The Goodyear Blimp

Goodyear has flown blimps for almost 80 years. Used by the U.S. military in the Second World War to provide aerial surveillance to Navy submarines, the airship fleet was discontinued in 1962 when modern surveillance technologies began to provide superior benefit. Today, we may consider the Goodyear blimp a break point between Virilio's transportation and transmission revolutions, one that symbolizes an obsolescence of the automobile in shaping post-industrial human environments.

Courtesy of Goodyear

Goodyear's blimps now spend most of their time (over 60%) in support of the televisual production of sporting and other outdoor events. It is easy to see why. One of the modern surveillance technologies that replaced the blimp in the military is the geosynchronous satellite, which is a satellite whose orbital speed equals the Earth's rotational speed, in effect keeping it over the same spot on the planet.

Though the Goodyear blimp web site boasts of the impressive speeds their airships can achieve, it is ironically their leisurely pace that makes them attractive in the production of spectacle, since it allows for an approximation of the geosynchronous satellite's fixity in space above a particular location. The relatively small parcel of land that is being surveyed demands such low speeds, and the added benefit of increased stability provides clearer television images. Despite this, blimps are used only for cover shots and cutting into and out of commercials in exchange for free advertising benefits.


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