DALLAS — Today in Aviation, The first ‘Goodyear Blimp’ made its first flight at Akron, Ohio, in 1925.
The then-unnamed ship was inflated with highly flammable hydrogen. But on July 18, this was changed to helium, making it the world’s first blimp to fly with the much safer gas.
On July 18, the ship was named ‘Pilgrim.’ The christening was done by Florence Lichfield, wife of Goodyear executive and blimp supporter Paul Litchfield.
Setting the Standard
Pilgrim had a length of 105.5ft and was powered by a single 3-cylinder Lawrence air-cooled radial (60hp) engine with a 4-bladed Reed push propeller. This gave it a maximum cruise speed of 50mph.
Its control car was built of a magnesium-coated steel-tube framework. This was covered with thin metal sheeting. The car was supported by an internal catenary curtain and cables, becoming the first to have this fitting. Pilgrim’s car support became the standard for future blimps.
Inside, engineers fitted the car with luxurious blue mohair velour upholstered seats for two passengers and a single pilot. It also had a portable mooring mast, allowing the blimp to land in any flat field of suitable size.
Mr. Litchfield had planned for a series of “Air Yachts,” with Pilgrim being the first. These, Litchfield explained, would “serve a similar purpose for persons living inland as do yachts for those living along the seacoast.”
The groundbreaking airship would be retired on December 30, 1931. It had operated 4,765 flights, covering 94,974 miles over 2,880 hours, and carried 5,355 passengers. It was dismantled in 1932.
Featured image: Goodyear’s first public relations blimp, pictured in 1935. Public Domain.