After a wait of about three years, Goodyear unveiled the new design it had announced for its ‘blimp’ last week. It was made in conjunction with the German company Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik, a company born phoenix-like out of the ashes (and endowment) left behind by the original Zeppelin Company (makers of the Hindenberg), with which Goodyear had previously also entered into a co-venture between World War I and II,  producing the helium-filled naval airships Akron and Macon.

Their previous relationship has bearing on the new design as well, as the aircraft will bear a flexible skeleton, somewhere between the zeppelin’s massive steel internal structure and the Goodyear blimp’s previous standard of helium ballonets (air bags) inside a rubberized envelope. This will also allow for a longer ship, more maneuverability and larger night screen (ad) space (and future models may also have larger gondolas to accommodate more passengers).

In conjunction with the unveiling of this new model blimp Goodyear is having a naming contest (there is some controversy about the origin of the word blimp itself: one version says it is onomatopoeic based on the sound made when tapping the side and another, British version says that during WWI  when they were testing non-rigid air craft, the first version “A-limp” failed, but “B-limp” was successful). The Grand Prize winner will get exclusive use of the blimp for a day (having had the good fortune of having been able to briefly ride on the Columbia in Oakland in the ’70s, a full day would be quite cool), while nine runners-up will receive a full set of Goodyear tires. The deadline is April 4th at midnight Eastern Time.

Previous Goodyear blimp-naming mostly conformed to America’s Cup winners (the blimps being viewed as ‘yachts of the sky’), but there has also been a ‘Spirit of…’ tangent. Here are a few suggestions I conjured in my own twisted musical mind.

  1. Horace Blimp - this reflects the combination of a third theory for the origin of the term ‘blimp’, that of aerospace designer Horace Short’s exclamation at seeing the craft for the first time in 1915 (“What else would you call it?” he explained, and it seems his crew agreed) and the 1980 ELO single ‘The Diary of Horace Wimp’, which has some great vocoder lines. What else would you call it?
  1. The Spirit of Radio - since Goodyear’s Zeppelin partner is unashamedly playing the ‘steampunk’ card to attract retro-attention to its endeavors, why not also honor the rocking Rush opener, off their Permanent Waves album, which honors an increasingly archaic medium as well as being perfectly appropriate at sporting events all over the world (better that than ‘Tom Sawyer,’ I’d say).
  1. The Spirit of Algie - this was the name of Pink Floyd’s runaway flying pig, initially used for the shooting of their 1977 Animals album cover. Who wouldn’t want to take a trip on that?
  1. Colonel Blimp - from The Archers’ (Michael Powell and Emeric PressburgerThe Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), this would certainly appeal to both the European and steampunk markets (it even starts with a ‘punking’ in a steamroom!). This classic,  with early, masterful use of Technicolor cinematography, is a romantic drama covering a period stretching from the last quarter of the 19th Century in Berlin to France in WWI and finally to England between the wars, leading into WWII. The film stars Archers’ favorites Deborah Kerr (pre-Black Narcissus) and Anton Walbrook (pre-The Red Shoes), while Roger Livesey took on the title character whose name was derived from the satirical 1930s Colonel Blimp comic strip by David Low. Winston Churchill apparently attempted to have the film banned due to it’s sympathetic portrayal of a German army officer (Walbrook’s character), but perhaps it could be that there weren’t enough ‘actual’ blimps in the film, unless you want to count Livesey’s late-film physique. Though if you want to go full Where’s Waldo, you might be able to find one during the Blitz scenes… otherwise, enjoy a great film that stresses human friendship that transcends and outlasts all progress and conflict.

You can watch The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp now via FilmOn’s free VOD service:

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