By Michele Robertson Carlsbad residents and those driving on highway 62/180 on Monday, May 24th about 6:00 P.M. were able to witness one of the Goodyear Blimps land at the Carlsbad Municipal Airport. A sight to see and a first for Carlsbad -the Wingfoot Three brought out a crowd! As the airship made its descent onto the runway, spectators were lined up to catch a glimpse. Brandon Challman, who has worked with Goodyear for 18 years is Wingfoot Three’s Crew Chief. Challman shared that the Wingfoot Three stopped in Carlsbad while on its way from California to the Akron, Ohio area, where Goodyear has a hanger for routine maintenance. “The trip takes about 5-9 days and we like to travel with 16 crew and 4 pilots,” Challman said. There are two crews, the advance team who travels ahead of the ship and the launch team that travels behind the ship. Goodyear is known for its advertising blimps, and has been cruising airships for over 90 years, offering passenger rides (when able to) and exposure flying. “We are ambassadors to Goodyear, and are a global icon for the company,” added Challman. One Carlsbad resident had a previous very special experience with a Goodyear Blimp. It was the early 1980’s and Betty Wilcox lived in Charleston, SC and worked at the Charleston Airforce Base airport as a secretary in the control tower. The Enterprise ship was coming to town in conjunction with the filming of the Today Show. Employees were asked if they would like to take a ride, and Wilcox got to steer the ship! “We were cruising above base housing, when I saw one of my Sunday School students and waved to her. She went inside and told her dad, who thought she was lying and gave her a spanking. The next day at Sunday School I asked her if she saw me, and the dad was shocked!” she shared. Wilcox was able to watch the Wingfoot Three land at the airport as she was driving into town from the highway with her daughter. She shared “It doesn’t land, it tethers. ”“The ship will moor when not in the air,” shared Challman. A mast truck accompanies each crew as they travel. In the evening, the ship moors at a new location during the trip. Locations are chosen weeks in advance, and airports are ideal as they provide security, amenities, and the space needed to moor. “We need a space with a 500 foot diameter that can hold 32 tons,” said Challman. Typically, about 350 to 400 road miles are put in each day, and the ship has endurance for 24 hours. Weather plays a big factor in the ship’s flight. Since the ship isn’t able to fly above storms like planes do, it is best to have the ship on the ground in adverse weather. Wingfoot Three made its first flight in 2018, and according to the Goodyear website “It is the latest in an unbroken line of Goodyear blimps, semi-rigid and rigid airships.” The internal framework of Wingfoot Three is made up of aluminum and carbon fiber trusses, the same as many top-of-the line sports cars. The balloon part of the blimp is referred to as the envelope, and the passenger area is the gondola.
Some fun facts about the envelope: its volume in cubic feet is 297,527 or as much as 14 million large coffees, without helium the envelope weighs almost 20,000 pounds or 25,700 cans of soup, it can reach speeds of up to 73 mph, the same as a category 1 hurricane. The gondola can fit up to 14 people, as much as a professional basketball team. Empty, the gondola weighs 2,626 pounds, the same as 410 bricks. Even with its incredible size, this airship produces about as much noise as a passenger vehicle on the highway. If you’d like to learn more about the three Goodyear Blimps currently in flight in the U.S.A., visit www.goodyearblimp.com