By Jim Mackinnon
Goodyear’s third NT airship is starting to come together.
Workers at Goodyear’s Suffield Township blimp base are at the beginning stages of assembling the last of three NT, or New Technology, airships for the Akron tire maker.
This new blimp — Goodyear still calls its next-generation, semi-rigid airships “blimps” — will become a familiar sight for years in Akron-area skies. Its home will be the blimp base next to Wingfoot Lake in Portage County.
“It should be ready to launch in the spring [of 2018],” Goodyear spokesman Ed Ogden said. “It’s been fun to watch these come together.”
Right now there’s not much dramatic to see. Parts of the internal aluminum and carbon fiber inner skeleton are being assembled on the main hangar floor. Other work is taking place in the interior workshop area. Typically there are no more than four people working on the project at any one time. More people will be needed at later stages, including when the helium-holding envelope is carefully pulled over the frame.
Assembly will continue until a scheduled two-month hiatus in summer, then resume in the fall, Ogden said. The work being done now takes time and is not dramatic, he said.
Mechanics Joe Samples and Heiko Eckleben of German airship manufacturer Zeppelin worked last week on pieces of the internal frame, which are called longerons.
“We’re installing these wiring channels along the longerons,” Samples said. “They’re each individually bonded to the longerons for reasons of lightning protection.”
Out on the hangar floor, Thomas Neudert and Markus Draeger, both of Zeppelin, carefully measured such things as the tension of the under-construction frame.
Goodyear’s original NT airship, Wingfoot One, first flew March 17, 2014. The blimp is now based in Florida.
Then the second one, given the name Wingfoot Two, first flew in March 2016 and remains temporarily stationed at the Suffield Township base.
This new airship has not been given a name, but you could probably put a safe bet on the moniker Wingfoot Three.
Wingfoot Two will remain in the area likely until early October, when it will fly off to its permanent base in California.
For the time being, Wingfoot Two can still squeeze inside the hangar while the new airship is being built. But at one point in the project, there will be room for just the one under-construction airship.
Goodyear’s last true blimp, the Spirit of Innovation, a GZ-20 model that first flew in 2006, was retired in mid-March at the company’s blimp base in Carson City, Calif. Goodyear first flew GZ-20 blimps, its most successful and popular model, in 1969. The Spirit of Innovation was the 15th GZ-20 Goodyear blimp.
Goodyear NT airship information
- Length: 246.4 feet
- Maximum width: 64.79 feet
- Overall height: 57.57 feet
- Internal frame: Aluminum and carbon fiber
- Envelope volume: 297,527 cubic feet
- Envelope material: Polyurethane, polyester and tedlar film with a lifespan of 10-plus years
- Maximum weight: 19,780 pounds
- Top speed: 73 mph.
- Gondola: Seats up to 14
- Engines: Three vectored, 200 horsepower apiece
Source: Akron Beacon Journal – ohio.com