Goodyear airship pilots Taylor Deen and Jerry Hissem (left) and Goodyear Chairman, CEO, and President Richard J. Kramer (right) soak in the history as Shaesta Waiz breaks a bottle of champagne to christen Wingfoot Three.
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company invited Shaesta Waiz, the youngest woman to fly solo around the world in a single-engine aircraft, to christen Wingfoot Three, the newest addition to its fleet of new technology airships. The ceremony took place in Goodyear’s Suffield, Ohio Wingfoot Lake hangar, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
Goodyear has recognized noteworthy women for nearly a century through the tradition of christening Goodyear blimps. Celebrated aviator Amelia Earhart (1929), astronaut Dr. Sally Ride (2000) and “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts (2014) are among those who have christened a Goodyear blimp. Akron native Savannah James served as the most recent christener of Wingfoot Two in 2016.
“We’re delighted to have Shaesta serve as the christener of our newest blimp,” said Goodyear Chairman, CEO, and President Richard J. Kramer. “She’s an inspiring leader, a natural role model, record-setting pilot, and today she becomes part of the Goodyear family.”
Waiz traveled more than 24,000nm on her record-breaking flight May 13 to Oct. 4, 2017 in a 2001 Beechcraft Bonanza A36. Along the way, the 30-year-old Afghan-American pilot and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University visited 22 countries and promoted science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at outreach events for more than 3,000 girls and boys. Waiz continues advocating for STEM education through her not-for-profit organization, Dreams Soar Inc.
Waiz says the focus of her organization has changed to providing scholarship opportunities for the young people excited by her flight. “We’ve inspired these kids; now we need to empower and enable them, so Dreams Soar is working on growing our scholarship fund.”
Waiz recounted how she was inspired by thoughts of Amelia Earhart’s successful 1935 flight from Hawaii to California before she undertook the longest leg of her flight.
“Amelia continues to inspire people to this day, and we honor her on the 89th anniversary of the christening of the Goodyear blimp Defender,” Waiz said at the Aug. 30, 2018 ceremony. “Wingfoot Three will serve as a beacon as we continue our work inspiring and celebrating aviation.”
Waiz, born in Afghanistan, emigrated as a refugee to the United States as a young girl. Terrified of flying as a child, she first felt “romanced by aviation” on a cross-country airline flight as a teenager. After the six-hour flight, she realized “your biggest fear can become your greatest passion” and started her journey to become a pilot.
Waiz also found inspiration in the achievement of Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock, a housewife and aviator from Columbus, Ohio, who became the first woman to fly solo around the world in 1964 in a Cessna 180. In tribute, Waiz made the first leg of her around-the-world flight Daytona Beach, Florida, to Columbus, Ohio.
After brief speeches to more than 200 invited guests, Kramer and Waiz walked to the front of the airship control car accompanied by Goodyear airship Chief Pilot Jerry Hissem and Senior Pilot Taylor Deen – one of only three active female blimp pilots worldwide.
Waiz declared, “I christen thee Wingfoot Three.” After striking the structure with a cloth-wrapped bottle three times, she succeeded with the fourth blow releasing champagne in a celebratory splash.
Since 1917, Goodyear has built more than 300 lighter-than-air vehicles for public relations and defense applications, many built at the Wingfoot Lake hangar in Suffield, Ohio.
The blimp hangar was recently recognized with an Ohio Historical Marker. The oldest airship hangar in the United States joins more than 1,600 sites across the state with historical markers that tell the story of the people, places, and things that have shaped Ohio’s history.
Paul Fitzhenry, Goodyear senior vice president and chief communications officer, said, “From training the first class of United States Navy pilots in lighter-than-air to building of airships for the defense of the nation during WWI and WWII and serving as the home base of our current airship fleet, this facility is an Ohio and American treasure.”
The Ohio Historical Marker reads:
Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake Airship Hangar
In March 1917, a month before U.S. entry into World War I, The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company began construction of the hangar on land the firm purchased here in 1916. During World Wars I and II, the hangar was used for building and testing lighter-than-air craft for military uses, including intelligence-gathering and antisubmarine warfare. The first class of Navy airship pilots also trained at Wingfoot Lake. In 1925, the company expanded into commercial aircraft with production of the Pilgrim, the first of the iconic Goodyear blimps. In 1960, after 43 years of building military airships, Goodyear delivered its last blimp to the Navy. Known as the “Kitty Hawk of Lighter-Than-Air,” Wingfoot Lake, the oldest airship base in the country, remains active in the building and operation of Goodyear’s 21st-century fleet of airships. Goodyear blimps have provided aerial TV coverage of sports and entertainment events from coast to coast since the Rose Bowl parade in 1955.
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
The Ohio History Connection