The Goodyear Blimp is any one of a fleet of airships operated by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, used mainly for advertising and capturing aerial views of live sporting events for television. The term blimp itself is defined as a non-rigid airship – without any internal structure, the pressure of lifting gas contained within the airship envelope maintains the vessel's shape.
From the launch of the Pilgrim in 1925 to the retiring of the Spirit of Innovation in 2017, Goodyear generally owned and operated non-rigid airships in its global public relations fleet. In 2014, however, Goodyear began to replace its three U.S. non-rigid airships (blimps) with three new semi-rigid airships, each of which have a rigid internal frame. Although technically incorrect, Goodyear continues to use "blimp" in reference to these new semi-rigid models. Wingfoot One, the first such model in Goodyear's U.S. fleet, was christened on August 23, 2014, near the company's world headquarters in Akron, Ohio.
- Wingfoot One (N1A), based in Pompano Beach, Florida
- Wingfoot Two (N2A), based in Carson, California
- Wingfoot Three (N3A), based in Suffield, Ohio
The new airships are 246 feet long, 52 feet longer than Goodyear's old model, the GZ-20; the Zeppelin NT model is also slimmer, has a top speed of 70 miles per hour (versus 50 for the blimp), and has a passenger gondola that seats 12 (compared to seven in the blimp). The gondola also contains a restroom. Both craft are outfitted with LED sign technology Goodyear calls "Eaglevision." This allows the aircraft to display bright, multi-colored, animated words and images.
Goodyear also has had blimps operating in other parts of the world; these airships were built and operated by The Lightship Group of Orlando, Florida. In 2012, The Lightship Group was acquired (along with the American Blimp Corporation) by Van Wagner Communications LLC, and operated as the Van Wagner Airship Group until November 17, 2017, when it was purchased by Airsign Inc, they currently operate an airship for Goodyear in China.
The blimps are filled with helium; the helium is maintained under low pressure, so small punctures do not pose serious consequences for the blimp. One inspection element of the blimps is to look into the envelope for pinpoints of light which are indicative of small holes.
The Goodyear blimps were non-rigid (meaning their shape is not maintained by a rigid internal structure) dirigibles (directable/steerable airships). Inside their exterior envelope, the Goodyear blimps are fitted with air–filled ballonets; as the blimp ascends or descends, the internal ballonets expand or contract to compensate for density changes and to maintain uniform pressure in the envelope. The latest craft, a Zeppelin NT is a departure from this tradition, as it is a Semi-rigid airship that makes use of a structural truss inside the envelope to provide some of its structural strength.
"GZ" stands for Goodyear-Zeppelin, stemming from the partnership Goodyear had with the German company when both were building airships together. However these models came many years after this partnership had dissolved during the start of World War II; the GZ-1 was the USS Akron (ZRS-4), the U.S. Navy's fourth rigid airship used for several tests including as a flying "aircraft carrier".
- GZ-19: Introduced in 1963 and discontinued in 1978 after the Mayflower (N38A) was destroyed by a tornado. The design for this class resembles the U.S. Navy's L class blimp.
- GZ-20: This class was introduced in 1969, with America (N3A) and Columbia (N4A) being the first two. The Europa (N2A) followed in 1972 and was based in Italy, the first Goodyear blimp operated outside of the United States; these blimps are slightly longer than the GZ-19. Beginning in 2014, Goodyear began retiring the GZ-20 and replacing them with the Zeppelin NT. On February 23, 2014, Spirit of Goodyear was retired in Pompano Beach after the 2014 Daytona 500. On August 10, 2015, the California-based GZ-20, the Spirit of America, was decommissioned; the Spirit of Innovation, took over California operations in September 2015 until its retirement in March 2017 as the last remaining GZ-20. In fall of 2017, Wingfoot Two will be relocated to California.
- GZ-22: The only airship in this class was the Spirit of Akron (N4A). Originally built in 1987 to show the U.S. Department of Defense that airships were still militarily viable, it was the largest and most technically advanced ship Goodyear ever had in its public relations fleet, featuring fly-by-wire technology. However, Spirit of Akron was lost in 1999 and the company has not built one since, most likely because of the large expense to build and operate one due to its size and advanced technology.
