By Jim Mackinnon
Beacon Journal business writer
SUFFIELD TWP.: Laura Casenhiser got her first close look at Goodyear’s brand-spanking-new airship Friday morning and liked what she saw.
“It’s really, really different looking,” she said. “I think when people see it in the sky over Akron ... people will really be shocked. It will really be fun. It’s just innovative and high tech.”
Casenhiser was among a group of 50 or so Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. employees and tire dealers who walked around the new Goodyear NT airship at its Wingfoot Lake hangar on Friday. The Akron tire maker unveiled its new semi-rigid airship to the public that morning and announced a contest to name the aircraft.
Judging by the smiles and other initial impressions inside the hangar, Goodyear has a hit blimp on its hands.
“We’re a high-tech company and this really fits us now,” said Casenhiser, a business analyst who has more than 40 years of service with Goodyear.
She said she had one ride in a Goodyear blimp years ago. She wondered how the new airship will sound. “I hope it still has that noise. It’s memories,” she said.
John Fitzpatrick, an information technology employee at Goodyear who also has one blimp flight under his belt, brought a camera along to take pictures.
“I guess I had a mental image of what it looked like and this surpasses that,” he said. “This is just breath-taking. It’s pretty immense compared to the last one. The technology obviously has come quite a way. It’s fairly awe-inspiring.”
Michelle Dukeman, a Goodyear brand manager, had her first and only blimp ride in 1990. Her father and grandfather were longtime Goodyear tire builders, she said. Her dad won tickets for a ride on a Goodyear blimp and took her along.
“I was speechless because it is so grand and much bigger than the older airships. And the colors on it are so vivid,” Dukeman said. “Immediately you know it is the Goodyear blimp.”
Dukeman said she liked the branding and attention to detail inside the large, 12-seat gondola with its recognizable Goodyear logos, colors and more.
Jonathan Norman, a sponsorship manager who joined Goodyear about seven months ago, said the airship reminds him of a chartered plane for pro sports teams.
“The design is very sleek,” Norman said. “It really represents the brand very well.”
People couldn’t help noticing that the Goodyear NT has a restroom — with a window — unlike the two old-style GZ20A blimps Goodyear still flies out of Florida and California.
“I had to look in the bathroom immediately,” Casenhiser said, smiling. She said the crew flying the airship will appreciate having a restroom on board.
“How many restrooms have a good view?” Fitzpatrick said. “That will be the most spectacular view from any restroom outside of maybe a skyscraper in New York that you probably will ever see.”
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.