Goodyear Airdock

By Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms
Goodyear Airdock
Goodyear Airdock Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HAER 77-AKRO,6-31

The Goodyear Airdock in Akron, Ohio, was constructed in 1929 by the Goodyear Zepplin Corporation from plans created by the Wilbur Watson Engineering Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Work began on April 20, 1929, and by November 25 the Airdock was completed at a cost of $2.2 million. With the construction of the Airdock, Akron became one of the centers for development and construction of lighter-than-air ships. Two dirigibles, the Akron(ZRS-4) and its sister, the Macon (ZRS-5), were built in the Airdock and launched in 1931 and 1934 respectively. The building later housed the photographic division of the Goodyear Aerospace Corporation. The semi-paraboloid shaped building has been described as "half a silkworm's cocoon, cut in half the long way." The maximum length of the Goodyear Airdock is 1,175 feet with a maximum width of 325 feet and a maximum height of 211 feet. At the ends of the building are identical semi-spherical doors, each weighing 600 tons. These doors are fastened at the top by hollow forged pins 17 inches in diameter and six feet long. The doors rest on 40 wheels set on curved railroad tracks.

Blimps in airdock
Blimps in airdock, 1973 Photo from National Register collection

On either side of the building, approximately 100 feet above ground level, is a row of 12 windows. Atop the building at the northeast end is a control tower and radio aerial. The airdock might be said to "breathe," as it is mounted on rollers to compensate for expansion and contraction due to temperature changes. At the time it was built, it was the largest building in the world without interior supports. Before starting the design of the Akron Goodyear Airdock, Dr. Karl Arnstein, director of engineering of the Goodyear Zepplin Corporation had extensive tests conducted on a model of the building in the wind tunnel of the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aeronautics of New York University. According to Wilbur J. Watson in his article Building the World's Largest Airship Factory and Dock for the Goodyear Aerospace Corporation, tests conducted on a model 1/240th of the size of the building, "demonstrated the superiority of this shaped building in offering minimum resistance to wind currents, and also furnished valuable information in regard to the magnitude and distribution of the suction forces caused by the action of the wind on the surface of the building." When World War II broke out enclosed production areas were rapidly needed, and the Airdock was used for this purpose. The Airdock has more recently served as the site of the 1986 kickoff rally for the United Way of Summit County and some 200,000 members of the public visited. President Clinton spoke here as a candidate in the 1992 election, bringing some 30,000 visitors to the site. Loral Corporation purchased Goodyear Aerospace Corporation and the Goodyear Airdock, in 1987 and it was later acquired by the Lockheed Martin Corporation in 1996.

The Goodyear Airdock is located at 1210 Massillion Rd., Akron, Ohio, and can be easily seen from U.S. Rt. 224 just east of downtown Akron. The airdock is not open to the public.

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