- LZ N07-101: In May 2011, Goodyear announced that it would be replacing its aging fleet of GZ-20 blimps (non-rigid airships) with Zeppelin NT airships. Construction began in 2012 on the first of three new semi-rigid airships; completed in March 2014, Wingfoot One was christened on August 23, 2014, by Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts. Wingfoot Two, the name of Goodyear's second semi-rigid airship, was unveiled in April 2016; the third will take to the skies in the summer of 2018. 
- C class blimp 1918–1919
- D class blimp 1920–1924
- F class blimp/Type FB 1918–1923
- Goodyear Type AD 1925–1931
- G class blimp 1935–19?
- H class blimp 1921–1923
- J class blimp 1922–1940
- K class blimp 1938–1959, WWII anti-submarine, post-war tests
- K-1 1938–1940, pre-war experimental
- L class blimp 1930s–1945, WWII
- M class blimp 1944–1956
- N class blimp 1950s–1962
- Goodyear ZWG 1950s
According to the Goodyear website, the two active GZ-20 blimps are 192 feet (58 meters) long, 59.5 feet (18 meters) tall, and 50 feet (15 meters) wide. For comparison, the largest airships ever built, the Zeppelin company's Hindenburg, LZ-129, and the Graf Zeppelin II, LZ-130, were 804 feet (245 meters) long and 135 feet (41 meters) in diameter; that is, over four times as long and over twice as wide as the current Goodyear blimps. The largest blimp ever made by Goodyear was the U.S. Navy's ZPG-3, at 403 feet (121 meters) in length.
Since 1928, Goodyear had named its blimps after the U.S. winners of the America's Cup yacht race. This naming method is attributed to then-Goodyear CEO Paul W. Litchfield, who viewed the airships as being like yachts in the sky. Although that practice deviated with the introduction of the Spirit of Akron in 1987, the Florida-based Stars & Stripes would be the last to carry this honor, ending in 2005.
In 2006, Goodyear started having the public participate in the naming of their blimps, they dubbed this the "Name the Blimp" contest. Spirit of Innovation was the first airship to be named by the public.
Foreign based blimps have been operated by The Lightship Group since the 1990s: Europa, Spirit of Europe, Spirit of the South Pacific, Spirit of the Americas, Spirit of Safety, Ventura, Ling Hang Zhe (Navigator).
The only passengers that Goodyear will allow on the blimps are corporate guests of the company and members of the press; it has been Goodyear's long-standing policy that no public rides are offered. However, for over 50 years, it had to offer limited public rides at its Miami, Florida, winter base on Watson Island as part of its land-lease deal with the city in order to operate from the island; that practice ended in 1979 when the base was moved to Opa-locka, Florida.
Sometimes Goodyear has a contest with the dealers of its tires. If a customer buys four new Goodyear tires, he or she is entered into a contest to take a flight in the blimp; the winner must go to the nearest blimp base to take his or her flight.
During the period in which Goodyear supplied tires for Indy cars, it was a tradition that the pole position winner at the Indianapolis 500 would get a ride in the blimp in the days leading up to the race.
During the period in which Goodyear was a corporate sponsor of the All American Soap Box Derby, the winners of the World Championship races held each July in Akron, OH were awarded a ride in the blimp.  Typically these rides were given on the day following the annual race, but if weather prohibited the blimp from flying on that day, the champions were given an award letter from Goodyear; this letter was basically a lifetime ticket for one blimp ride to be taken whenever arrangements could be made between all parties involved.
For years, Goodyear has fitted its blimps with a night sign. From neon tubes, to incandescent lamps to LEDs, these signs have helped the company advertise its products and also deliver public service messages from various organizations such as local governments.
- Neon-O-Gram Originally called NeonGoodyear, was first fitted on Defender in the 1930s. Neon tubes on the sides of the blimp which usually spelled out 'Goodyear'.
