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Despicablimp lands in Akron

9/12/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

On Sept. 3, Akron Fulton Airport was the temporary home base of the Despicablimp, an airship promoting last summer’s “Despicable Me 2” movie. The blimp is 165 feet long, 55 feet high and 46 feet wide.
A “minion” from the “Despicable Me” movies greeted passengers who were about to take a ride on the Despicablimp Sept. 3.
GREATER AKRON — Afternoon rush-hour traffic doesn’t seem so imposing when you’re flying high above it, being carried aloft in a giant yellow Despicablimp.

The Despicablimp is a 165-foot-long airship that has been traveling the country since March, promoting the animated movie “Despicable Me 2.” The blimp is made to look like a “minion,” one of the banana-colored, pill-shaped sidekicks of Gru, the movie’s main character. If the Goodyear Blimp and a school bus had a child, it might look like the Despicablimp.

On Sept. 3, the blimp stopped in Akron, one of its final tour stops. It is piloted by Allan Judd, who spent the day helping some folks check a big item off their bucket lists.

Myself and five other passengers were on the 5 p.m. flight. The trip offered a spectacular view of parts of Downtown Akron, Portage Lakes and Highland Square. Imagine looking at Google Maps’ satellite view on a computer monitor as big as all outdoors.

We could gauge the evening commute better than any traffic helicopter. We saw football teams and marching bands practicing. A barn swallow momentarily checked us out. Earlier in the day, according to Judd, a buzzard hung around the blimp for a minute. Near the end of our 50-minute flight, we spotted another airship, the Spirit of Goodyear, which was returning to Akron from the Clemson University-University of Georgia college football game.

The view from the Despicablimp trip included parts of Downtown Akron, Portage Lakes and Highland Square.
Photos: Craig Marks
A 30-year veteran of blimp flights, Judd has been in the Akron skies before, piloting a Snoopy blimp over Firestone Country Club. The Despicablimp is not his first oddly adorned airship. He flew a Sea World blimp designed to resemble Shamu the Killer Whale.

Once, while flying over his brother’s house in Texas, Judd put two fingers in his mouth and let out a whistle. When his brother later played him a videotape of the flyby, the sound could be heard.

“I’ve been whistling ever since,” he said.

Judd whistled at a lone boater on the Portage Lakes, who, after a few seconds, waved back. Judd said it takes about two seconds for the sound to travel to the ground. Some practicing youth athletes ignored the whistle and went on with their business, perhaps a credit to their diligence. Or maybe, being close to the Akron Airdock, it would take more than a blimp — even a bright yellow one with a single brown eye — to merit their attention.

According to the blimp’s website, www.despicablimp.com, the Despicablimp is one of only 15 airships flying in the world. Its maximum speed is around 45 mph. It normally flies about 1,000 feet off the ground but can go as high as 10,000 feet.

 

Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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