It’s the end of an era. The very last Goodyear blimp has been deflated as that classic blimp style is being retired in favor of a new version of the flying ship.
The first Goodyear blimp, known as the Pilgrim, took to the air in 1925. Today, there are only three aircraft left, including the very last of the true blimps, the Spirit of Innovation, based in Carson. That blimp has been deflated so it can be moved to be displayed at a museum at the Goodyear headquarters in Akron, Ohio. It will be replaced with an updated semi-rigid dirigible airship instead.
The new dirigibles (they’re not technically blimps because blimps have no rigid structure to them, though the company says they intend to continue to refer to the airships as ‘Goodyear blimps’ anyway) are constructed by Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH, a German company founded by Count von Zeppelin in 1885. Luftschiffbau Zeppelin formed an American subsidiary to construct the original series of Goodyear blimps, but the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation cut ties with the German founders during World War II. Luftschiffbau Zeppelin itself went out of business in 1945, but was reconstituted in 2010. Just a year later, in 2011, Goodyear announced plans to phase out their blimps in favor of the new dirigibles.
The new Zeppelin NT model that Goodyear has brought online is 52 feet longer than the previous blimps and can go 70 miles per hour compared to the blimps’ top speed of just 50. If you spy it flying over an awards show or the Staples Center for a Lakers or Clippers game, you’re likely to notice the slimmer new shape that replaces the classic oval silhouette. There’s also more room than ever in the passenger gondola, which can now seat 12, and even has a bathroom, should you ever be invited aboard (but if not, there are always hot air balloon rides).
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