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Goodyear Launches New Model of Airship

Sunday, August 24, 2014 at 8:30 PM

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More than two thousand people gathered Saturday morning to see the newest Goodyear blimp christened “Wingfoot One” at the company’s Wingfoot Lake hangar outside Akron. Reporter Mark Urycki has more.

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The new blimp is named after the lake resort that the company once owned but recently donated to the state of Ohio. Pilot Michael Dougherty sits in the new electronic cockpit. The new gondola seats 2 crew and 12 passengers. More than 2000 people showed to watch the new blimp be christened Wingfoot One. The old model had no internal supports and was 192 ft long. The new model has a triangular internal frame of carbon fiber and is 246 ft long Jon and Crystal Lange of Hartville with kids Sienna and Ayden. Ayden’s shirt says “Future Pilot.”

Author and TV host Robin Roberts had the honor of breaking the bottle of champagne. 

Roberts’ great-grandfather George Suddeth moved to Akron in 1918 to work for Goodyear. She and Goodyear CEO Rich Kramer got the first ride. On hand for the ceremony was 92-year-old Walter Bjerre, who was a Navy blimp pilot in World War II. 

The new blimp is the first completely new design since the 1940s and is a joint project with the German company ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik. The new NT model is more than 50 feet longer than the GZ20A it replaces. At 246 feet, it’s as long as the largest model Boeing 747. 

The internal frame allows three engines to be mounted on the airship envelope, rather than attached to the gondola. That makes a much quieter blimp as it buzzes above Northeast Ohio. The gondola holds more than a dozen passengers – almost twice as many as the older model.

Kramer says the new Wingfoot One’s first assignment will be providing television coverage of a college football game this season but which game has yet to be decided. The company’s two other airships, in Florida and California, will be replaced with new models in 2016 and 2018. 

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