Goodyear blimp visits NilesPublished 3:18pm Saturday, November 17, 2012
Niles residents flocked to Jerry Tyler Memorial Airport Friday evening for a close-up gawk at one of the three Goodyear blimps.
Not surprisingly, the 192-foot long, 60-foot tall airship from Akron, Ohio, made its first visit to Niles for Saturday afternoon’s University of Notre Dame football game with Wake Forest.
The blimp contains 200,000 cubic feet of helium, cruises at 30 miles per hour, flashes messages with 82,000 LED lights and draws a crowd wherever it lands.
It can carry six passengers when the bay isn’t full of television equipment.
Tim Cartell has been part of the ground crew for 12 years and helped build the other two blimps based in California and Florida.
They take about eight months to assemble and last 14 years.
It takes six hours to travel to South Bend from Akron, where an 800-foot hangar can store two of them.
Cartell was very accommodating, letting the curious crowd closer than the usual 25-foot perimeter.
He even snapped some photos inside the gondola cockpit for a persistent few.
Cartell said the blimp can stay aloft up to 40 hours and has similar instruments to an aircraft, such as rotor pedals.
“After that, they have an elevator wheel that makes it go up and down. It’s cable driven. We’re usually at around 1,000 feet. You can see deer running through fields and people on the ground waving at you.”
Blimps are best known today for their role as advertising and promotional vehicles. Goodyear began using blimps to advertise its brand in 1925.
A dirigible is any lighter-than-air craft that is both powered and steerable (as opposed to free floating, like a balloon).
Blimps such as Goodyear’s and rigid airships such as the Hindenburg are dirigibles.
The word “dirigible” is often associated with large rigid airships, but the term comes from the French verb “diriger” (to steer).
The blimp will also spend Saturday night in Niles.
It takes 40 minutes to tear down the “mast” and load it into a truck.
The mast looks like a circus tent pole, but there are steps for the lucky guy with least seniority who clambers to the top to tether the blimp.
“It’s tricky on windy days,” Cartell said. “Last weekend, we were down in South Carolina for aircraft carrier college basketball games. We covered all three, including Florida and San Diego, at one time.”