Suffield Twp., Ohio – The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company has introduced its latest airship, the second in a series of three the company is building with German firm, Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik (ZLT).
Conducting test flights since March 12, 2016, under German registration D-LZGZ, the airship will fly next carrying U.S. registration N2A – and the name Wingfoot Two. The newly applied moniker had been a mystery until Chief Pilot Jerry Hissem peeled away a black plastic covering taped to the airship’s gondola to reveal the name to leaders of local community organizations and the media at the company’s Wingfoot Lake hangar southeast of Akron. An official christening ceremony will follow this summer, exact date and place yet to be determined.
The new airship’s name is a natural extension of the name chosen in a public contest for Goodyear’s first new-technology airship, Wingfoot One, which references the tire company’s corporate logo. However, the company is not committing to naming the third airship Wingfoot Three, according to Goodyear airship spokesman Eddie Ogden.
Wingfoot Two is a near-identical twin of Goodyear’s Wingfoot One, which debuted in March 2014. Although still called a blimp, it is technically a semi-rigid hybrid airship that maintains its streamlined shape using three carbon-fiber and aluminum girders stretching from nose to tail plus the pressure of helium lifting gas within a polyester and Tedlar skin.
At 246ft in length, the new Zepplein model LZ N07-101 airships are 52ft longer and slimmer than previous Goodyear blimps, GZ-20 models designed in the 1960s. The hybrid airships are also faster, capable of a top speed of 73mph versus 50mph – and slower, able to hover motionless using three, vectorable piston engines mounted one on each side of the airship and on the tail.
Wingfoot Two will carry an illuminated sign similar to its twin. Electronic signs composed of neon tubes were attached to the sides of Goodyear blimps beginning in 1930, followed in later years by arrays of incandescent bulbs, but the latest signs feature high-intensity light-emitting diodes (LEDs). A total of 37,152 LEDs, each no larger than a thumbnail, are assembled into a panel 23.3ft x 39ft. The individual red-blue-green LEDs, which can reproduce 16.8 million colors, are arranged eight in a row on custom-made, waterproofed 1" x 11" circuit boards. These boards, aligned horizontally, are then connected in a lattice that replicates HDTV’s 16:9 format. The entire flexible panel, weighing 399 lb, is then attached to the airship’s envelope using bungee cords.
According to Goodyear’s electronic sign engineer, Joe Miller, the 28V LED panel draws a maximum of 150A directly from the ship’s power, and the sign is bright enough to be seen in daylight across a wide angle of view.
The sign, when attached to the airship’s lower-left side, can display high-definition videos and is optimized for viewing at 1,500ft – about the distance the airship is expected to be seen flying above sporting events.
Flights for Wingfoot Two will resume once FAA certification paperwork is complete, and the airship will travel on public relations missions from its Ohio base until it departs for its permanent home in southern California in 2017.
Wingfoot One currently operates from Goodyear’s base in Pompano Beach, Florida, while the remaining Goodyear GZ-20A blimp, Spirit of Innovation, flies from the company’s airship facility in Carson, California.
Wingfoot Two's name and registration on the tail fin were revealed following the introduction ceremony.
With information provided by The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company