The Goodyear Mystique

The term “blimp” brings to mind just one word for most people: Goodyear. The giant gray Goodyear blimp with its “winged foot” logo emblazoned on the side has become perhaps the most recognized corporate symbol in America, and Goodyear has capitalized on the corporate good will that its decades of blimp flying have created.

Goodyear dominated the blimp scene for decades, but now a handful of competing blimp makers are pushing their way into the limelight. One of them is The Lightship Group. The company’s blimps, or lightships, contain a powerful internal light that shines brightly enough to light up advertising logos even at night.

Another company, Global Skyship Industries, equips its blimps with a powerful lighted sign comprising hundreds of individual bulbs, similar to the Goodyear blimps. But Global Skyships can carry more people at a time than the Goodyear blimp, and in greater comfort—meaning it has an on-board restroom.

Goodyear provides its own pilot training, as do most of the blimp manufacturers. That’s because there are no commercial schools open to the public where someone can learn to fly a blimp. It’s something like an apprenticeship program in which grizzled veterans pass along their expertise to the next generation. And, of course, blimp pilots are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Unless you’re a dignitary, a cameraman or – woman, or can otherwise cajole an invitation, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be able to climb aboard a blimp for an actual flight. Crew members may, however, let you look around the cabin and cockpit when the blimp is waiting between flights. If you are offered a ride in a blimp, don’t pass it up. Like a first kiss, a blimp ride is a once-in-a-lifetime thrill.

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