Goodyear christens blimp

SUFFIELD – Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company’s newest blimp, Wingfoot One, has officially joined Goodyear’s fleet of blimps, the company announced.

National Good Morning America co-anchor and longtime ESPN sportscaster Robin Roberts christened the new airship by breaking a bottle against the ship’s gondola Saturday at Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake Hangar in Suffield, near Akron. Roberts joins a list of accomplished women who have christened Goodyear blimps, including astronaut Sally Ride (2000) and aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart (1929).

“In 1918, my great-grandfather was recruited by Goodyear and moved his family to Akron for a better life,” Roberts said. “I don’t think my great-grandfather could have imagined that one of his descendants would be asked to christen the Goodyear blimp. I’m so honored.”

Wingfoot One is the first of a new generation of airships manufactured by Germany’s ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik and assembled by a team of Zeppelin and Goodyear engineers over the past 12 months. It represents the first major structural design change of a Goodyear airship in nearly 70 years. It features advanced on-board avionics and flight control systems allowing it to travel at faster speeds and hover in place.

Goodyear is planning to add two additional blimps over the next four years to replace remaining GZ-20 models in Pompano Beach, Fla., and Carson, Calif.

Goodyear’s aerial coverage of marquee events in 2014 includes the NBA Finals, college football’s BCS Championship, the Kentucky Derby, 2014 FIFA World Cup and Daytona 500.