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Goodyear blimp soars over Covington

No, there wasn’t a big game being televised live nationally from Sharp Stadium Tuesday. But, yes that was the Goodyear Blimp flying over town.

Wingfoot One, the newest of the Goodyear airships and an advance in dirigible technology, landed at the Covington Regional Airport Monday, and is scheduled to leave town Wednesday. Tuesday, the airship took flights over Newton County, training new pilots, giving media tours and taking a few Georgia Tech students up in the process.

The airship is on its way to Tallahassee and the Miami vs. Florida State football game, before finishing its maiden journey from the assembly line in Akron, Ohio to its home base in Pompano, Florida.

The inflatable on Wingfoot One is made up of a rigid structure, rather than just a balloon like the old airships that started coming off Goodyear’s production line in the 1960s. The new ship also has fly-by-wire capabilities that the other blimps in Goodyear’s fleet did not, making it easier to fly for the pilots.

Senior Pilot James Kosmos said the new blimp is “easier to fly, but not as exciting.”

Kosmos told members of Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jacket Flying Club all about Wingfoot One’s features and how the airship handled and reacted to air currents different than an airplane or helicopter, while Chief Pilot Jerry Hissem flew the blimp over Covington.

The blimp went over such sights as the Covington Square, Lake Varner, children running to see it at Cousins Middle School and Oxford College of Emory University, where one of the passenger’s daughter’s went to college for two years.

The airship stayed aloft, floating over Newton County, with top airspeeds capable of reaching 73 miles per hour when wind conditions are right, for an hour.

Once on the ground, a new flight crew jumped on the gondola and the ground crew continued to get practice on the new airship. Coming to Covington along with Wingfoot One, is an 18-wheel truck with a crew of 21, including four pilots.