Timeline

1783 Two French brothers, Jacques Etienne and Joseph Michel Montgolfier, invent the hot air balloon and send it to an altitude of 6000 feet.
   
1783 French physicist makes the first manned balloon flight.
   
1852 Henri Giffard builds the first powered airship (cigar-shaped, gas-filled bag with a propeller-powered by a steam engine).
   
1900 Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin of Germany invent the first rigid airship containing hydrogen-as-filled rubber bags (it carried five people).
   
July 2, 1912 Melvin Vaniman, an airplane mechanic from Akron, Ohio, tries the first flight across the Atlantic in a new craft created by Goodyear called the "Akron." Something goes wrong at takeoff and the ship bursts into flames, crashing into the ocean. Everyone aboard is killed.
   
1915 The term "blimp" is allegedly coined by an English airman, Lieutenant A. D. Cunningham, who flicks a finger against the envelope (the ship's covering) and then mimics the sound -- "blimp."
   
1925 P. W. Litchfield flies his "air yacht." He thinks this will be applied in a much greater realm and plans to fill the skies with blimps.
   
1920s Blimps become a trendy way to advertise.
   
1928 Goodyear wins a contract to build two huge new airships for the U.S. Navy.
   
November 1928 The Goodyear airdock is built, becoming the world's largest building without interior supports (22 stories high and 1200 feet long).
   
August 1931 The first of the new rigid airships is named "Akron."
   
April 1933 The second airship named for Akron crashes into the Atlantic (three people survive).
   
1935 The second of Goodyear's rigid airships, the USS Macon, crashed in the Pacific (two fatalities occur).
   
May, 1937 The Hindenberg crashed, thus ending the dream of passenger travel by airship.
   
After 1937 Airships start to use helium instead of hydrogen. Helium has less lift but is not flammable.
   
1941 The Navy calls on Goodyear to build massive blimps to watch over America's fleet and coasts as we go to war. Blimps become "aerial battleships" with a squadron of planes as part of their cargo.
   
By 1942 Goodyear is churning out blimps with a production goal of one airship every two days.
   
By 1944 Production is slowed as the Navy decides there are enough blimps to protect the homeland.
   
1958 Goodyear puts a TV camera in a blimp to get an aerial shot of a sporting event. Because the camera and equipment are so large and heavy, it is impossible to have anyone aboard.
   
By 1980s Goodyear operates three blimps with new high-tech cameras and a microwave system that allows the TV directors to call the shots from the ground.
   
October 1999 The third airship named for Akron crashes just minutes away from the hangar
   
Western Reserve Public Media

Copyright©2008, Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio, Inc. All rights reserved.

pbs.org