AKRON (March 10, 2014) — At the tender age of 14, the “Spirit of Goodyear” airship took its final aerial coverage flight at the Daytona 500 race Feb. 23 at Daytona International Speedway.
“It's reached the end of its life cycle. So, like most people, it went down South to enjoy its retirement,” mused Doug Grassian, a senior manager, airship communications at Goodyear.
The airship was Goodyear's longest continuously operated airship and went into retirement after the speedway event, which featured a rare appearance by two Goodyear airships at the same time.
Since its launch on March 15, 2000, the “Spirit of Goodyear” covered NASCAR races, as well as some of America's biggest events, Goodyear said, including the NFL playoffs, MLB All-Star Games, NBA Finals, Preakness, Belmont States, U.S. Opens, and NCAA football games.
But as in most retirements, there is always someone or something waiting in the wings to take over. In the blimp's case, Goodyear is finalizing construction of a new Goodyear zeppelin — an all-new airship that, as of yet, does not have a name — at the company's Wingfoot Lake Hangar in Suffield, Ohio.
The new blimp is equipped with advanced technology for Goodyear and its aerial coverage.
“The biggest difference is this airship has a semi-rigid structure,” Mr. Grassian said.
Thus, the structure has a bit of a skeleton on the inside, which the current Goodyear blimps do not have.
“It's all fly-by-wire,” he said, noting, “It's similar to what a helicopter might fly.
“The engines are vectored and the landings and takeoffs will happen much like a helicopter does.”
It is a completely different feel for the pilot and crew who now must train on how to operate the new airship.
Once it's launched, Goodyear will once again have three airships flying, with “Spirit of America” in Carson, Calif. and “Spirit of Innovation” based in Pompano Beach, Fla.