Richard Kramer was not the only one on hand to christen the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s newest blimp. So was Akron native Savannah James.
In front of a crowd more than 2,000 at Goodyear's Wingfoot Lake Hangar in Suffield, Ohio, on Oct. 21, 2016, Kramer, chairman, CEO and president of Goodyear, and James, philanthropist and wife of LeBron James, officially christened Wingfoot Two.
"To be part of such an incredible legacy of elite women who have been recognized through Goodyear's century-long tradition of christening the new blimps is a special moment for me, my family, and the entire Akron community," said James. "I hope this honor will inspire and uplift all kids growing up in Akron and encourage them to follow the Goodyear blimp's lead in believing the sky is truly the limit for each and every one of them."
James was born and raised in Akron, where she met her future husband, Cleveland Cavaliers National Baskeball Association star LeBron James. She actively volunteers for the LeBron James Family Foundation, and started the Foundations' I PROMise Makeover, an annual event to empower young women.
James joins the ranks of accomplished women to christen Goodyear blimps, including aviator Amelia Earhart (1929) and astronaut Dr. Sally Ride (2000). On hand to support Savannah was her husband, LeBron James, her children and parents, and Wingfoot One's christener, "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts (2014).
"Savannah's Akron-born roots and passion for improving the local community made her a natural choice to christen Wingfoot Two," said Richard J. Kramer. "Goodyear has a long-standing tradition of enlisting strong, accomplished women to christen our iconic airships, and we are proud to welcome Savannah to the family."
James christened Wingfoot Two with the ceremonial breaking of a champagne bottle against the blimp's gondola.
About Wingfoot Two
Wingfoot Two is one of three technologically-advanced Goodyear blimps to join the fleet, with cutting-edge avionics and flight control systems. Its sister ship, Wingfoot One, was christened in 2014. As part of the new fleet, Wingfoot Two was built bigger, faster and stronger than the company's prior-generation GZ20A model blimps. Here's the breakdown.
Bigger: At more than 246 feet long, Wingfoot Two stretches nearly the length of a football field, and is 50 feet longer than previous blimps.
Faster: New blimps hit highway speeds of up to 73 mph -- more than 20 mph faster than previous models.
Stronger: Wingfoot Two sports a semi-rigid skeleton composed of aluminum and carbon fiber, compared to the soft, inflatable bodies used in previous fleets. The frame is now packed with 297,527 cubic feet of non-flammable helium, making it more buoyant and capable of lifting 700 pounds more than its predecessors.
For improved maneuverability, custom computer-controlled avionics better regulate engine thrust and movement. Other new features include enhanced aerial television coverage capabilities, increased flight range to reach more communities and cover more of fans' favorite events, and a larger in-flight passenger experience with unparalleled panoramic views.
"The enhanced flight capabilities -- particularly its increased speed and larger gondola -- of the new airship will allow us to interact with more customers," says Doug Grassian, senior manager of brand commuications for Goodyear. "The airships will remain a significant part of Goodyear's brand-building efforts and their presence will continue to help drive demand in the marketplace."
Wingfoot Two's induction into the blimp fleet marks an extraordinary milestone for our Goodyear airship program and our company, according to Kramer. "We're proud to have this majestic airship represent our 118-year history and our associates around the world."
Since 1917, Goodyear has built more than 300 lighter-than-air vehicles for public relations and defense applications, many built at the Suffield facility.
Watch video of the event:
For more information about Goodyear and its products, visit www.goodyear.com/corporate.