The day was a couple of years in the making, but it finally arrived. On Tuesday at Goodyear's blimp homeport in Southern California, the tire maker let the helium out of its last blimp, the Spirit of Innovation.

A few dozen Goodyear workers were on hand as the blimp fluttered to the ground. The ship's demise took about two minutes and brought mixed emotions from the faithful.

"There were a couple tears because they've been working with blimps for so long," Eddie Ogden told the Associated Press. Ogden is the airship historian for Goodyear, which has been plying the skies for 90 years.

"But the program has always changed over the decades, and this is a step forward," Ogden said. "The new model is incredible to watch fly."

That's right, there's a new model. Goodyear airships will still fill the skies over America's sporting events and tire-store promotions. Since 2014, Goodyear has been in the process of replacing its lighter-than-air fleet with dirigibles, aka semi-rigid airships. Goodyear's new rides are also known by a much cooler name: They can fairly be called zeppelins because they are made by the German company ZLT, which considers itself the corporate descendant of Ferdinand von Zeppelin's companies that made the famed Hindenburg and Graf Zeppelin in the early 20th century.



Blimp? Semi-rigid dirigible? Confused by the terms? Here are some helpful definitions. But after reading the rules of airship nomenclature, you'll be even more confused by Goodyear's decision to keep calling the new crafts "blimps" because, Ogden said, "Goodyear Semi-rigid Dirigible doesn't roll off the tongue." No, but Goodyear Zeppelin sounds pretty great, we say. They should go with that.

There are many reasons for the switch. Goodyear's new dirigibles are bigger and faster than its old blimps. Here's a comparison from www.airships.net:



The zeppelins also employ three engines instead of two, with swiveling propellers that allow them to hover, fly backwards, take off vertically, and turn on their axis. Unlike their predecessors, they are spooky quiet, which Ogden said is an advantage for covering golf tournaments.

Wingfoot Two, the zeppelin that replaces Spirit of Innovation, will arrive in California later this year from Goodyear's main airship base in Ohio.

As for Spirit of Innovation, it was deflated because its envelope had reached the end of its lifespan. Its gondola will go to the company airship museum, and other museums will get various other bits. And Innovation's engines will be repurposed and will fly again.

Here's Goodyear's own history of its airships.

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