This ain't no blimp. The first new dirigible in nearly a half century to bear the the iconic Goodyear logo is actually a rigid airship—a safer, more efficient, far less explodey form of air travel than conventional blimps.
Though orders of magnitude safer than the ill-fated Hindenberg—switching the lifting agent from explosive hydrogen helped to nonexplosive helium—previous Goodyear blimps have traditionally used the same basic design as they did when the company first introduced the fleet in 1925. Goodyear's new Zeppelin NT airship, which was unveiled earlier today, is a radical departure from that design.
Instead of a soft envelope that operates as a giant helium balloon, the new vessel is far more akin to the Aeroscraft dirigible built by Aeros Corp. Built at Goodyear's Wingfoot Lake facility near Akron, Ohio and measuring 246 feet in length (50 feet longer than its predecessors), the Zeppelin NT incorporates a rigid frame to help support the envelope. It is also packed with state-of-the-art avionics and a computerized flight control system rather than the legacy manual controls of current models.
What's more, the Zeppelin NT is equipped with three engines that allow it to do something the current, dual fixed-engine designs cannot: hover in place. So rather than continuously circling over an event only providing the best shot angles intermittently, the new thrust vectoring NT will be able to remain in place for however long the broadcast's director requires. Plus, these beefier new engines provide a top speed of 75 mph, 50 percent faster than the current models, and are situated higher on the airship's frame drastically reducing noise levels within the passenger gondola.
The first three new airships will roll out the Wingfoot factory later this year and will enter service in the skies above Florida near the start of 2015. Two more Zeppelin NT's are expected to be completed by 2018. [Goodyear via CNet]