The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company http://www.goodyear.com has announced that work is already underway to return the Carson, Calif.-based "Spirit of America" airship to the skies following a disabling December incident during a night landing at its home base.
Following the incident in which neither the pilot nor technician sustained more than minor injuries, cards, letters and e-mails have steadily streamed into the company’s corporate headquarters urging a return of the "Spirit of America" to the skies.
"The emotional outpouring we’ve had is another indication of the attachment that people have to Goodyear blimps," said Robert J. Keegan, Goodyear chairman and chief executive officer. "Preliminary work had already been started in preparation for the repair and return to operation."
Brand experts recognize Goodyear’s fleet of airships as one of the most powerful and visible brand-building vehicles in the world. "Brand building is a key component to Goodyear’s turnaround plan, and we obviously recognize the support that the blimps provide, especially to our North American Tire business," Keegan said. "Goodyear is the most-recognized brand in the tire industry and among the leaders in any product category. The familiarity and popular appeal of the Goodyear blimps has helped build and maintain our identity since 1925."
Goodyear’s blimps have been declared a "business and design classic" by the Corporate Design Foundation.
In addition to three airships in North America, Goodyear currently operates a blimp in Brazil and has operated airships in Europe, Asia and Australia as well. The "Spirit of America" was launched in 2002 and named to honor the patriotic spirit and the people of the United States.
"When people think of blimps or see one on television they think of Goodyear and our tires," said Jonathan D. Rich, president of Goodyear’s North American Tire business. "Our customers (tire retailers and distributors) love them for that reason alone. The connection is even stronger for those who see a Goodyear blimp in person. More than 60 million people get a first-hand look at the blimps each year."
In addition to the spectacular aerial television images the blimps provide over sporting events, the fleet carries more than 13,000 riders a year – important customers of the company and lucky winners of rides donated to various charities and awarded through sales promotions at tire dealerships and retail outlets.
The rebuilding project will take place at Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake airship hangar near Akron, and last several months.
The "Spirit of America" was christened on Sept. 5, 2002, by Letitia Driscoll, the mother of Stephen Driscoll, a New York police officer who died in the South tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Like Goodyear’s other U.S.-based airships, the "Spirit of America" is 192 feet long, 59.5 feet high and holds 202,700 cubic feet of helium. They have a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour with a cruising speed of 30 miles per hour, and can carry a pilot and six passengers.
Goodyear’s other U.S. airships are the "Spirit of Goodyear," based in Akron, and the "Stars & Stripes," based in Pompano Beach, Fla. The Goodyear blimp "Ventura" operates in Brazil.