CARSON, Calif. " Think you're worried about skyrocketing gas prices? Consider filling up a blimp.
Goodyear is looking for ways to cut fuel costs for its 192-foot "Spirit of America," which is based in Carson and provides aerial shots at sporting events.
The surprisingly fuel-efficient blimp is powered by two 210-horsepower engines, typically burning about nine to 10 gallons of aviation gas per hour. That's about the same as a four-seater Cessna 172. Most of the blimp's lift is generated by 200,000 cubic feet of helium.
In 2002, mechanics dramatically increased fuel efficiency by installing new fuel injectors in the blimp's engines.
"We cut our fuel burn in half," said blimp pilot Jon Conrad. "That makes the bean counters very happy."
With aviation fuel at about $6 per gallon, Goodyear mechanics are trying to figure out how to keep the blimp in the air longer for less. That helps when covering lengthy sporting events like NASCAR races.
Goodyear repair station team manager Jim Crone said the company has ruled out switching to diesel, worried that the engines might not be reliable.
The leaves as the next logical option biodiesel " an organic-based fuel derived from feed stocks like soy, poultry and other materials " being used increasingly in automobiles.