Retired Goodyear blimp gondola joins Cleveland exhibit

AP News
Posted: Feb 28, 2015 11:22 AM

CLEVELAND (AP) — The gondola of the decommissioned Spirit of Goodyear blimp has landed at its new home in a Cleveland historical society exhibit.

The 3,400-pound gondola built in 1982 was used on three blimps — it was previously on the underside of the America and Stars & Stripes — and flew crew members and passengers above major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the World Series.

After the Spirit of Goodyear was retired a year ago, Akron-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. donated the gondola to the Western Reserve Historical Society's Crawford Auto Aviation Collection, where it was recently unveiled.

The historical society's president, Kelly Falcone-Hall, called the gondola an "eyewitness to so much history" and said it was a thrilling donation, the Akron Beacon Journal reported.

That's something worth preserving, said Alvaro Bellon, a trustee with the Lighter-Than-Air-Society in Akron.

"It's such an icon," Bellon told the newspaper. "Wherever you go in the nation, a blimp makes everybody look up."

Goodyear is replacing its blimp fleet with three new airships and christened the first, Wingfoot One, at its northeast Ohio hangar last year. The high-tech, helium-filled craft has a semi-rigid internal structure different from earlier models that raises questions about whether it's truly a blimp, though the company has still referred to it as such.

Goodyear is working on the second airship and will send Wingfoot One to a blimp base in Florida or California, Doug Grassian, spokesman for Goodyear's airship operations, told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. The third airship will be based in northeast Ohio.