The long awaited day came on Saturday when Goodyear's newest airship was christened and now flies officially as Wingfoot One. The tire and rubber company announced the name a month ago. According to the news, Robin Roberts, anchor of "Good Morning America" did the honors of christening the airship by smashing the traditional bottle of champagne on a special steel stanchion to spare the airship's polymer gondola from being damaged.
More than 2,000 people attended the ceremony at Goodyear’s Wingfoot Lake Hangar in nearby Suffield, Ohio. Wingfoot One now officially joins Goodyear’s fleet of blimps, ushering in a new era of technologically-advanced airships.
Fox News reports that Roberts has ties to Akron because her mother was born there and graduated from East High School, a few blocks from Goodyear’s headquarters. Roberts' great-grandfather moved the family from Alabama to Akron nearly a century ago to work for Goodyear. Roberts said she participated in the christening "with a real sense of family pride."
A press release describes Wingfoot One as the first of a new generation of airships manufactured over the past 12 months. It represents the first major structural design change of a Goodyear airship in nearly 70 years. Wingfoot One features advanced on-board avionics and flight control systems with the capability to travel at faster speeds and hover in place. It can travel up to 73 miles per hour, which means it can cover more ground and more events than the older 50-miles per hour models. The spacious passenger gondola will provide an enhanced in-flight experience with sweeping, panoramic windows.
A closer look at the new blimp reveals numerous differences between this airship and the two traditional blimps that remain in the Goodyear fleet. It bears a German flag on each side of the vertical rudder van on the tail, along with the letters D-LZGY. Those letters say two things. The first is that it is currently registered as a German aircraft. The second is that the last four letters represent Luftschiffbau Zeppelin Goodyear.
Wingfoot One replaces the Spirit of Goodyear that was retired after covering the Daytona 500 in February. That blimp's gondola was on the tarmac outside the hangar on during the ceremony, offering a perfect backdrop for photos.
Roberts, a long-time ESPN sportscaster, said when she covered sporting events during her 15 years at the cable network she often saw Goodyear blimps overhead, but the sight of those was "never like this." After the christening, she boarded Wingfoot One for its first flight. She believes she is the first person in her family to go up in a blimp. She made the flight after the ceremony. She joins a list of accomplished women who have christened Goodyear blimps, including astronaut Sally Ride (2000) and aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart (1929).