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Goodyear Blimp Gondola to Crawford Auto and Aviation Museum

The gondola on the tarmac outside Wingoot Lake hangar in Suffield last summer. "Wingfoot One" in the distance. (Urycki)
The gondola on the tarmac outside Wingoot Lake hangar in Suffield last summer. "Wingfoot One" in the distance. (Urycki)

The Goodyear blimp you’ve seen buzzing above Browns and Indians games for the past 14 years has been retired for a newer model. But the gondola from "The Spirit of Goodyear" airship will soon be flying again inside the Crawford Auto and Aviation Museum. Visitors might be able to tell up close that it was decidedly low tech. Goodyear spokesman Ed Ogden notes it was a steered with pedal power and a large wheel between the two front seats.

"Pilots have to have legs that are in great shape to operate one of the airships. It is manual power. It’s a set of pulleys, chains, and cables on a Goodyear blimp that controls the rudder and elevator controls.”

The new Akron-based blimp, Wingfoot One, uses the latest electronics in a fly-by-wire operation.

Ogden says the old 23 foot long aluminum gondola has been re-used several times since it was built in 1982.

“It flew on the America, the airship we had based in Spring, Texas from 1982 to 1992. After which it had a short break it and then was put back in service on "The Stars & Stripes" out of Pompano Beach Florida where it operated from ‘92 to ‘99 and then on to "The Spirit of Goodyear" from 2000 to 2014 when it was retired.”

That gondola was used to televise three Super Bowls, three World Series, and many other sporting events. It’s had passengers ranging from astronaut Sally Ride to David Letterman. Other Goodyear blimp gondolas like the 1925 "Pilgrim" are on display at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington and the 1989 "The Spirit of Akron" GZ22 gondola is at the MAPS museum near the Akron Canton Airport.