KID REPORTERS’ NOTEBOOK

An Aerial View

Nolan at the Goodyear hangar in Mogadore, Ohio
Nolan at the Goodyear hangar in Mogadore, Ohio

Nolan at the Goodyear hangar in Mogadore, Ohio

“Piloting a blimp is like a combination of flying an airplane and sailing a boat,” says James Kosmos Jr., senior pilot at Goodyear Airship Operations. 

During my recent visit to the Goodyear hangar in Mogadore, Ohio, Kosmos explained that the company’s famous vessels are actually semi-rigid airships. A lot of hard work goes into building, flying, and maintaining them.

“Everywhere the blimp goes, as many as 21 crew members go,” said Kosmos. The team consists of four pilots, a public relations manager, and a ground crew of 16, which includes mechanics and electronics technicians. 

 

A message from computer science students at Lake High School in Uniontown, Ohio, who sometimes program messages on the blimp.

Computer science students at Lake High School in Uniontown, Ohio, sometimes program the blimp’s message board.

A MEMORABLE FLIGHT

Originally designed for use by the United States Navy, the airships are now used to promote the Goodyear company, which makes tires. The vessels can be seen hovering over stadiums during big games, offering aerial views of the action.

The airships typically fly between 1,000 and 1,500 feet so that people can read the messages displayed on the rotating billboard. Sometimes, the message board is programmed by students at Lake High School in Uniontown, Ohio. The students, who study computer science with an emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), learn how to use a program that creates motion graphics and visual effects.

“The whole experience of designing the airship’s billboard message was a very rewarding one,” said Luke Hackenberg, a Lake High senior. “It was the icing on the cake after having a tour of the Goodyear facility and learning about the airships.”

 

Nolan and senior pilot James Kosmos Jr. stand in front of a Goodyear Blimp currently under construction in Mogadore, Ohio.

Nolan and senior pilot James Kosmos Jr. stand in front of a Goodyear blimp currently under construction in Mogadore, Ohio.

A CONTINUING TRADITION

Airships also do flyovers for tourism shots and promotional videos, and they conduct charity flights. Goodyear donates blimp rides to various charitable organizations, which auction off the rides and use the proceeds to help others. 

There are only two active Goodyear blimps in the world. A third one is currently being constructed in Mogadore.

It takes about a year to build an airship, Kosmos explained. The newest blimp is slated for completion in the spring of 2018. With the rotation of old and new airships, we can expect the tradition to continue for generations to come.

 

 

Photos courtesy of the author