Goodyear begins construction of new blimp, the "Spirit of America"

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Continuing a 77-year tradition, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has begun construction of its newest blimp, the "Spirit of America."

It is being built at the company's Wingfoot Lake airship hangar in Suffield, Ohio, home of the Akron-based "Spirit of Goodyear."

The Spirit of America will replace the company's Los Angeles-based blimp, the "Eagle," which has been flying since 1992. It will be retired this fall.

The Spirit of America is the same type of airship -- a GZ-20A -- as the Spirit of Goodyear as well as the other ships in Goodyear's fleet, the "Stars & Stripes" based in Pompano Beach, Fla., and the Eagle. These airships measure 192 feet long, 59 feet high, and hold more than 202,000 cubic feet of helium and air. They have a maximum speed of 50 mph and a cruising speed of 30 mph, Goodyear reports. It can carry a pilot and six passengers.

All the airships will have EagleVision aerial sign technology for promoting non-profit, public service and company product information, the company says.

"The Spirit of America will serve as an inspirational symbol of our corporation and our home country," says Sam Gibara, Goodyear's chairman and CEO. "We can also look forward to its continued presence at many of the nation's most prestigious sports events."

In addition to providing aerial shots at sports events, the blimps have been used in disaster relief efforts such as the 1994 San Franciso earthquake.

The Eagle will make her last, ceremonial cross-country trip to the Wingfoot Lake hangar in August. Following a christening, the Eagle's crew will then return home in the Spirit of America.

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