Goodyear’s second NT, or New Technology, airship has that new car — make that new blimp — smell.
And it looks ready to fly out of the Wingfoot Lake base in Suffield Township, where workers have spent most of 2015 assembling it from parts shipped in from maker Zeppelin in Germany.
But first flight is still maybe a month away — for one thing, the semi-rigid airship is inflated with air, not helium, and remains suspended from the ceiling inside the Portage County hangar.
The unnamed craft is now adorned with the Goodyear corporate name and traditional blue, gold and silver-gray colors recently painted on the envelope skin by workers with Akron painting and construction company Thomarios.
Thomarios employee Gary Hagen said he never realized when he was a child and drew with crayons his mother bought him that it would lead to a career in which he would help paint Goodyear airships.
“I’m going to be 64 May 2nd, and I’m still like a little kid when it comes to this stuff,” he said. “I’m just always so intrigued by [the Goodyear blimp]. I’ve watched this thing fly around my neighborhood since I was a pup, and now they’ve got these new ones. It’s really incredible.”
Hagen’s job in part was to keep an eye on the lengthy paint hoses that ran from paint containers on the hangar floor to painters spraying the blimp from lifts. He has worked since 1974 for Thomarios, which has a specialty division that restores historical aircraft and spacecraft — projects included a Saturn V rocket.
“I doodled jets, rockets I ended up painting as an adult. So it’s pretty comical,” Hagen said.
The airship’s new-car smell comes from about 120 gallons of an Akron-made specialty primer and topcoat paint. The high-tech paint comes from what is believed to be Akron’s second-oldest company, APV Engineered Coatings Inc., whose history dates to 1878.
The special thermoplastic resin technology in APV’s “NeverFade” paint took about 10 years to develop, said Erin Brown-Neff, marketing director. APV designed the water-based, environmentally friendly paint to last and not fade for 15 years in hard-to-do architectural and commercial building applications, she said.
“[NeverFade] is a higher performing product than anything you would see in a hardware store,” Brown-Neff said.
Goodyear required a paint that would stand up to weather, minor impacts and abrasions while not fading or cracking on an airship’s thin, flexible skin, she said. APV’s NeverFade met those standards, Brown-Neff said.
“The resin technology is flexible in nature,” Brown-Neff said. “We formulated the coating to further improve the flexibility.”
APV, in partnership with Thomarios, modified the NeverFade paint to make it easier to apply to the airship, she said.
With the painting complete, the days are dwindling to when the airship will make its first flight. Workers last week were peeling off protective plastic coatings on the envelope.
The next major step is to inflate the airship with helium, said Goodyear spokesman Eddie Ogden.
“At this time, it’s hanging from the ceiling because it is not lighter than air,” he said.
Helium inflation is scheduled for Feb. 25, he said.
Goodyear has not said when this new airship will fly. Besides the readiness of the aircraft, Northeast Ohio winter weather also needs to be factored in. (Keep in mind that Goodyear’s first NT airship, named Wingfoot One and now based in Florida, first flew on March 17, 2014.)
“First flight will be in March. We don’t have a specific date for that yet,” Ogden said.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or email@example.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ. His stories can be found at www.ohio.com/writers/jim-mackinnon.