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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Goodyear Blimp: 1938

Goodyear Blimp: 1938

April 13, 1938. Washington, D.C. "Goodyear blimp Enterprise at Washington Air Post." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Summer 1954

I remember playing in my front yard during summer vacation and hearing something I didn't recognize. I ran into the back yard and saw the Goodyear, not the one pictured, fly past the back of the house. It was sufficiently exciting to be the topic of conversation for the next few days, and there was even a picture of it docked at the local airport the next day. Exciting times for a Carolina kid in the early '50s

Navy Blimps

Enterprise, along with Goodyear's other private blimps was transferred to the Navy at the beginning of the war. The became the basis for the L-Class training type. Apparently they weren't armed and had too short an endurance for long patrols. They had a crew of two in military service.

The most common of the naval blimps was the K-Class which had an endurance of just over 38 hours aloft and carried four depth charges and a .50 caliber machine gun as well as various detection equipment and a crew of 10. 134 were built, and the last K-ship (K-43) left service in March 1959.

I went up in her

My mother's school chum took my two older brothers and me for a ride in this blimp in 1938 (might have been 1939) from the old Wash airport. We circled the city for about a half hour. The windows were open. I sat in the middle seat in the back row. It went up at about 45 degrees and on returning it nosed down at about the same angle. Ground crew caught the ropes and pulled it down to a level attitude on the ground. What a thrill it was for a 7-year-old.

The sound of a blimp in flight...

That low drone sound of an approaching blimp's engines STILL makes me run outside to have a look. I even have a memory (or imagine that I have such a memory) of standing on Bush Avenue in Newburgh NY as a 4 or 5 year old kid and seeing a huge dirigible flying doen over the Hudson toward NY City.

A Ride in the Goodyear

I was lucky enough to get a ride in the then-current Goodyear Blimp in about 1969, thanks to my father's position at nearby El Toro Marine Base, which was near the Lighter Than Air facility in Tustin, which had giant hangars that allowed Goodyear to do certain maintenance. In return they provided a day of rides for military families. This blimp has since been replaced with a newer version, but our blimp's control wheels and cables were charmingly exposed to the attentive eye inside the little cabin which was clearly designed for lightness rather than jetliner strength, and seated about 12. After achieving a satisfactory weight balance, the pilot revved the motors, the blimp moved majestically ahead, and about 50 feet later he cranked the elevator wheel, the nose came up, and we ascended as if climbing a staircase. Not scary, due to the gentle response, but unexpectedly graceful, like the dancing hippos in Fantasia. We cruised the coast for about an hour at a nice viewing height.

Hearing a blimp

I don't remember seeing blimps in Florida in the late 40s but forty years later I recognised the sound and went outside to see a blimp passing overhead.

Look, up in the sky, it's a bird, no, a blimp

A Goodyear blimp still resides in Southern California and can be seen most days when one is driving on the 405 freeway through the city of Carson.
You can also often see it over large events such as football games where a helicopter used for photography, would disturb the spectators, but a blimp used for aerial shots makes everybody smile down below.

Navy Blimps in the 40's

Every summer we would go to Falmouth Mass to the beach. The Navy blimps would pass overhead out to sea. Once one went so low the landing ropes dragged across the beach. I never realized they were on patrol looking for U-boats off the coast of Massachusetts. I assumed they were training and actually they were armed and did fight U-boats off our shores.

Follow the Blimp

I took a road trip from the east coast to Chicago a few years ago, and stopped in Akron for a night. Tthe next morning as I got on the turnpike the Goodyear blimp appeared overhead and followed overhead for at least an hour. I suspect they were navigating by following the highway.


In the mid-1960s, in Miami, Goodyear blimp flights were $5. I don't know which blimp was stationed there part of the year.

I never took that flight, to my now deep regret; flights for the general public have ceased, I understand.

Gene Roddenberry

Roddenberry was influenced by a lot of WWII things. The Enterprise was named for the aircraft carrier, and James T. Kirk was the general commanding the Ordnance Department early in the war. There are others.

Go for a Ride!

The dirigible hangar was near the Washington-Hoover Airport and the Arlington Beach Amusement Park

According to "Answer Man" at the Washington Post, in 1932, you could go up in the Goodyear blimp for $2.50.

Boldly going where no one has gone before!

The very first aircraft owned by the United States also bore this title. It was a hot air balloon used during the Civil War.

Air Trek

Goodyear's Enterprise was named after the winning yacht of the 1930 America's Cup. Seeing this picture makes me wonder if this blimp may have been young Roddenberry's inspiration. She was enlisted in the US Navy as Training Airship L-5 during World War 2 from 1941 to 1945.

You Sayin' I'm Fat?

I resemble that remark!

Trans Atlantic

Have any of these types ever crossed the Atlantic?

I miss hearing the Goodyear

I miss hearing the Goodyear blimp. I say "hearing" because as a kid in Southern California, I would hear its unmistakable low drone and would run outside to see it passing over the neighborhood.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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