'Despicablimp' soars over Philadelphia until Sunday, September 15!

The Despicablimp Adventure

Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Philadelphia International Children's Film Festival

Late this fall, PFS will be embarking on its newest chapter of film programming with the Philadelphia International Children’s Film Festival (Save the Dates:  November 15 – 17, 2013).   What better way to do some field research than visit Universal Pictures’ ‘Despicablimp’ as it soars through the skies of Philadelphia promoting  Despicable Me 2!


Bright and early Thursday morning, I got to ride shotgun on one of 15 blimps flying anywhere in the world today and talk to pilot, Allan Judd, about how these massive “airships” take flight.

Judd’s background is in oceanography and aviation. He spent a great deal of time around water vessels before he stepped foot in his first blimp. Now a 20-year veteran, Judd has written the only manual on blimp operations in existence. Believe it or not, blimp mechanics have evolved very little since the mid-1900s. Throughout the hour-long flight over Philadelphia, I watched Judd using foot pedals and steering wheels to maneuver the ship as it drifted through the sky at no more than 35 miles per hour.

  IMG_3100     onboard       IMG_3096

Judd explained that the term “airship” refers to the fact that flying a blimp is much like steering a ship through the ocean.  This analogy catches as soon as the blimp is in flight – always buoyant, swaying back and forth as if sitting on water. I was warned many times that I might feel sea sick while on board. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

IMG_3146        IMG_3149

Aside from the pilot, there is a whole ground crew that is pivotal in the vessel’s operation. Judging by the direction of the wind, the pilot and ground crew communicate through hand signals to decide which direction the blimp will take off. At landing, the crew takes position to catch the blimp as it grounds, much like they were catching the string of a balloon. The ground crew secures all 4 tons of the ship to the ground by tethering it to a mast and 24 metal stakes stretching 5 feet into the ground, keeping it from floating away. When getting in out of the passenger gondola, it’s surprising to find that the blimp is always hovering.

me and pilot          me and minion

The firsthand lesson in how an airship operates was an amazing experience. More fun facts about the Despicablimp can be found at the online Command Center by visiting www.despicablimp.com. You can track the blimp’s stay in Philadelphia through Sunday at https://twitter.com/Despicablimp.

And don’t forget to stay tuned for news and announcements about the inaugural Philadelphia Children’s Film Festival at www.filmadelphia.org!

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