Watch Goodyear's next-gen blimp get built in two minutes
Time-lapse footage shows the birth of a brand new kind of blimp at Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake hangar in Ohio.
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
The brand new Goodyear Blimp took a year to build, but you can watch the whole process -- from bare ribs to full paint job -- in just over two minutes thanks to the video below, which was recently released by the high-flying tire maker.
The new blimp differs from previous models in several significant ways.
First, it's not technically a blimp at all. Unlike those that came before it, the gigantic floating portion (known as the "envelope" in blimp-speak) actually consists of a ribbed frame wrapped in a covering. That technically makes the new craft a zeppelin -- which has a rigid frame -- and not a blimp, which doesn't. However, because I think (and so does Goodyear) that "Goodyear Blimp" still sounds better than "Goodyear Zeppelin," that's how I'll refer to it in the rest of this article.
The next-gen blimp is also bigger than its predecessor, the "GZ-20" model that flew for 45 years. It measures 82 yards long, which means that it could fit nicely on a football field, and is 50 feet longer than the blimps that can before it.
It's faster too. The company says it has a top speed of 72 miles per hour, which way out-clocks the old blimps' max speed of 50 miles per hour. But in its maiden voyage on March 17, it exceeded 80 miles per hour thanks to a tailwind.
The controls have also come into the 21st century.
"Whereas pilots of the previous generation of blimps controlled the airships' movements with a manual flight system in use since 1925, the new ship features custom computer-controlled avionics," the company explains. "Electronic controls work in conjunction with an on-board computer to regulate engine thrust, up-and-down movement, and right-and-left movement. Tail fin operation will be controlled by a joystick device." This gives the pilots greater control over the craft throughout the flying process as well as upon takeoff and landing.
Now, on to what you really want to know. What's the big blimp named?
It doesn't have a name yet, but you could have a hand in giving it one. Goodyear is running a contest to name the airship, making it "only the second blimp in history to get its name from a consumer naming contest," according to the company. The first ship was the "Spirit of Innovation" from a 2006 contest that produced over 20,000 possible names. To vote for this one, you can visit either Goodyear's Web site or Facebook page by the April 4 deadline.