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Goodyear's New State-of-the-Art Airship Makes Its First Flight 66

Posted by timothy
from the ehnvelope-ahnvelope dept.
Zothecula (1870348) writes "The Goodyear blimp may have been flying around for almost 90 years, but it still manages to turn heads. On Friday, there was another reason to look beyond nostalgia for the days of the great airships of old as Goodyear unveiled its new state-of-the-art blimp to the media, Goodyear associates and dealers at its Wingfoot Lake hangar in Suffield, Ohio. Built in partnership with the Zeppelin company, the new craft that replaces the 45-year old GZ-20 blimp fleet is not only larger and faster, it isn't even a blimp, but a semi-rigid airship."
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Goodyear's New State-of-the-Art Airship Makes Its First Flight

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23, 2014 @01:48AM (#46555847)
    Maneuver props engaged
  • They haven't named it yet. I'm guessing they won't be going with "Hindenburg II"

  • by Greyfox (87712)
    I'd sell my granny for a chance to do a skydive out of that thing.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @02:29AM (#46555949)

    In a few decades, flying a blimp might become a bit difficult [theweek.com].

    • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @02:33AM (#46555967) Homepage Journal

      Yes, if we continue to waste helium like idiots. However, one design for modern airships involves re-compressing the helium to control buoyancy rather than bleeding it off.

      The future of airship transport looks pretty interesting to me:
      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/... [bloomberg.com]

      • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @04:25AM (#46556243)

        Maybe switch back to hydrogen? It's cheap. Sure, the flamability or explosive issue is there - but we have improved materials now, and a better understanding of how static electricity behaves. Perhaps it can be made safe.

        • by Chelloveck (14643)

          Undoubtedly it could be safe. Hydrogen by itself is not flammable. You need to add oxygen or some other oxidizer. Try filling a dumpster-sized plastic bag with hydrogen. Shoot bottle rockets into it. They tend to puncture the plastic and explode inside -- without igniting the hydrogen. In fact it's quite difficult to get the hydrogen to ignite this way. It's only if you get lucky and get a bottle rocket tangled in the plastic and it explodes right at the hydrogen/air boundary that you get the satisfying

        • by HiThere (15173)

          Have they solve the problem of Hydrogen leaking rapidly through every thin membrane? Perhaps aluminized mylar would be impermeable? (That's a wild guess. I've done *NO* research. But it *would* be flashy.)

          • I think the solution in this case is that hydrogen is cheap and plentiful - so you top off as necessary.
          • Helium really isn't much better. Tiny tiny atoms. At least hydrogen has the decency to pair up.

          • The stuff they make those party balloons with? The ones that invariably leak their helium overnight?

            The material they used on helium should be good enough. It'll need refilling at regular intervals, but hydrogen is fairly cheap, and there's no possibility of running out.

            • Oddly enough, we have one from when my daughter was born 2 years ago that hasn't lost any at all. Now, this is attached to a stick and hangs out in a vase so it may not have helium in it.
    • We have less helium for 2 reasons. 1) The US military is hoarding it 2) we are not using as much natural gas (of which helium is a byproduct). If helium becomes important and scarce enough, we CAN make more. There just isn't any point right now.
      • by Hadlock (143607)

        Explain how you get helium out of natural gas? During the drilling phase? You can't "make" atomic elements...

        • by RsG (809189) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @03:44AM (#46556139)

          When underground radioactive elements decay, helium is a byproduct (look up "alpha particle radiation"). Because it's a noble gas and doesn't bond with anything, it seeps its way to the surface, where it escapes into the upper atmosphere. Some helium can instead become trapped by non-porous rock, in underground pockets. Those same pockets sometimes have natural gas deposits.

          So you find a natural gas deposit, tap it, and what comes out as well? Helium. It's not the main product they're after when they go drilling, but it is valuable enough to set aside and sell.

    • We are not running out of Helium in general. We are getting low on a specific isotope of helium that is used in medicine, but its only a trace amount of it that is in your general helium reserves.
  • Zeppelin NT (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @02:39AM (#46555983) Homepage

    It's a Zeppelin NT. One was based in Silicon Valley for several years [airshipventures.com], but didn't make money after the price of helium doubled. It cost $400 for a sightseeing tour of the Bay Area.

    I've heard a talk by the company CEO, who'd piloted the thing. It handles much better than the classic Goodyear blimp, which he'd also flown. With three steerable props and computer coordination, it's much more controllable during landing. It doesn't require a large ground crew hanging onto ropes to get the thing tied down. That's why Goodyear is going with the NT, even though it's more expensive than their classic blimp. There are videos on Youtube of both types landing.

    If you want to see what it's like to fly one, the open source FlightGear simulator has a good model of the NT, including the mobile docking truck.

