The first thing you notice when you talk to Goodyear Blimp pilots, PR reps, front office staff, the guy who works the front desk, the people walking around the Wingfoot Lake hangar that houses the new ‘Wingfoot Two’ blimp is that you shouldn’t be calling modern blimps “blimps.” It’s an “airship.” It’s OK if you still go old school and call it a blimp, but you’ll feel much cooler and knowledgable if you go with airship.
This is the 21st century and Goodyear has spent the last seven years in conjunction with German company Zeppelin developing Wingfoot Two, the second airship in this new fleet that will eventually be based in California and handle West Coast sporting events and charity rides.
Savannah James, LeBron’s wife was given the honors this past Friday as the official christener of Wingfoot Two, an honor that has been bestowed upon such women as Amelia Earhart (1929) and astronaut Dr. Sally Ride (2000), during a ceremony in front of Goodyear workers in their families inside the Wingfoot hangar. Savannah spoke about being a little girl growing up in Akron and watching the blimp cruise by as a part of normal life.
The changes from previous airships and Wingfoot Two:
- Bigger: At more than 246 feet long, Wingfoot Two stretches nearly the length of a football field, and is 50 feet longer than previous blimps.
- Faster: New blimps hit highway speeds of up to 73 mph – more than 20 mph faster than previous models.
- Stronger: Wingfoot Two sports a semi-rigid skeleton composed of aluminum and carbon fiber, compared to the soft, inflatable bodies used in previous fleets. The frame is now packed with 297,527 cubic feet of non-flammable helium, making it more buoyant and capable of lifting 700 pounds more than its predecessors.
That’s the official company line and the same things you’ll read in multiple stories from industry types who were there for the christening. But let’s be honest, the big upgrade in this new airship is that there will now by a fully functioning airline-like toilet that also includes a window for a great view.
I asked those who fly Wingfoot Two and the bathroom is a universal feature that’s commonly mentioned. It makes sense. You guys just assume the blimp sits up there for hours getting you incredible shots and that they have toilets. Nope. Wingfoot Two is the first of its kind.
What else might you not know about the Goodyear airships that I learned on my visit to Akron?
• You can’t just call up Goodyear and buy a flight on the blimp. No reservations. However, the company does give away rides to charities which then becomes a highest bidder scenario. The money goes to the charity.
• The networks don’t pay Goodyear to be at events. It’s a trade scenario. Goodyear gives up the aerial shots, the networks make sure they mention Goodyear. Obviously there’s a deeper deal than that, but you get the idea.
• Goodyear has its own camera operators in Wingfoot Two, it’s their own operation
• As you expected, the pilots confirm that flying the blimp has its perks with the ladies
• Yes, the pilots are watching the game from up there; they say the view is pretty good, especially since they’re being paid
• Wingfoot Two can carry 12 passengers and two crew; the back of the gondola is a very comfortable couch/bed type sitting area where it would be amazing to lay and look out the windows
• Someone mans the ship 24 hours a day when it’s outside the hangar
• Max speed: 73 mph
• Wingfoot Two has ability to hover over your favorite sporting event; other blimps had to be constantly moving
• The main pilot in charge of training others to fly the Goodyear airship is named James Kosmos…no joke
• Robin Roberts made it for the christening; LeBron hid under a hoodie until the anthem, trying not to be a distraction on his wife’s big day
Hear James Kosmos answer questions I had about Wingfoot Two and the program….we would’ve done a Periscope but it was raining
University of Akron band performed the Anthem
LeBron makes his way to the VIP section before the christening…terrible shot with my iPhone
— Busted Coverage (@bustedcoverage) October 21, 2016