I've flown on many aircraft types, from modern widebody jets to vintage turboprops, helicopters and even a military transport plane. But of those hundreds of flights, nothing I've flown on in the past compares to the Zeppelin LZ N07-101 I flew on Saturday. It's Goodyear's newest airship, dubbed Wingfoot One.
Wingfoot One lands as we wait to board our flight
After attending the christening ceremony for Wingfoot One on Saturday morning, I was offered the opportunity to ride on 246-foot long airship early in the afternoon. Our group of six boarded a van, inside the hangar at Goodyear's Wingfoot Lake airship base, near Akron, Ohio. We were driven about 200 yards or so, out to the circular pad of concrete where the airships land.
Goodyear crew attaches a ladder for us to board
The boarding process was interesting, if not a little bit challenging. Because the ship wasn't tethered, it was at the mercy of the breeze, so as we stepped onto it, the temporary staircase was moving away from us as the tail swung around counter-clockwise. To maintain weight and balance, we were sent to board in pairs. Two of us got on, while two from the previous flight got off. I took a seat at the front, which faced backward toward the tail.
Passenger seats on Wingfoot One. Loving that new airship smell!
On board, there are twelve passenger seats, trimmed in blue leather and yellow piping, with a yellow Goodyear logo stitched into the headrest. We were asked to buckle our seat belts for takeoff, but were allowed to walk around within a couple of minutes after becoming airborne.
Flying over Goodyear's test track in Akron, Ohio
What was the ride like? It wasn't like anything. It is a truly unique experience, in comparison to flying on a plane, where you feel every bump or jolt or turbulence. If I had to compare this flight to something, I think it bears closer resemblance to being on a cruise ship. As a ship rolls gently over waves (in good weather), so does the Zeppelin. We could definitely feel movement on all three axis (pitch, roll and yaw) but at no time was it ever disturbing. It was just... smooth.
At the back of the gondola, there is a large, padded seat that is surrounded by three huge windows, giving a panoramic view. Every seat on Wingfoot One has a great view, because every seat has a window view, but if you're flying for a long haul, this is where you want to be.
Older GZ-20 model blimps have steam gauges in the cockpit, and the controls are all manipulated by hydraulics. This is the cockpit of the retired City of Akron blimp.
Wingfoot One's cockpit features an LCD avionics and navigation suite. The controls are fly-by-wire, and are manipulated by use of a joystick at the pilot's side, like on an Airbus jet.
The passenger seats of the old City of Akron blimp do look quite dated in comparison to Wingfoot One, but these still look roomier than economy seats on any airline.
Landing while onboard Wingfoot One (at 2X speed)
Wingfoot One departs over our heads, after we had completed our flight
Thanks to Goodyear, for inviting me out to the event. The Goodyear folks said the new airship will make it's first appearance at a college football game, for ESPN. The game location and date have not been announced.
Top GIF all photos and videos are by Paul Thompson