Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The 'Spirit of Goodyear' Gondola Touches Down at Western Reserve Historical Society

The gondola's final resting place is in the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum.
This gondola doesn't have a bucket list, but it probably flew over a few of the items on yours. In its 31 years in flight with three different blimps, the gondola soared over three Super Bowls, three World Series games and the Daytona 500.

Today, the gondola touched down for the last time at the Western Reserve Historical Society's Crawford Auto Aviation Museum thanks to a donation from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. The 23-foot, 3,400-pound vessel joined the Setting the World in Motion exhibit in an unveiling event Wednesday afternoon.

While it rests safely near the Euclid Beach Carousel now, the gondola was most recently in flight with the Guinness World Record-winning Spirit of Goodyear airship. That blimp didn't give up its standout career without a fight. Before the gondola's unveiling, Spirit of Goodyear pilot Jerry Hissem gave a dramatic retelling of its last landing in Pompano Beach, Florida. He said it took three tries.

"I don't know if I've done three go-arounds in my whole career," he said. "I've done one or two but not three."

The crew also struggled to wrangle the blimp into the hanger, as if it was reluctant to go, proving to Hissem that the airship has a soul.

Here are some of his favorite sights from 1,500 feet in the air.

Boston Pops. "To fly over and see the fireworks at night over the Charles River up in Boston is very memorable. CBS usually films the Boston Pops, and they have a TV show that we got to go out there for."

Manhattan Skyline. "In general, just flying in Manhattan up and down the Hudson River, that's memorable. Just to see Central Park at night. You see the whole Manhattan island, and Central Park is just this black square with no light."

Kentucky Derby. "There were 14 or 15 aircrafts over Churchill Downs, such a little spot. They separated us with altitudes. So they had the banner towers and airplanes at one altitude, helicopters at another altitude, and blimps would be the highest."

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