Oh the huge manatee
May 27, 2007 12:03 PM   Subscribe


 
I even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp / and it read "Ice Cube's a Pimp"

I gotta say, it was a good day.
posted by porn in the woods at 12:14 PM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


What a great site. How cool is it that 80 years later, dirigibles are still being built in Akron, Ohio?
posted by oneirodynia at 12:17 PM on May 27, 2007


I once visited this competitor. They notably manufacture the Fujifilm blimps.
(Much crappier website design, though).
posted by Skeptic at 12:22 PM on May 27, 2007


So am I correct to understand that once they fill the helium bladders they don't need to do refills?
posted by furtive at 12:41 PM on May 27, 2007


How come rich people don't own blimps? If I was a multi-millionaire, some kind of airship would be the first thing on my shopping list.
posted by simonw at 1:44 PM on May 27, 2007


As a kid growing up in Detroit, in the 60s and 70s a mile from Tiger Stadium, the Goodyear blimp was not an uncommon sight. Still rare and awesome enough to make everyone stop and stare, however.

One sighting was during a pickup baseball game in an abandoned lot. It flew directly overhead, close enough to see the rudder movement.

In high school one day, it floated not far outside our 6th floor window. Needless to say, class stopped until it was well out of sight.

Like most things we become accustomed to in childhood, we tend to think that's how it is for everyone, everywhere. When I moved away Detroit, I realized what a treasure it was to have that incredible sight and experience as part of my childhood backdrop.

Thanks BP!
posted by The Deej at 1:47 PM on May 27, 2007


So am I correct to understand that once they fill the helium bladders they don't need to do refills?

I can't claim any authority on this, but I suspect helium leaks at some (small?) rate through the pores of the envelope. Zeppelins used to carry water ballast which they would dump as the gas (hydrogen in that case) escaped to compensate for the loss of lift. Maybe it isn't as big an issue with helium. I doubt they could keep it stored forever without at least a top-up.
posted by Popular Ethics at 1:49 PM on May 27, 2007


I ran across this awesome story via a friend's blog; apparently Hammer films (the British low budget horrormeisters) tried to drum up investors for a dirigible-themed dinosaur attack film called "Zeppelin vs Pterodactyls." All that survives of the movie is the poster, but even that's enough to give me a movie boner.
posted by jonson at 2:18 PM on May 27, 2007


If I was a multi-millionaire, some kind of airship would be the first thing on my shopping list.

As a multi-millionaire, let me tell you, simonw, it's exactly that kind of thinking that's keeping you from joining our ranks. You don't get to be obscenely wealthy by making frivolous purchases young man!
posted by jonson at 2:20 PM on May 27, 2007


Bah, no more frivolous than a yacht, and loads of filthy rich people have them.

That "Zeppelin vs Pterodactyls" was never made is truly a tragedy.
posted by simonw at 4:04 PM on May 27, 2007


I flew on the Goodyear blimp once. There are around six of them, as I recall, one in Europe, where I got the ride.

We arrived at the field around noon, and waited while the blimp took the previous group around. When it came in, it more or less dove at the ground, until the mooring lines in the front could be grabbed by the ground crew. It had one big tire under it, which bounced lightly on the ground. The handlers told us one person would get off, and another on, to keep the weight change close.

The interior was finished in 1970s-airliner-style plastic wallpaper depicting Jules Verne-like flying machines. Blue carpet, and seven blue upholstered seats. One for the pilot. Much smaller than I had imagined. About as much room as a big walk-in closet.

The windows were wide open. On takeoff I discovered how close the engines were; the handlers let go of the lines, and the blimp flew up at about a forty-five degree angle, with a deafening roar.

We climbed up to about 1500 feet, and lazily circled. The blimp constantly rocked slowly fore and aft.

The pilot spent most of his time taking pictures out of a window. He had been a sheetmetal worker for Goodyear and applied for the job, he said. The instrument panel was unremarkable except for two enormous trim tab wheels, the size of bicycle tires. The pilot adjusted them often.

After about half an hour, the pilot told us we were coming in. That's when I discovered the seats had no seat belts; the pilot dove at the ground at the same forty-five degree angle he took off at, and I nearly fell out of my seat. I had to brace myself with my legs against the seat in front of me.

We got off one by one, and the next group got on the same way. It was a very nice ride.
posted by atchafalaya at 4:57 PM on May 27, 2007


So am I correct to understand that once they fill the helium bladders they don't need to do refills?

Nope, that's wrong. Not only do the ballonets leak to a certain extent, but they also have venting valves that open if the blimp exceeds a certain height, so as to avoid that the pressure differential between the inside and outside exceeds a certain value. Otherwise they could burst, you see...

They do need quite a lot of helium, quite regularly. And helium is expensive and getting ever more so...
posted by Skeptic at 5:20 PM on May 27, 2007


We got off one by one, and the next group got on the same way. It was a very nice ride.
posted by atchafalaya


Awesome story! Thanks!
posted by The Deej at 6:28 PM on May 27, 2007


I was born in Akron and Dad worked for Goodyear Aircraft Corporation as an electrical engineer. One of the best memories I have of being a kid was when he took us to see the blimp hangar ... or to be more precises the zeppelin hangar. Also saw the X-15 rocketplane there.

Move to the northeast a little and compare the size with the University of Akron football stadium.
posted by biosystem at 6:46 PM on May 27, 2007


The Goodyear blimp used to be a regular around these parts (Indianapolis) during the month of May. Every so often, it would overnight at the Mount Comfort airport, where I often rented planes.

I got the know one of the crew chiefs pretty well, and he helped me set up a wonderful prank on my then 5-year-old son.

Now, a blimp in the sky nearby is awesome, up close, on the ground, the size is simply staggering.

I bet my son an ice cream cone that I could pick up the blimp and lift it off the ground. Since the net negative buoyancy was at the time, about 70 pounds at the time, it was no great trick to walk over to the blimp, grab on to the equipment railing on the side, and grunt as I hoisted the entire mass of the blimp over my head.

Inertia being what it is, the net effect was pretty stunning to my boy.... he told his playmates about it for years...

until he called me out on it in his early pre-teens. We laugh about it now.
posted by pjern at 10:13 PM on May 27, 2007


aaargh.

fix for fourth para:

Since the net negative buoyancy was about 70 pounds at the time,
posted by pjern at 10:17 PM on May 27, 2007


The blimp was a frequent guest in Flint, Michigan, especially for the Buick Open golf tourney. One year a bad storm came up, and that particular blimp became history, destroyed at its moring. That may have been one of the Big Storms that had us huddling, terrified, in the hallways at school (age 7 or 8).
posted by Goofyy at 11:50 PM on May 27, 2007


I worked briefly for Michelin's IT support center many years ago. Turns out that this was at the Donaldson Center (a "air park" in SC), former home to the "Freedom Weekend Aloft" hot air balloon festival and frequent recipient of visitations by "the Goodyear blimp"... Just a few miles away from my office was one of Michelin's advanced R&D facilities and the factory where they designed and manufactured the tires for the Space Shuttle. Apparently anytime the Goodyear blimp would show up all of Michelin's facilities would go into "lock-down", meaning no one could leave or enter and all of the windows and blinds/shades would be closed. This was out of fear that somehow spies within the blimp would use telephoto cameras to snap pictures of blueprints, computer screens, and other sensitive information.

According to rumor (Sadly I was never present during one of these aerial spy missions) sometimes the blimp would just hang around for hours screwing up everyone's happy hour plans... basically just fucking with everyone. It was one of the more weird work environments I've been in. *shudder*
posted by wfrgms at 12:07 AM on May 28, 2007


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