You might say Goodyear’s new blimp is taking DuPont’s Town of Tonawanda plant for a ride.
The DuPont plant supplied the product that protects the newest member of the famous fleet of airships from the elements.
The blimp’s balloon-like body, known as the envelope, is made of polyester, with a thin film called Tedlar coating its exterior.
Tedlar is made at DuPont’s Yerkes plant – coincidentally located across Sheridan Drive from a Goodyear Dunlop tire plant. The thin film is used on solar panels, hard surfaces on aircraft interiors and the Paddock Golf Dome, among other applications.
“This is a global icon that we can look at and say our plant, our operators, our mechanics, our lab techs, our scientists here had a hand in making that vessel happen,” said Warren Hoy, the DuPont plant manager. “You can’t help but feel proud of that.”
When Goodyear approached DuPont in 2011 about using Tedlar for the yet-to-be-named blimp, the employees were excited about the opportunity, said Myoshi Aubain, the Tedlar unit manager at the plant. DuPont involved its quality, research and development, and operations teams in the project.
The plant produced the material for the airship in 2011 and shipped it to Goodyear, which assembled the blimp in Ohio.
Hoy declined to say how much Tedlar DuPont supplied or the dollar value of it. “They bought a bunch,” he said.
The new blimp started test flights this month and is expected to go into regular service this summer. It will be based out of Akron, Ohio, and will replace the Spirit of Goodyear, which was retired in February after 14 years of service, said Doug Grassian, a Goodyear spokesman.
Goodyear liked the fact that Tedlar weighed less than the material used on previous blimps, Grassian said.
Aubain said Tedlar is known for its longevity and ability to hold up against harsh weather and UV rays, as well as chemicals and solvents.
Goodyear has two other blimps in its fleet, based in Florida and California. When those two are eventually retired, they will be replaced with blimps like the version assembled in Ohio and will also be covered in Tedlar, Grassian said.
Goodyear touts its new blimp as larger, faster and more maneuverable than the older airships in its fleet. The new airship has a top speed of 73 mph, compared with 54 mph for the older blimps; on a test flight, it actually reached a wind-aided speed of 80 mph, Goodyear said. The blimp is 246 feet long – 18 yards shy of a football field, and more than 50 feet longer than the older blimps. The new airship can hold twice as many people in its gondola as the old ships.
Goodyear is using a nationwide contest to name the new blimp (details at www.goodyear.com/nametheblimp). The company has received more than 12,000 entries. (Spirit of Tonawanda, anyone?) The cutoff day for entries is Friday; from April 18 to May 9, the public will get to vote on 10 possible names.
The grand prize: use of a blimp for a day. Employees of DuPont’s Tonawanda plant have submitted entries, hoping to put their stamp on the blimp in yet another way.