blimp is heading to Houston at the end of this month for its own commitments, including Super Bowl activities.
Goodyear said it received cards, letters and e-mails urging it to repair the blimp.
“Brand-building is a key component to Goodyear's turnaround plan, and we obviously recognize the support that the blimps provide, especially to our North American Tire business,” said Robert Keegan, chairman and CEO, in a statement.