- 10 Panel Incandescent Bulbs
- Skytacular: In the mid-1960s, the GZ-19 Mayflower (N4A) was fitted with over 3,000 incandescent lamps of red, yellow, blue and green on both sides that for the first time featured animation. Usually moving stick figures, ticker messages or colorful patterns. A small gas turbine had to be attached to the blimp's car in order to power the Skytacular night sign.
- Super Skytacular: Same technology as Skytacular, but with more than 7,000 lamps on both sides. Super Skytacular was fitted on the new longer GZ-20 blimps in 1969.
- Wingfoot Air Express, while transporting passengers from Chicago's Grant Park to the White City Amusement Park, caught fire then crashed through the skylight of the Illinois Trust & Savings Bank on July 21, 1919, killing one crewman, two passengers, and ten bank employees.
- Columbia, tail number N10A, was buzzed repeatedly by a radio-controlled model airplane when the blimp flew over a field used for R/C model flying; the R/C pilot then intentionally rammed his model airplane into the blimp, tearing a three-foot hole through the envelope. The blimp made a "hard landing" at a nearby airport; the R/C pilot, John William Moyer, was identified by other flyers at the field and was later arrested. The incident occurred on September 30, 1990.
- Spirit of Akron, tail number N4A, crashed on 28 October 1999, in Suffield, Ohio, when it suddenly entered an uncontrolled left turn and began descending. The pilot and technician on board received only minor injuries when the blimp struck trees; the National Transportation Safety Board report identified that improperly hardened metal splines on the control actuators sheared, causing loss of control.
- Stars and Stripes, tail number N1A, crashed on June 16, 2005, in Coral Springs, Florida, when it was caught in a strong thunderstorm that eventually pushed the aircraft into trees and powerlines. There were no injuries in the crash, although the pilot and passenger were trapped for a number of hours until the powerlines could be de-energized; the National Transportation Safety Board accident report claims the cause of the accident to be the pilot's "inadequate in-flight planning/decision which resulted in an in-flight encounter with weather (thunderstorm outflow), and downdrafts..."
- Spirit of Safety I, (built by American Blimp Corporation) registered as G-TLEL and owned and operated by Lightship Europe Limited, (but operating in Goodyear livery), caught fire while on landing approach to the Reichelsheim Airport and crashed on June 12, 2011, near Reichelsheim, Hesse, Germany. The pilot, Michael Nerandzic, flew the airship low enough that passengers could jump to the ground, and all three did indeed leap to safety. Nerandzic then, while still able to maintain some control on the burning blimp, climbed away so that fire or wreckage would not hit the escapees; soon after, Nerandzic died in the blimp's fiery wreck.
In 1976, Goodyear allowed use of its blimps for the filming of Black Sunday, based on the novel by Thomas Harris, about a distressed former prisoner of war blimp pilot who helps Middle Eastern terrorists attack the Super Bowl with a lethal device attached to the airship's car. Two blimps were used for the conclusion; the base scenes were shot in Carson, California, using the Columbia. The Super Bowl scenes were shot in Miami, Florida, using Mayflower, which was smaller than Columbia.
In 1983, the city of Redondo Beach, California, near the blimp base airport in Carson, California, adopted resolution number 6252 recognizing the Goodyear Airship Columbia as the "Official Bird of Redondo Beach."
- Associated Press (March 14, 2017). "Goodyear retires blimps but keeps familiar form in flight". Los Angeles Times via latimes.com. The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
Goodyear has let the helium out of the last of its fabled fleet of blimps, but the company's flight program will continue.
- Ewinger, James (March 14, 2014). "Goodyear rolls out newest blimp (Cody B)with the help of Zeppelin". The Plain Dealer via Cleveland.com. Plain Dealer Publishing Co. and Northeast Ohio Media Group. Archived from the original on July 21, 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
The three trusses mean that the new airship is semi-rigid. As such it is not a blimp, which is defined as non-rigid... But Goodyear's newest airship will still be called a blimp. 'The term Goodyear Blimp is so universally recognized that the company is proud to have it continue, regardless of any technical difference,' said Goodyear spokesman Doug Grassian.