  • Article fails to mention the company's previous attempt at semi-rigid airship design. Goodyear unveiled the GZ-22 [wikipedia.org] with similar fanfare in 1989, then quietly crashed it a few months later.
  • by blindseer (891256) <`blindseer' `at' `earthlink.net'> on Sunday March 23, 2014 @02:44AM (#46556001)

    This means that the craft is technically no longer a blimp or dirigible because the structure of the envelope is no longer supported entirely by the gas inside.

    Any aircraft that obtains lift from a lighter than air gas is an airship or aerostat. An airship that has the ability to propel itself is a dirigible, one that cannot is a balloon. An airship that contains no rigid support structure for the envelope can be called either a blimp or non-rigid. An airship that has the envelope supported entirely by a solid structure is considered a rigid dirigible or a Zepplin, named after the person that developed that style of craft and the company that bears his name that built them.

    Since these new Goodyear airships are semi-rigid and built by the Zeppelin company I would tend to call this type of airship a Zeppelin. Perhaps my tendency might conflict with others as it might be more correctly be called a semi-rigid dirigible that happened to be made by Zeppelin.

    I agree that these new aircraft are not blimps but they are most certainly dirigibles.

    With that said I'm not going to beat anyone over the head for calling them "blimps", everyone will know generally what they are talking about. I might even call them a blimp just because I've heard people using the words "Goodyear" and "blimp" together for so long that I'd have to be reminded that these new crafts are not blimps.

    What gets crazy is that some airships are not technically lighter than air. They contain gasses in the envelope that is lighter than air but not enough to provide sufficient buoyancy for lifting the entire weight of the craft. They'd technically be still heavier than air and would require the engines running to leave the ground. I don't know if the Goodyear airships are lighter or heavier than air.

    Whatever people want to call them I think these airships are cool. I believe this is a technology that will allow for some very large and heavy lifting aircraft that could compete with many other forms of transport over land, air, or sea.

    • by Catmeat (20653) <mtmNO@SPAMsys.uea.ac.uk> on Sunday March 23, 2014 @06:37AM (#46556505)

      They contain gasses in the envelope that is lighter than air but not enough to provide sufficient buoyancy for lifting the entire weight of the craft. They'd technically be still heavier than air and would require the engines running to leave the ground. I don't know if the Goodyear airships are lighter or heavier than air.

      You're right, I believe Zeppelin NTs are several hundred kilos heavy on take-off, when carrying payload and full load of fuel. Though they can be lighter than air when landing with the fuel mostly gone. Of course the other big complication to trimming a dirigible is air conditions, which can change during the flight. Buoyancy increases significantly if an airship flies from warm air into a bank of colder, denser air and the craft will remain buoyant until the helium cools to match the air temperature. In the old days, air

      All this is what makes vectored thrust a fantastically useful thing for an airship pilot. It gives better control and also means the pilot can vector thrust up to land when his/her craft is lighter-than-air. I'd say this is vital for keeping costs down, as it avoids venting helium for landing.

      Although the usefulness of vectored thrust was no lost on the early designers. See this picture [wikipedia.org] of a pre-World War 1 British military blimp with rotatable props.

    • Nerd.

      • by rwa2 (4391) *

        Oh, come on, say it with me...

        "Semi-rigid derigible"

        Say it again!

        Say it three times fast!

        Try to keep a straight face!

    • So what is the point? If the gas would of supported a lighter, softer, thinner, cheaper body, why re-enforce it at all?

      • by sjames (1099)

        Support is relative. A strong breeze can make a non-rigid airship 'interesting' to fly.

        Amusing note, I once saw the Budweiser blimp staggering drunkenly in the wind.

    • by Wolfrider (856)

      --As long as it has Goodyear on it and resembles the old ship, it will always be the Goodyear Blimp. Just like we always refer to the Sears Tower, Marshall Fields, and Wrigley Field. Nostalgia has intertia.

      / ask a Chicagoan

  • Although, to be fair, zeppelin safety has improved tremendously.
    • To be totally fair, the Germans are not the only people that built and crashed large airships. The USA and UK also built huge ships and they all crashed horribly.
    • Re:Oh the humanity! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Aviation Pete (252403) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @04:42AM (#46556281)

      Although, to be fair, zeppelin safety has improved tremendously.

      Before WW I, Zeppelins had a spotless safety record, having flown thousands of passengers in hundreds of flights. Only when the military came in did accidents happen. See Wikipedia list of airship accidents [wikipedia.org]

      If the same standards that grounded Zeppelins after the Hindenburg accident had been applied to aircraft, civilian heavier-than-air passenger transportation would never have taken off.

      • If the same standards that grounded Zeppelins after the Hindenburg accident had been applied to aircraft, civilian heavier-than-air passenger transportation would never have taken off.

        I suspect the fact that these things traveled about 50 MPH had more to do with their demise than a few high-profile accidents.

      • by sjames (1099)

        ...would never have taken off.

        So to speak.

  • I think with the appropriate paint job, and a larger gondola for cargo, there could be airship pirates in our future! Anyone feel like signing up for a (short) life of adventure and riches?

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