Back in the 1960s and ’70s, the presence of the Goodyear blimp flying overhead certified an athletic event to be a Big Event. It was a big deal to see the first “Blimp’s Eye’’ TV shots.
But who knew these lighter-than-air vehicles had been serving as the company’s goodwill ambassadors since 1925, adding their presence to the biggest news, sports, and entertainment events?
Over those years, Goodyear has built more than 300 of the airships, including the latest one, introduced this month at the company’s Wingfoot Lake hangar in Suffield, Ohio.
The new blimp, to be named by a public contest, will begin test flights over Ohio this spring and go into service in the summer.
Just as autos have new generations, so do blimps. The helium-filled airship is 246 feet long, more than 50 feet longer than its predecessors, and has a 12-passenger gondola with improved viewing angles and more comfortable seats. Top speed is 73 miles per hour, a big advance over prior model’s 50 mph limits.
“It reflects Goodyear’s commitment to remaining at the forefront of aerial broadcast coverage and support,’’ says Goodyear vice president Paul Fitzhenry. “This airship offers enhanced aerial television coverage capabilities, increased flight range, and unparalleled passenger experience.’’
This is only the second time Goodyear has held a naming contest. Rules and entry information can be found at Goodyear.com/NametheBlimp.
In 2006, more than 20,000 entries were submitted for the ship named Spirit of Innovation that now operates from Pompano Beach, Fla.
The winner will join the Goodyear Blimp for a day of airship activities and nine runners-up will receive a set of Goodyear tires.
Construction of the new blimp began last March as a collaboration between Goodyear and Germany’s ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik. Some parts, such as tail fins and gondola, were built in Germany. The envelope—the balloon-like body—is made of polyester with a covering of a DuPont film called Tedlar surrounding a semi-rigid internal structure.
Cold Weather Testing
Ford engineers took prototypes of the new F-150 to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this winter to try to simulate some real-world cold-weather conditions.
Search around on You Tube and you can find a video they made. (In watching it, you’ll wonder why they didn’t come to New England. After all, we have everything the Upper Peninsula offers plus an endless supply of potholes, especially the dreaded hidden ones that are filled with water during meltdown or rainstorms.)
Jim Mocio, F-150 vehicle integration specialist, introduces one YouTube segment by saying, “It was negative 8 (-8F) overnight and now it’s up to zero. We put a wet F-150 into the cold box last night, now it’s time to try an start it.’’
It’s a good thing Ford’s folks were trying real-world situations. That’s a scenario New Englanders have faced all winter.
GM also went to the trouble of constructing something that Boston could offer for free, pothole-laced roads on their Milford Proving Ground. The holes range from mildly annoying to chassis-rattling.
“Believe me, we’ve created some of the worst potholes you’ve ever seen,’’ says Frank Barhorst who supervises the Proving Ground near Detroit.
Data collected is used in chassis and suspension engineering plus tire and rim design.
Mazda, iRacing Partner Up
Mazda Motorsports encompasses more than 9,000 club racers in the United States, most of whom race MX-5 Miatas.
Those drivers now have a chance to further hone their skills because Mazda is expanding its driver development program by partnering with iRacing.
“As racers know, iRacing is more than a game. It is an amazing online simulation tool for a driver to learn new tracks and keep in top mental shape away from the track,’’ says John Doonan, Mazda North America director of motorsports.
The agreement means the best of iRacing’s online racers in North America have a chance to race on the track in an actual Mazda MX-5 Cup car the following year.
“This partnership is a natural,’’ says Tony Gardner, president of iRacing.com. “More MX-5s are road-raced on any given weekend than any other model of car. What’s also true is that, on any given day, more MX-5s are sim-raced on iRacing than any other car.
“This offers exciting opportunities for our members who are aspiring racers and also enables Mazda racing teams to tap into a deep pool of new driving talent.’’
iRacing was created in 2004 by Dave Kaemmer and sim-racing aficionado John Henry, who also happens to own the Red Sox, Liverpool Football Club, the Boston Globe, and is co-owner of NASCAR’s Roush Fenway Racing.
Eight years ago, long before Henry bought the Globe, I visited iRacing’s facilities to see some early racing action. When I suggested a good story would be trying to race Henry, the response was, “Sorry. After seeing you on the sim, you don’t belong on the same track with him.’’