Goodyear has announced to the world the christening of the latest Goodyear blimp family member, Wingfoot One. The new arrival is 246 feet long and weighs in at 19,780 pounds (without lifting gas). As the latest of the iconic Goodyear blimps, Wingfoot One will take the Goodyear public relations tradition that began in 1925 to new heights, with the latest and greatest TV broadcasting and computerized visual display technologies. Coupled with her unparalleled maneuvering capabilities, she’ll be able to bring us camera angles and animated signs that her ancestors could only dream about.
How Wingfoot got her name
The Wingfoot logo has been used by Goodyear as a trademark dating back to 1901. But how did it become the name of the latest high-tech airship? Goodyear opened the name selection to the public in a “Name the Blimp” contest and, as an indication of how well the Goodyear blimp is recognized around the world, they received nearly 15,000 entries in four months. A panel of Goodyear judges narrowed the list down to 10 finalists, then let the public vote to decide the winner.
The winning name, Wingfoot One, submitted by Charlotte White of Akron, Ohio, received almost 35% of the final votes. Ms. White has lived in Goodyear’s hometown all her life, but has never had the opportunity to take a blimp ride. She will now. Her prize is a day of activities with the Wingfoot One and her crew, which will certainly include a ride. “Seventy-six years of living in Akron and I never got to ride on the blimp.” she said. “I’m just thrilled to win the contest. I can’t wait to ride it.”
The latest technology … including a lighter-than-air loo
Don’t tell Ms. White, but Wingfoot One really isn’t a blimp. The Wingfoot One’s predecessors were all blimps, meaning they were non-rigid, lighter-than-air ships in which the shape of the envelope (the “bag” above the gondola) is maintained solely by the internal pressure of the helium lifting gas – there is no rigid structure inside the envelope. Wingfoot One was manufactured by Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik in Germany and assembled by a team of Zeppelin and Goodyear engineers at Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake hangar in Suffield, Ohio. She’s a semi-rigid, lighter-than-air ship built with a rigid upper frame within the envelope, extending from nose to tail for greater strength. This cool timelapse video shows Wingfoot One being assembled in the hangar.
Wingfoot One boasts all the latest technology — the envelope is made of a lightweight, high-strength composite fabric; the advanced propulsion system has tilting propellers on each side and a tail rotor for enhanced maneuverability and ground handling; and the carbon fiber gondola is big enough for the crew and 12 passengers, yet weighs only 2,626 pounds. But perhaps the most important technological advance, at least for the crew and passengers, is that Wingfoot One is the first airship in the entire Goodyear blimp history to have a restroom. Hard to believe, but true!
Goodyear blimp firsts
- 1925 – First commercial non-rigid airship flown using helium
- 1930 – First blimp to carry static-display lighted signs
- 1955 – First blimp to provide a live TV picture of a nationally televised program, the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
- 1960 – First TV pictures of a sports event from Miami’s Orange Bowl
- 1966 – First four-color, animated sign with 1,540 colored lights per side
- 1996 – First LED animated signs with 3,780 LED boards per side, including high-intensity LEDs to make signs visible during the day
- 2014 – First use of semi-rigid airship construction
Goodyear blimps flying into the future
Goodyear envisions adding two new blimps to its fleet over the next four years to replace the Spirit of America currently based in Carson, California, and the Spirit of Innovation stationed in Pompano Beach, Florida. Although they will probably be semi-rigid airships like Wingfoot One, Goodyear says the new additions will also be referred to as blimps.
In 2006, the Spirit of Innovation was the first Goodyear blimp to be named by public submissions and a popular vote. In view of the popularity of the naming contests, it’s a pretty safe bet the name of the next addition to the fleet will also be chosen by a public contest. So start thinking up names now. After all, it’s not very often you have a chance to name one of the world’s greatest advertising icons – the Goodyear blimp.
All images courtesy of Goodyear