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Blimp Gets OK to Fly Over Veterans Parade

Symbols: Long Beach councilman calls a congresswoman, who intervenes with FAA to lift airspace restriction.

November 10, 2001|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The security crackdown after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has caused a lot of inconveniences: longer lines at airports, slower mail service and fewer entrances open at public buildings.

It also forced the Goodyear blimp Eagle to leave home, threatening the big airship's appearance at today's Veterans Day parade in Long Beach.

Thanks to some congressional pressure, however, that problem has been solved.

Long Beach City Councilman Jerry Shultz said Friday that in the hours after the terrorist attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration imposed new restrictions on who and what could fly through the so-called Class B airspace over much of the Los Angeles area, including Carson, where the blimp is based.

Shultz said the Eagle would have been grounded under the restrictions, "but the FAA gave them 10 minutes to get the blimp out of there so they could keep on flying."

The blimp lumbered over to the former Marine base in Tustin, where it was parked in one of the giant World War II airship hangars. From there, the Eagle could fly a lot of places, but it wasn't allowed to fly home.

Shultz, who had invited the Eagle to take part in today's parade, thought its absence would send the wrong message.

"President Bush said it is time to return to normal," he said. "Looking up and seeing that blimp is part of being normal."

So Shultz got on the phone. He said that although several other national politicians weren't very interested, Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, a Democrat who lives in Carson, was.

The congresswoman talked to the FAA, which granted a waiver allowing the blimp to participate in the parade, which will start at 10 a.m. at Atlantic Avenue and Harding Street.

"She's the one that made it work," Shultz said.

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