Stars & Stripes Goodyear Blimp
1500 NE 5th Ave
Pompano Beach, FL 33060
One of the major stars of Fort Lauderdale is the Goodyear Blimp. The Stars & Stripes can be seen floating above the beaches and cities. Designated a GZ, Goodyear-Zeppelin, 20A, the Stars & Stripes, is 192 feet long, 59.5 feet tall and 50 feet wide. It is easy to see as she floats above a football stadium, the beach or golf course at 1,500 feet. There are 4 pilots on the staff for the Stars & Stripes. The airship is also supported by a ground crew of 15 and a full-time public relations manager. The crew follows the airship in a bus, 9-passenger van and a 40-foot specially-outfitted tractor-trailer rig.
In March 2000, the Stars & Stripes made the first visit of a Goodyear blimp to Mexico. The airship crossed the border at Laredo, Texas and continued on to Monterrey. There it made several public appearances, flashed public service announcements on its electronic sign, and provided local customers, dignitaries and media with rides. Events covered in 2000 included the Daytona 500 in Florida, the NFL playoffs in Tampa, Florida, NASCAR in Homestead, Florida, opening day baseball in Houston's new baseball stadium and the Little League World Series in Wilkesboro, Pennsylvania.
Today, Goodyear operates three airships in the United States - the Eagle, based in the City of Carson, California; the Spirit of Goodyear, based in Akron, Ohio; and the Stars & Stripes, based in Pompano Beach, Florida. In addition, Goodyear has an airship in Europe -- Spirit of Europe; and one in South America based in Sao Paulo, Brazil -- Spirit of the Americas.
History Behind The Flying Behemoths
In the 1930s, Goodyear built two giant rigid airships for the Navy. They had internal metal frames used to maintain their shape. The aircraft measured more than two football fields in length and needed 6.5 million cubic feet of helium to become airborne at its gross weight of more than 400,000 pounds. The USS Akron and USS Macon were designed as aerial aircraft carriers and could launch and retrieve specially equipped planes while in flight. Although a good concept, sadly, both airships were lost in storms within two years of going into service, ending the era of the rigid airships. In the 1940s and 1950s, Goodyear built a series of large surveillance airships used to protect merchant fleets along the coast. They also served as early warning radar stations. Some of these airships could stay aloft for more than a week at a time. In fact, an airship of this type still holds the flying endurance record of 11 days in flight. The airship was a Goodyear-built ZPG-2 called the Snow Bird. In March 1957, it flew from Weymouth, Massachusetts, to Europe and Africa and back to Key West, Florida, without refueling or landing.
Dirigible or Blimp
Lt. A.D. Cunningham of Great Britain's Royal Navy Air Service commanded the air station at Capel, England, during World War I. As the story goes, while conducting a weekly inspection of the station, Cunningham playfully flipped his thumb at the envelope of His Majesty's Airship SS-12 and an odd noise echoed off the tight fabric. "Blimp!" he cried out humorously, imitating the sound. And as they say... the rest is history.