More than 2,000 people witnessed the christening of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s newest blimp, Wingfoot One, last month. Richard Kramer, Goodyear chairman and chief executive officer, said the brand equity built by the airship helps the company sell tires around the globe. “It is invaluable, irreplaceable and one of a kind.”
The blimp was christened by Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC News’ “Good Morning America,” with the traditional breaking of a bottle against the ship’s gondola at Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake Hangar in Suffield, Ohio. Roberts has ties to the tire company; both her great grandfather and grandfather worked for Goodyear. Plus her father was a pilot with the U.S. Army Air Corp.’s prestigious Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.
Other women who have christened Goodyear blimps include astronaut Sally Ride (2000) and aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart (1929).
“The christening of Wingfoot One begins a new chapter for the Goodyear blimp, one of the world’s most recognizable and enduring brand icons,” said Kramer.
“The new blimp renews our commitment to our airship program, builds on our legacy as the leading operator of airships and continues our leadership in providing superior aerial coverage of the most watched news, sports and entertainment events.” Goodyear’s aerial coverage of marquee events in 2014 includes the NBA Finals, college football’s BCS Championship, the Kentucky Derby, 2014 FIFA World Cup and the Daytona 500.
Wingfoot One is the first of a new generation of airships manufactured by Germany’s ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik and assembled by a team of Zeppelin and Goodyear engineers over the past 12 months. It represents the first major structural design change of a Goodyear airship in nearly 70 years.
The new blimp features advanced on-board avionics and flight control systems with the capability to travel at faster speeds and hover in place. It features a spacious passenger gondola with panoramic windows.
Kramer says the blimp “represents the company and its 70,000 associates around the world, it represents a great American brand, with our commitment to quality and innovation, and it represents our values — encouraging safety and supporting communities.”
Goodyear will introduce two additional blimps over the next four years as it phases out its two remaining GZ-20 airship models based in Pompano Beach, Fla., and Carson, Calif.
Since 1917, Goodyear has built more than 300 lighter-than-air vehicles for public relations and defense applications, many constructed at the Wingfoot Lake facility. ■