Goodyear unveils next-generation blimp, seeks name

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Goodyear unveils next-generation blimp, seeks name
15th March 1972: Goodyear airship 'Europa'. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
1st June 1972: The Goodyear Airship 'Europa' gliding above a cityscape. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
5th March 1972: The Goodyear Airship 'Europa' with her American chief pilot, Richard Widdicombe. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
The Goodyear blimp flies over Marlins' Park during a MLB baseball game in Miami, Wednesday, April 17, 2013. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
This photo provided by Goodyear shows Goodyear and Zeppelin personnel work to place one of thirteen frame sections into place for Goodyear's new high tech airship inside the tire company's Suffield, Ohio hangar Friday, March 22, 2013. The tire maker said Friday the blimp built in Germany by ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik will be assembled at Goodyear's Wingfoot Lake Hangar. Construction will take up to seven months. Airship certification and crew training is planned for early 2014.(AP Photo/Goodyear)
A Goodyear blimp lays at its crash site in Carson, Calif. Thursday, Dec. 4, 2003. The blimp came loose from its moorings, drifted into a parked truck and nose-dived into a fertilizer pile beside a plant nursery Wednesday. A cameraman had a knee injury and was taken to a hospital, said Sgt. Paul Rice of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. No one else aboard the 192-foot-long Spirit of America was injured. (AP Photo/John Hayes)
The blimp "Spirit of Goodyear" is shown in its construction hangar near Suffield, Ohio, on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2000. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is about ready to begin test flights of its new blimp, which will replace the Sprit of Akron which crashed last October. The new blimp's first flight could happen early Thursday morning if the weather is clear enough. (AP Photo/Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Edward Ogden)
Three Goodyear blimps , the newly commissioned Stars and Stripes, foreground, the soon-to-be decommissioned Stars and Stripes, middle, and the Spirit of Akron are moored at the Goodyear blimp base in Suffield, Ohio, Thursday, June 18, 1998. Several thousand spectators were on-hand for ceremonies for the newly completed blimp. (AP Photo/Jeff Glidden)
The new Goodyear blimp Stars and Stripes sits in a hangar at the Goodyear blimp base in Suffield, Ohio, Thursday morning, June 18, 1998, before being commissioned. Several thousand spectators viewed the ceremonies. Also on hand were two other blimps, the soon-to-be decommissioned older Stars and Stripes, right and the Spirit of Akron, left. (AP Photo/Jeff Glidden)
The newest Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. blimp, "Spirit of Goodyear", lifts off from the company's Winged Foot Lake facility in Suffield, Ohio, during its first day of flight testing Thursday, Feb. 17, 2000. The blimp replaces the "Spirit of Akron," which crashed last October. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 16: The Goodyear blimp flies overhead during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 16: The Goodyear blimp flies overhead during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 16: A general view of the grandstand during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
SOUTHAMPTON, NY - JUNE 29: T Goodyear airship is scene above the course during the third round of the 2013 U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club on June 29, 2013 in Southampton, New York. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
SOUTHAMPTON, NY - JUNE 29: The Goodyear airship floats over the clubhouse during the third round of the 2013 U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club on June 29, 2013 in Southampton, New York. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
SOUTHAMPTON, NY - JUNE 29: The Goodyear airship floats over the clubhouse during the third round of the 2013 U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club on June 29, 2013 in Southampton, New York. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
UNIVERSITY PLACE, WA - JUNE 20: The Goodyear blimp is seen over the course during the third round of the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 20, 2015 in University Place, Washington. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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AKRON, Ohio (AP) - The next generation of the well-known Goodyear blimp is getting ready to take flight as the company moves toward replacing its old fleet of airships with a new trio.

The helium-filled airship, assembled at an Akron-area hangar and unveiled there Friday, is bigger, quicker and more maneuverable than earlier models, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. said.

The 246-foot airship fits 12 passengers and has a semi-rigid internal skeleton, a feature that wasn't present in earlier models and raises questions about whether it is truly a blimp, though the company still refers to it as such. The structure is covered by a silver, balloon-like body emblazoned with Goodyear's yellow logo on a blue background.

It can travel at up to 73 mph and has custom computer-controlled avionics, an upgrade from the manual flight system used by the blimp pilots since the 1920s, the company said. It plans to build two more.

A spokesman wouldn't specify the cost of the new airship, which is expected to provide a longer flight range and better aerial broadcast capabilities for event coverage.

"The completion of the new blimp marks the beginning of a new era for our airship program and reflects Goodyear's commitment to remaining at the forefront of aerial broadcast coverage and support," Paul Fitzhenry, Goodyear's senior vice president for global communications, said in a statement.

The airship is scheduled to start test flights this month and go into service this summer.

It still needs one component: a name. Ohio-based Goodyear is collecting suggestions through a contest on its website until April 4. Whoever submits the chosen name will get to use the blimp for a day, the company said.

Thousands of suggestions were submitted in 2006 when the company named its Spirit of Innovation blimp, which now operates from Pompano Beach, Fla.

That is where the old Ohio blimp, Spirit of Goodyear, retired. It is being decommissioned this year.
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