The Blimps: Clearly Identified Flying Objects is a short Goodyear promotional film from the late 1960s or early 1970s that gives viewers a look at the “life” of the company’s two aerial ambassadors, the Columbia and Mayflower. The film opens with aerial footage of a blimp flying in the night sky and shining a light below, while people look up at the flying object. The two Goodyear blimps fly over the horizon at the company’s headquarters at Wingfoot Lake, near Akron, OH (02:04). The Columbia (a GZ-20 class model N4A) and Mayflower (a GZ-19 class model N38A) fly over various landscapes in the U.S., passing over highways, cities, farmlands, and beaches. The film shows a maintenance crew preparing one of the blimps for flight. The blimps are shown at events where they provide aerial coverage, including a football bowl game, a yacht race, a golf tournament, and a car race. The film shows aerial views of various cities (05:05), as well as people climbing aboard for a ride. The Columbia and Mayflower (06:50) move in to land at Wingfoot Lake (06:50). The film then shows the blimps built by Goodyear and used during World War II. A U.S. Navy blimp takes off; the military blimps escort ships sailing at sea. ZPG3W class blimps used by the Navy wait in a warehouse (07:36). Jets fly overhead, as does a Goodyear blimp. A pilot in one of the blimps radios to a Goodyear crew on the ground to prepare for landing (08:40); the blimp is tethered down during the landing. A Goodyear truck arrives, and footage shows the crew breaking down the blimp and hauling it away at the end of its “season.”
The Goodyear Blimp is any one of a fleet of airships operated by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, used mainly for advertising and capturing aerial views of live sporting events for television. The term blimp itself is defined as a non-rigid airship – without any internal structure, the pressure of lifting gas contained within the airship envelope maintains the vessel’s shape.
From the launch of the Pilgrim in 1925 to the retiring of the Spirit of Innovation in 2017, Goodyear generally owned and operated non-rigid airships in its global public relations fleet. In 2014, however, Goodyear began to replace its three U.S. non-rigid airships (blimps) with three new semi-rigid airships, each of which have a rigid internal frame. Although technically incorrect, Goodyear continues to use “blimp” in reference to these new semi-rigid models. Wingfoot One, the first such model in Goodyear’s U.S. fleet, was christened on August 23, 2014, near the company’s world headquarters in Akron, Ohio.
“GZ” stands for Goodyear-Zeppelin, stemming from the partnership Goodyear had with the German company when both were building airships together. However, these models came many years after this partnership had dissolved during the start of World War II. The GZ-1 was the USS Akron (ZRS-4), the U.S. Navy’s fourth rigid airship used for several tests including as a flying “aircraft carrier.”
The GZ-19 was introduced in 1963 and discontinued in 1978 after the Mayflower (N38A) was destroyed by a tornado. The design for this class resembles the U.S. Navy’s L class blimp. The GZ-20 class was introduced in 1969, with America (N3A) and Columbia (N4A) being the first two. The Europa (N2A) followed in 1972 and was based in Italy, the first Goodyear blimp operated outside of the United States. These blimps are slightly longer than the GZ-19.