The iconic Spirit of America Goodyear blimp has floated off into the sunset of retirement, to be replaced eventually by the technologically superior semi-rigid airship, Wingfoot One.
The airship, which once graced a 2006 episode of Donald Trump’s reality TV show, The Apprentice, will be put on display after over 8,000 flights and 30,000 passengers over 13 years.
Spirit of America’s twin, Spirit of Innovation will replace the retiring blimp until a long-term replacement is ready. The new ship is expected to arrive in Southern California by 2017, according to the Goodyear blimp website.
This ship was first commissioned in September of 2002. Spirit of America was the name chosen for the blimp “as a tribute to the patriotic spirit of the United States following September 11, 2001,” Goodyear stated. It is currently only one of two of its kind in the world.
The Spirit of America could be seen recently flying overhead during the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics in Los Angeles. Breitbart News reported on the event, which was the last television broadcast for the blimp before its retirement. The Daily Breeze reported on a visit some of the Special Olympians made to see the iconic airship.
Other appearances have included the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena; the Academy Awards; Super Bowl week events; the X-Games; and hundreds of sporting events including NCAA, NBA, MLB and NHL games.
Capt. Matt St. John, pilot of the Spirit of America, flew the ship from its Carson, California base to the Tustin World War II hanger for decommissioning on Monday. The Orange County Register conveyed St. John’s reflection on the hundreds of cars and people gathered as he came in for a landing, “It was beautiful to see.”
Chief airship engineer Steve Dien was the first man to step on the ship in 2002 and the last to step off on Monday, according to the Register. “It’s like losing an old friend,” Dien remarked.
The airship’s final voyage spanned 29 days and 2,800 miles from Los Angeles to the Pacific Northwest and back to Sacramento, finally returning to L.A. before its final trip to Tustin.
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