| Ray Robinson, West Coast/International Sales Manager at GlobalAir.com
One of the many great pleasures of being located directly on the Bowman Field Airport (KLOU) is the fantastic opportunities that we have to see rare things! Spring time in the beautiful state of Kentucky means just one thing; Kentucky Derby time! The entire month of April is devoted to airshows, parties on the river, concerts, marathons, and so much more all in celebration and leading up to the first Saturday in May. This is the big day! During this time, here at Bowman field, we’ve got first row seats to all of the best action in aviation. Not only do we get the opportunity to watch planes come in and take off in preparation for the various ceremonies, but we also get opportunities to meet with and watch stunt flyers as they practice for Thunder Over Louisville, (an annual airshow/fireworks display that kicks off the Derby festival in mid-April.) Sometimes, if we’re lucky we can even catch footage of planes as they swoop in and snag the banners that they promote high above Churchill Downs. All of this is fantastic; however, our favorite parts are the special times when we get to see brand new, different and unique sides of aviation – like the Despicablimp.
The Despicablimp is traveling across the nation promoting the summer release of “Despicable Me 2”, the animated movie starring the voices of Steve Carell, Al Pacino, Kristen Wiig and Russell Brand. Arguably, the most popular features of the movie are the Minions, which are small, yellow creatures that wear goggles and overalls. These characters are the comic relief that bring comedy to each and every moment they are on the screen. So, what better way to get the word out than with a giant floating minion?
We spoke with blimp pilot Allan Judd to get an idea of what life with “Stuart,” the Despicablimp, was like. Surprisingly, one word that he never Judd compared his Blimp to was aircraft. “This is much more like piloting a submarine; imagine an upside-down picture with the sky as the ocean, and the land as the surface” he states.
Judd gave us a simple 101 lesson over how the blimp works. “The helium in the envelope displaces around four tons of air – this makes it buoyant. We simply fill and empty a bladder inside the envelope, called a ballonet; this controls the balloon’s lift and pitch. This can be compared to that last bit of helium that’s added to mylar balloons that you may purchase from flower stores. It is this last bit of helium which will remove all wrinkles from the edges.” For thrust, the 150 ft. long blimp is propelled thru the air by two Lycoming 10-360 engines with additional oil coolers.
What determines whether or not a blimp will launch? “Whether or not we can successfully bring it back to safe harbor,” says Judd. “If the weather conditions are such that we can’t hook back up to the mooring mast, then we will not be launching.” And the mooring mast is incredibly sturdy – the stakes that hold it are over 3 ft. long and are screwed deep into the ground. When the blimp is secured to it, it can withstand 100 mph winds.” If the pilot and the Mast Headsman (the man that releases and connects the blimp to the mooring mast) determine that the conditions are not good, they don’t fly.
The Despicablimp crew includes 15 members on site, each of which have different jobs managing the day-to-day aspects of prepping the blimp including, launching and securing it to the mooring mast, and driving the equipment to the next landing spot. Much like a submarine crew, they do everything together while they are on the road. There is also another crew of 15 stationed at the company’s headquarters in Orlando, Florida. This crew handles the behind the scenes work, such as arranging hotel accommodations as well as schedules for the on-site crew.
I would like to thank Allen Judd and the entire Despicablimp crew for taking some time with us on their busy day. Not only did we learn about the functionality and science behind the scenes, but we were actually invited to sit in the pilot’s seat and given the full tour. Plus we recorded an amazing video of the blimp taking off and circling back – make sure to watch that as well!
Don’t forget to see Despicable Me in a theater near you; due to hit the box office July 3, 2013!
For more information on the Despicablimp:
Despicablimp Command Center - www.despicablimp.com
Despicablimp Twitter feed - twitter.com/Despicablimp
Despicable Me 2 official site - despicableme.com
How Blimps Work - science.howstuffworks.com/transport/flight/modern/blimp.htm
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(Additional reporting by Keely Mick)
Allen Judd as he teaches Ray a few "Blimp 101 Fundamentals."