The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company’s blimp, Wingfoot Three, will continue a long tradition of Oshkosh Goodyear appearances with a visit to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021, “The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration,” which is July 26-August 1 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh. Goodyear’s Wingfoot Three is scheduled to arrive in Oshkosh on Monday, July 26, and will be on display and be flying at various times during the event until Saturday, July 31. At EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021, Wingfoot Three pilots will also participate at a variety of events, as AirVenture is one of the few air shows on the Goodyear Blimp schedule this year.
“Through the years, there’s a special excitement when attendees arrive at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and one of the first sights they see is the iconic Goodyear Blimp parked on the grounds or in the air overhead,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programs, who coordinates AirVenture features and attractions. “Goodyear has been an important AirVenture exhibitor for many years and it’s always a great to see that Oshkosh has made the ‘Blimp-Worthy’ list of America’s major events.”
From the launch of the Pilgrim in 1925 to the retiring of the Spirit of Innovation in 2017, Goodyear generally owned and operated non-rigid airships in its global public relations fleet. In 2014, however, Goodyear began to replace its three U.S. non-rigid airships (blimps) with three new semi-rigid airships, each of which have a rigid internal frame.
The story of the Goodyear Blimp can be traced back to 1912, when Goodyear engineers first developed a fabric ‘envelope’ for lighter-than-air aircraft, inspired by the achievements of the Wright brothers just a few years earlier. Goodyear continued developing technology over the coming years and in 1924 entered into a relationship with German airship manufacturer Zeppelin. Goodyear and Zeppelin began work on two giant airships, christened Akron and Macon when they first flew in 1931 and 1933. They also built a specially designed Airdock hanger as a base in Akron, and at the time this impressive feat of engineering was the largest freestanding structure in the world.
The program surrounding the giant airships in the 1930s had three key aims: to develop technology for the military, to build public awareness and confidence in the Goodyear brand, and to arouse public and governmental support for ambitious transoceanic passenger flight planes. At the time, many viewed airships as a more viable option for long-distance air travel than aeroplanes.
A number of key routes were drawn up for these public air travel plans, including trips across the Atlantic from New York City or Washington to Paris and London, and trans-Pacific routes linking California, Hawaii, the Philippines, Japan and China. Unfortunately, these bold plans were gradually dropped due to the rapid increase of aeroplane technology and difficulty in achieving Congressional approval. In the second half of the twentieth century, the Goodyear Blimp became a universally recognised icon across the United States with its appearances at events such as the Olympics, Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, World’s Fair and American football games such as the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl.
The Goodyear Blimp has an illustrious history in Europe, too. A blimp named Europa flew throughout Europe between 1972 and 1986, making appearances at key motorsport events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Formula 1 events. It provided unique television coverage of famous events and captured fascinating images over locations such as London’s Big Ben and Rome’s Colosseum. It was also present at two British royal weddings in the 1980s.
Wingfoot Three is the newest addition to the Goodyear Blimp fleet, as it was first flown in June 2018. It marked the completion of the full fleet to the New Technology (NT) platform. The blimp was manufactured by Germany’s ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik and assembled by a team of Zeppelin and Goodyear engineers. It represented the first major structural change of a Goodyear Blimp in nearly 70 years. The Wingfoot Three appearance continues a 50-year tradition of Goodyear Blimp appearances at EAA’s fly-in convention. The first Goodyear Blimp appearance at the EAA fly-in was in 1971, when the airship “America” came to Oshkosh. Several generations of Goodyear Blimps have flown to and over EAA fly-ins since then.
Goodyear Aviation will also continue its participation as an EAA AirVenture exhibitor in 2021 in the Main Aircraft Display area, exhibit #489. Goodyear’s aerial coverage of marquee events in 2021 has already included the numerous NASCAR, PGA, and NBA events. The Goodyear Blimp has been honored with induction as an honorary member of the College Football Hall of Fame, the first non-player or coach to be inducted. More information is available at GoodyearBlimp.com.