By Jim Mackinnon
Beacon Journal business writer
SUFFIELD TWP.: There was one noticeable thing missing Friday when Goodyear publicly unveiled its next generation, bigger-longer-faster Goodyear NT airship at the company’s Wingfoot Lake airship hangar.
The public gets to decide that. Goodyear is sponsoring a naming contest with details available online at www.goodyear.com/en-US/company/blimp.
Deadline is April 4 — and whoever picks the winning name gets exclusive use of the new airship for a day.
“Give us your idea and then come back in a few weeks to help us vote on the top 10. And of those top 10, one name will be chosen,” said Emily Cropper, marketing manager at Goodyear. “We’ve actually shared all of the criteria on our website. There are four areas of judging criteria.”
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. sponsored a similar contest in 2006 for the last blimp it built, with the winning name Spirit of Innovation. That blimp is based in Florida.
The first flight of the unnamed airship is expected to be sometime later this month, weather permitting. Until then, Goodyear is keeping it inside the hangar. The company has moved it outside at least once, using a specially designed 8-wheel-drive Mack truck, to take pictures and video. [A Goodyear-supplied video of the new airship can be seen online at Ohio.com]
This fall, the airship will carry a state-of-the-art, high definition light display on its side. The new technology allows the airship to display color video during daytime hours, unlike what is in use now on the company’s other two blimps, Goodyear said.
The NT airship is noticeably bigger than Goodyear’s two remaining GZ-20A blimps.
Goodyear announced in May 2011 that it was going to replace its aging blimp fleet with modern semi-rigid airships from Germany-based ZLT-Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik.
Construction on what is now the first of three new airships began early last year at the Wingfoot Lake hangar base.
This first new model — the NT stands for New Technology — is the successor to the Spirit of Goodyear blimp that was officially decommissioned last month in Florida. The Spirit of Goodyear flew for 14 years and, until last October when it was flown to Florida, was based at the Suffield hangar.
This new airship will be based at the Wingfoot Lake hangar and should become a familiar sight in Akron-area skies.
The Goodyear NT airships cost about $21 million apiece. The second one is scheduled to fly in 2016, with the third one to be completed in 2018.
Unlike the old-style blimps, the NT airships have a lightweight aluminum and carbon fiber skeleton underneath a DuPont polyester skin.
The skin is coated with one-of-a-kind blue, yellow and white environmentally safe paint developed by Akron-based APV Engineered Coatings solely for the NT airship. The APV paint met Goodyear’s requirements for light weight, ultra-violet resistance, temperature extremes, chemical resistance, helium permeation, and resistance to dirt pickup. Thomarios Painting in Copley applied the paint.
One thing to note: Goodyear still refers to the new airship as a blimp.
Purists say that the internal skeleton means the new airship is not a blimp because blimps are basically large helium-filled gas bags — no internal frame — with a gondola attached underneath.
But Goodyear says people may continue to call the new aircraft a blimp.
The Zeppelin model has three 200-horsepower prop engines that swivel up and down, also known as vectoring. That means the airship can take off and land similar to a helicopter, while the old-style blimp needs to take off and land much like an airplane.
The new airship’s gondola seats 12, five more people than the blimp.
There is also one extra “seat” inside. The new NT airship has one amenity the older blimps do not have — a restroom.
And yes, the restroom at the back of the cabin also has a window, so anyone using it won’t miss out on the scenery.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org