"Goodyear Airship" just doesn't have the same ring to it but the iconic blimps are being phased out in favor of a rigid design. The rubber company announced Tuesday it's teaming with Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik, of Friedrichshafen, Germany, to build three Zeppelin NT airships to replace the gas bags that now circle the stadiums of the nation. The $21 million airships will be built at Goodyear's blimp-making facility in Akron in a team effort between Goodyear and Zeppelin. Goodyear took a test drive in an appropriately decorated Zeppelin over Europe last summer. The Zeppelin model delivers considerably better performance and payload over the Goodyear creations.
The Zeppelin NT is 246 feet long compared to the current blimps' 193 feet. The rigid ship will go 73 mph, 19 mph faster than the blimp, and the Zeppelin's gondola will carry 13 people compared to the blimp's seven. The new aircraft will be powered by three Lycoming IO-360 engines. The first airship will go into service in 2014. Goodyear keeps its lighter-than-air fleet at bases in Akron, Oh.; Pompano Beach, Fla.; and Carson, Calif.