Aircraft

Goodyear replacing its current blimp fleet with zeppelins

The NT-design takes shape at Goodyear's Wingfoot Lake Hangar in Suffield, Ohio
The NT-design takes shape at Goodyear's Wingfoot Lake Hangar in Suffield, Ohio
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Once airborne, this will be the first of a project to build new zeppelin-design airships to replace Goodyear's current fleet of blimps
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Once airborne, this will be the first of a project to build new zeppelin-design airships to replace Goodyear's current fleet of blimps
The NT-design takes shape at Goodyear's Wingfoot Lake Hangar in Suffield, Ohio
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The NT-design takes shape at Goodyear's Wingfoot Lake Hangar in Suffield, Ohio
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The iconic Goodyear blimps are a common sight in the skies over stadiums at sporting events in the US, serving as an aerial billboard and television camera platform to provide aerial views. In 2011, Goodyear announced plans to replace the current fleet of GZ-20 class blimps first introduced in 1969 with three new Zeppelin NT airships. Goodyear says this new design will be longer, faster, and more maneuverable than the current fleet, while also being less expensive to operate.

The new airships models are supplied by German zeppelin manufacturer ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik, and last week Zeppelin and Goodyear teams at Goodyear's hangar in Suffield, Ohio, installed an envelope over the aluminum and carbon fiber framework of the first airship. This was an important milestone with the zeppelin starting to take on the familiar blimp-like shape as the envelope made of polyester with a DuPont Tedlar film is stretched over each metal truss.

Everything about the NT, (NT stands for "Neue Technologie", which is German for new technology), design is bigger. The current blimp design is 192 ft (58.5 m) long with an envelope volume of 202,700 cu ft (5,735 cu m), while the NT is 246.5 ft (75 m) long with an envelope volume of 297,527 cu ft (8,425 cu m) and the ability to carry nearly 7,000 lb (3,175 kg) more cargo than the current airships in the Goodyear fleet.

Once airborne, this will be the first of a project to build new zeppelin-design airships to replace Goodyear's current fleet of blimps
Once airborne, this will be the first of a project to build new zeppelin-design airships to replace Goodyear's current fleet of blimps

"It is a fly-by-wire design, with the latest in airship technology," Nancy Ray, director of Global Airship Operations at Goodyear tells Gizmag. What makes the new Goodyear NT more maneuverable are the three vectoring prop engines. "They swivel up and down. In essence, this helps the airship take off and land more like a helicopter, and provide the ability to control its aerial position," explains Ray.

The major difference is the change from a traditional non-rigid blimp to a zeppelin. A blimp is an aerial vehicle that helped coin the term "lighter than air," because there is no rigid framework and it's filled with hydrogen or helium – although only helium is used these days after the flammability of hydrogen was deemed a hazard. In comparison, the Zeppelin NT has a semi-rigid framework to support the helium-filled craft, which allows for a larger payload.

"As we build the new-design NT airships, the current fleet of Goodyear blimps will not be completely out of service until 2017, so as we decommission airships we will keep useable parts as spares," says Ray. The first of the new airships is set to enter service in 2014, with each expected to have a lifespan of 25 years, with progressive maintenance.

Though Ray preferred not to provide specifics as to the cost of the new zeppelins, she says, "It represents a strong investment in Goodyear’s airship program, helping to ensure that Goodyear will remain at the forefront of aerial broadcast coverage and support."

Source: Goodyear

15 comments
Mark A
An NT machine visited San Diego a while back and they are truly unique aircraft. The view from the rear window is fantastic, you can look straight down. They are also very light, I was able to lift it.
Slowburn
I was hoping for a fully rigid design.
Racqia Dvorak
What a waste of helium.... do people really not know how valuable and limited it is? Come on, hydrogen is more dangerous, but it's also unlimited and more effective. Surely we can be safer than people in the 30's.
Don Duncan
More dangerous, yes, but not very dangerous. It was not hydrogen that caused the fire, it was a new dope + the surface design. It was a flying bomb. Static electricity collected on the surface provided the "match" that lit it. The explosion was not an accident. It was inevitable. The mistake was in the doping agent covering the surface. It was later used as rocket fuel. The company discovered their mistake within a few weeks of doing a postmortem, but never released the revelation to avoid a lawsuit.
Stephen N Russell
Get more & have a Air Tours Div for income IE have some carry 8 passengers for air tours over city with camera pod below for scanning 360 deg Below gondola module. IE for newscasting alone.
Gregg Eshelman
This one is the NT, when will the 2000 and the XP be introduced? ;-)
TogetherinParis
I'm just spitballing here, but wouldn't the addition of helium and hydrogen be less flammable/inflammable than pure hydrogen alone? Perhaps some mixture might be arrived at by titration that would allow the lighter combination? Sure would save money. Of course, O2 from the atmosphere is still needed for ignition and oxidation, but mixtures or gaseous alloys, eh? ha, might even have other useful properties. Some combination might even be easier to handle/store.
Gadgeteer
You guys suggesting don't get it. The FAA specifically forbids the use of hydrogen as a lifting gas in any airship that carries passengers (including crew members). And I wouldn't worry about the "waste" of helium. Airships aren't a major user of helium. One Zeppelin NT uses about 290,000 cubic feet of helium, a fraction of the two billion cubic feet or so produced every year, and they don't vent the helium and deflate the airship after flights.
Slowburn
re; Racqia Dvorak The cost of extracting helium from the atmosphere while higher than extracting it from unpurified natural gas it is not so high as to prohibit filling toy balloons with it.
BigGoofyGuy
I think that is way cool. I am hoping that one day it will lead to a rigid airship and there would be cruise airships like the Hindenberg. It was originally designed to use helium. I think the joke about 'NT...whats next..XP or Vista?'. I think it is funny.