AKRON, Ohio -- It's a rare American who hasn't seen one of Goodyear's famous blimps flying overhead, or at least on TV. And the tire company has been gracing the skies with its airships for a full century.
But it doesn't happen easily. It takes a dedicated crew of 21 people to keep each of Goodyear's three blimps -- one outside Akron, one in Carson, Calif., and one in Pompano Beach, Fla. -- up and running.
As part of Road Trip 2013, CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman stopped in at Goodyear's Wingfoot Lake airship operations facility to see how it's done -- and to take a terrific flight aboard the Spirit of Goodyear.
When the blimp comes in to land, the 16-person ground crew is ready for it, with several members grabbing each of the airship's tethering ropes and holding on tight while it offloads passengers and brings on new ones.
The blimp's permanent mast is seen just outside its 800-foot-long hangar next to Wingfoot Lake. This mast is used when the blimp is at its home base and only when it is done flying for the day. When it travels, the blimp has a mobile mast.
A look at the underside of the Spirit of Goodyear, as seen from the airship's gondola. The blimps have two large ballonets, that are used to add or subtract air -- and hold the shape of the blimp -- as helium expands or contracts depending on its altitude.
When the pilot is bringing the blimp in to land, but still is too high in the air to see which direction the windsocks are blowing, and therefore which direction the wind is coming from, the ground crew lines up so that the pilot has a visual cue which way to come in.
Each of the Goodyear blimps spends much of the year traveling to events around the country, where it serves as an airborne television camera platform. Each blimp is supported by, among other vehicles, this tractor trailer, which holds a great deal of essential equipment and gear.