From Ohio History Central
The Goodyear company hangar in Akron, Summit County, Ohio, ca. 1940-1949.
In 1916, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company purchased land near Akron, Ohio, to build a plant that could produce zeppelin aircraft. In 1917, the main Goodyear Company created a subsidiary known as the Goodyear Zeppelin Company to manufacture the zeppelins. This company was the precursor to the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation. That same year, the firm received a contract from the federal government to manufacture nine zeppelins for the United States military during World War I. Unfortunately for the company, its manufacturing facilities were not complete in 1917, so Goodyear completed the first airships inside of a large amusement park building in Chicago, Illinois. The military used these airships to bomb and to spy upon enemy positions.
Upon World War I's conclusion, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company continued to manufacture zeppelins. The firm used most of these ships to advertise its products. By the late 1920s and the early 1930s, among the firm's completed zeppelins were the Pony, Pilgrim, Puritan, Volunteer, Mayflower, Vigilant, Defender, Reliance, Resolute, Enterprise, Ranger, and Columbia. Most of these ships utilized helium to become airborne, while zeppelins originally used heated air or hydrogen. During this period, other companies, especially European ones, were constructing airships for commercial transportation. Some of these ships carried passengers across the Atlantic Ocean. Goodyear also manufactured two airships, the Akron and the Macon, for the United States military during the early 1930s. During World War II, the company, now known as the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation manufactured 104 airships for the military at its Akron facility. The firm also built F4U Corsair planes for the United States Navy. When Goodyear created the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation in 1939, this branch of the company employed just thirty workers. With World War II's outbreak, by 1942, the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation consisted of thirty-five thousand employees.
Following World War II, the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation continued to manufacture airships, but it also expanded into producing other types of aircraft and aircraft parts. The main thrust of the company, however, remained the airships. The company now used the zeppelins almost exclusively for advertising purposes. In 1966, the firm created the "Skytacular," a four-color sign that could be flown from blimps and read especially at night by people on the ground. Beginning in the 1950s, the Goodyear airships commonly appeared at major sporting events. The firm manufactured over three hundred zeppelins between 1917 and 1995, but it currently only operates four airships in the United States.
In 1963, the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation changed its name to the Goodyear Aerospace Corporation. The firm played a major role in space exploration during the 1960s and the 1970s. The Goodyear Aerospace Corporation helped the National Aeronautics and Space Agency design heating and cooling systems for Apollo spacecraft. The company also produced tires used on moon vehicles and flotation devices for spacecraft landing in water. The firm also developed missile parts, as well as radar and guidance systems. In 1987, Goodyear sold the Goodyear Aerospace Corporation to Loral, although Goodyear continued to manufacture tires and other airplane components after the sale.
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