Sunday, November 5, 2017

The New Neighbor

She's 246.4 ft. long, 69.79 ft. wide and 57.57 ft. tall.  Her first name is Wingfoot 2 and she's the newest member of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company family.  Her house in Carson is nine-stories high and it required 73 miles of polyester  to construct the double shell of her new home.

She's kind of a snob; she never stops to talk to us, just goes right over our heads.  I guess that's blimp behavior.

According to news reports, she is in every way better than her Daddy, Wingfoot 1.  Much less noisy both inside and out; stronger due to being constructed over a frame rather than depending on air to keep her sides rigid.  She now has a girdle, so to speak. 

Wingfoot 1 was seen so frequently in our skies that Redondo Beach actually named it the official city bird.  The route from Carson where it was based and where the new blimp will find a new home, goes over the residential areas to the ocean.    We are so accustomed to the old blimp's loud hum which made a sort of thrum noise,  as if it was a giant egg beater, whipping away, that we no longer rush out on the balcony to see it. 

Wingfoot 2 has made a couple of test flights and we did yank back the moonroof cover in Richie's car to see it.  At a brief glance, she does look slimmer and sleeker than her predecessor.  She can now seat 12, and the passengers can stand up inside and NOT have to wear headphones to communicate.  The old blimp seated only six. 

I think almost everyone who sees it quietly longs for a ride in it.  One of my great buddies when I was covering off-road racing was a guy named Jim Alexander, who was the Director of Goodyear's racing programs.  I thought that if anyone could get me a ride, he could.  Wrong.  He told me that he can't even go on it.  The blimp is reserved for only potential product-buying clients.

And then Richie's former employer, a Major American Airline (MAA) had as a guest speaker at one of the monthly retiree club meetings, one of the several blimp pilots.  His talk was an interesting one - three days to go from, say, the LA Coliseum to the arena in San Francisco - the noise, the differences in flying a blimp as opposed to a helicopter or regular airplane ... we were all rapt. 

At the end of his talk, I was chatting with several members of the club and I mentioned my passionate desire to get a ride, why I couldn't (Jim Alexander) and one of the men said, "My grandson, age six, and I had a ride."

"Oh, I'm so jealous?  How did you manage that?" with typical curiosity.  He didn't look happy, in fact, he looked kind of sad when he said, "It was one of the Make A Wish foundation rides - he had (note past tense) cancer." 

As anyone would be, I was horrified at having made such a gaffe, but he was very nice and said, "How could you have known?" 

Be careful what you wish for was never truer.   

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