Greetings from The Aero Experience Team


The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Despicablimp in St. Louis: Extreme Walk-Around Tour

By Carmelo Turdo
Mark Nankivil photo

The Despicablimp is in the middle of its stay at St. Louis Regional Airport this week, casting its conspicuous shadow on the St. Louis Metropolitan Area.  The Despicablimp, named "Stuart," is on tour across the country promoting the movie, Despicable Me 2, and is currently making stops throughout the Midwest.  Media flights were conducted yesterday, and today The Aero Experience was given a detailed tour of the blimp as it remained moored for the day in the grass inside the gate across from the F-4C Phantom II on display.  The Despicablimp, piloted by Mr. Allan Judd, a Swiss-born, 20-year veteran of airship flying, is a 1997 American Blimp Corporation A-1-50 Lightship N152VW (s/n 102).  The 165-foot blimp contains a volume of 150,000 cubic feet of helium, and it can carry up to nine passengers at speeds of 35-55mph depending on wind conditions.  Despicablimp is powered by two very reliable 4-cylinder 180hp Lycoming IO-360 engines with five constant-speed/reversible propellers.   An internal lighting system is available to illuminate the artwork on the skin for night viewing.  The banner artwork can be 118' x 28' on each side, with 32 shades of translucent material available.  The blimp will carry the current artwork through September, unless the current contract is extended.  Check out this fascinating video on the preparation of Despicablimp! 

Mooring Mast Detail

(Right top and bottom) Crewman Russell Whittaker shows how the  
ropes are used to guide the blimp towards the mooring mast, and then how they are secured to the side of the blimp. 

(Above) The mooring mast is secured by four-foot stakes driven into the ground by a hydraulic stake driver.

The gondola is a very basic, functional design that provides passenger window seats and framework for the cockpit, ballast and propulsion:

Russell Whittaker shows the camera mount capability of the blimp when used for sporting events

Russell Whittaker shows the 25lb. ballast bags aboard the blimp during mooring

Russell Whittaker shows the  propulsion and air compression system that keeps the blimp buoyant as the helium expands and contracts 

Check out Missouri Aviation Historical Society member Joe Gurney's photos of his ride aboard Despicablimp!

Special thanks to Crewman Russell Whittaker and the staff at St. Louis Regional Airport for their hospitality and assistance in making this walk-around tour possible. 

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