- "Blimp Schedule". Archived from the original on 4 July 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- Cohen, Aubrey (August 25, 2014). "Goodyear's New 'Wingfoot One Cody B' Isn't a Blimp". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hearst Seattle Media, LLC. Retrieved September 4, 2014.
- "Goodyear blimps to be replaced by German Zeppelins". theregister.co.uk. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
- Dixon Murray, Teresa (May 2011). "Goodyear's 3 aging blimps to be replaced with bigger, faster airships". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
- "Goodyear - Current Blimps". Archived from the original on July 4, 2017. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
- Heldenfels, Rich (August 23, 2014). "A new blimp is christened: Wingfoot One makes its formal debut". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
- FAA (2014). "N-Number Inquiry Results: N1A". FAA Registry – registry.faa.gov. Federal Aviation Administration. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
N-Number: N1A... Status: Valid... Certificate Issue Date: 08/27/2014...
- Mike Hembree (February 18, 2015). "With new model on the way, Goodyear blimp makes final flights". USA Today Sports. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
- "Van Wagner buys The Lightship Group, American Blimp Corp. - New York Business Journal". Bizjournals.com. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- "Company History". Lightships. Archived from the original on November 25, 2015. Retrieved July 5, 2010.
- "Acquisition Positions AirSign as World Leader in the Airship Industry". Aviation Pros. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
- "Lightships :: Client Highlights >> GoodYear". Airsign. www.airships.com. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
- "Goodyear Blimp Gets A Face-lift Ship`s New Color Scheme Will Debut In February". tribunedigital-sunsentinel. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
- "Iconic Goodyear Blimp Retires after Daytona 500" (Press release). Goodyear. 24 February 2014. Archived from the original on 15 March 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- "Goodyear Blimp "Spirit of America" Retires; Transition To High Tech Fleet Continues" (Press release). Goodyear. July 26, 2015. Archived from the original on August 7, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
- Haidet, Ryan (April 8, 2016). "Goodyear unveils Wingfoot Two airship in Akron". WKYC.com. WKYC. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
- Jennifer Conn (March 20, 2018). "Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s newest zeppelin (not blimp) will take to the skies this summer". cleveland.com. cleveland.com. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
- "Goodyear Announces Winner of Nationwide Contest to Name Newest Blimp" (Press release). PR Newswire Association LLC. June 21, 2006. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
- "America's Cup Winners". Herreshoff Marine Museum. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
- "Goodyear Blimp | History & FAQ". Akron, OH: The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Archived from the original on 2 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
- "The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Records". Akron, OH: The University of Akron. August 8, 2002. p. 7. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
- "Goodyear Blimp | Our Fleet". The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- "Wingfoot One Selected as Winning Name for New Goodyear Blimp" (Press release). Goodyear. 21 July 2014. Archived from the original on 26 July 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- "Lightships :: Client Highlights >> GoodYear". The Lightship Group. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
- "Return of Goodyear Airships to Europe is a success" (Press release). PR Newswire Europe Ltd. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
- Nathan Klein, "Heroic Aussie pilot in airship tragedy," The Daily Telegraph, June 14, 2011, retrieved June 13, 2011.
- "Dirigível Goodyear". Goodyear of Brasil. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
- "The Legends of the Brickyard" – 1985 Indianapolis 500 Highlight Film, ESPN
- http://aasbd.com/webdev/aasbd73/f-prizes.html[dead link]
- "Chicago History". chipublib.org. Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
- "Man Arrested as Model Plane Buzzes, Punctures Goodyear Blimp". latimes. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
- "Man Will Stand Trial In Goodyear Blimp Attack". tribunedigital-orlandosentinel. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
- http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20001212X19973&key=1 Archived October 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- Wikinews:Goodyear blimp crashes in Florida
-  Archived October 11, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- "Pilot stirbt bei Luftschiff-Absturz" [Pilot dies in airship crash]. Der Spiegel (in German). June 12, 2011. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
- "Our Fleet: America". Goodyear. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
- "December 12, 1983 Meeting Minutes". Redondo Beach City Council. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
- "The Goodyear Blimp," Quintessences: the Quality of Having It (New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 1983) pp 44–45.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Goodyear Blimp.|