The Goodyear Blimp has been the face of lighter-than-air aircraft, with the first flying in 1925, during the golden age of airships. Since the 1940s it has been the world’s most high profile lighter than air aircraft. But its days are numbered, with the oldest blimp in the fleet recently dismantled and the other examples due to undergo the same fate soon.
Goodyear’s Spirit of America was deflated and disassembled in August after a farewell flight across California. A routine inspection had shown up the early stages of deterioration in its envelope, which led to its decommissioning. The last of the GZ-20 class blimps, Spirit of Innovation will be retired in 2017. The design has been flying since 1969, and while the last remaining blimps were nominally built in the early 21st century, some components and assemblies, such as their gondolas, are much older.
The blimps are being replaced by new generation airships, which will continue as ‘Goodyear Blimps’ even though, as semi-rigid, framed airships they are nothing of the sort. The new ‘blimps’ bear another famous name from airship history: Zeppelin. Technicians from Goodyear and Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik assembled the first in Akron, in the US state of Ohio in 2013, and two more are scheduled to replace the last of the true blimps.
The Goodyear Blimp name will live on in the public imagination, although the knowledgeable will appreciate that they are, in fact, Zeppelins.
You can read more on the Goodyear Blimp’s webpage.