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Goodyear decides to repair damaged blimp

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Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s "Spirit of America" will fly again.

The fate of the airship, which has been grounded since a December accident, had been undecided. But Goodyear decided to return the blimp to its fleet, and has begun necessary repairs.

The company says it has received a steady stream of cards, letters and e-mails requesting the return of the blimp. "The emotional outpouring we've had is another indication of the attachment that people have to Goodyear blimps," says Bob Keegan, Goodyear's chairman, CEO and president.

He says brand building "is a key component to Goodyear's turnaround plan, and we obviously recognize the support that blimps provide, especially to our North American Tire business."

The "Spirit of America" was launched in 2002. It was named in honor of the patriotic spirit and the people of the United States following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

It is one of three airships the company operates in North America. The other two are the "Spirit of Goodyear" and the "Stars & Stripes." Goodyear also operates a blimp, the "Ventura," in Brazil.

"When people think of blimps or see one on television, they think of Goodyear and our tires," says Jon Rich, president of Goodyear's North American Tire operations. "Our customers -- tire retailers and distributors -- love them for that reason alone.

"The connection is even stronger for those who see a Goodyear blimp in person. More than 60 million people get a first-hand look at the blimps each year."

The rebuilding project will take place at Goodyear's Wingfoot Lake airship hanger near Akron, Ohio.

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