By Jim Mackinnon
After months of blimp-free skies, there’s a new Goodyear airship flying over the Akron area.
Goodyear’s second NT, or New Technology, airship – not yet named – took its first flight Saturday afternoon at the company’s Wingfoot Lake blimp base in Suffield Township.
The first test flight originally was scheduled for Monday, but was pushed up to the weekend to avoid the high potential for predicted bad weather. Saturday, skies were clouding up, with a light breeze and temperatures rising to the low 50s – perfect blimp-flying weather.
Goodyear blimps have long been familiar sights for Akron area residents. But the Akron tire maker has not had an operable airship in the area since late September.
Goodyear’s first NT semi-rigid airship, called Wingfoot One, left last fall for its permanent base in Pompano Beach, Fla., making room for the under-construction NT2 in the Portage County hangar. Goodyear’s last true blimp, the Spirit of Innovation, is based in California.
Crew pulled the new airship out of the hangar about 8:30 a.m. and began putting it through a number of tests that included running the engines, checking instruments and tweaking software.
The airship underwent what is called the “swing the compass” procedure, in which the aircraft pivots in a circle while attached to its mast truck as the crew adjusts an internal magnetic compass.
But when a piece of electronic equipment failed, the airship was trucked back into the hangar so the part could be replaced.
Following a lunch break, the large airship, some 50 feet longer than the previous generation Goodyear blimp, was hauled out again.
This time, all went well.
At about 1:20 p.m., the airship detached from the mast truck. On board were pilots, engineers and mechanics.
The main pilot swiveled the side vector engines up and the airship rose, helicopter-like, and then glided forward as onlookers cheered and waved.
Once the new airship is certified, Goodyear expects to put it into regular service no later than May or June.
“This is the biggest and best news in Akron,” said Cindy Slater, a Springfield Township resident who was among onlookers watching the airship fly from the blimp base.
“We’re lucky to be here the first day it came out,” said Brenda Long, a Cuyahoga Falls resident who drove out to watch the first flight.
Jim Maquire, a Springfield Township resident, said Goodyear blimps have been flying over his home his entire life.
“It’s been a big part of our lives,” he said. Both of his parents had worked for Goodyear Aircraft at the Akron Airdock.
“It’s like an eternity since Wingfoot One left,” said Brian Corbin, a Lake Township resident. “We had perfect weather for it today.”
Construction on a third NT airship is expected to start later this year in the Wingfoot Lake hangar, with its first flight in 2017.
Source: Akron Beacon Journal – ohio.com