At 64, actor and aviator Harrison Ford has the distinction of being one of the last balloons to grace the field at the 84th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Known in the past for being a pilot, Ford climbed into his balloon on Saturday morning and sat in the cockpit for a few minutes before having to give up control due to the conditions. “I guess the bad thing about having this big, cumbersome aircraft is that when the winds blow, you have to yank the nose down,” he told the New York Times.
The actual conditions on this day were remarkably calm for such a legendary balloon sighting, but it’s part of a long line of pranksters who want to make the cameras roar. In the last 65 years, 88 helium-filled balloons have crashed in 17 weather-related incidents, falling at least six stories, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, forcing the grounding of a lot of planes, trains and automobiles. Here are just some of the most notorious balloon mishaps of the past.
2020: Harrison Ford is forced to disembark from his balloon at the 84th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, thanks to rough wind
In 1989, a ruptured balloon held up traffic for the duration of the parade, forcing authorities to shut down the entire parade. The balloon was blown off course by a then-record-setting 140 mph winds.
1990: A “missing man” balloon lands at Queensboro Plaza, New York City after a near 100 mph wind
The same thing happened five years later, when “Spider-Man” took off on a mission with no one onboard.
2001: A “Terminator 2” balloon appears to lift off into the air before touching down safely
In 2007, Ryan Seacrest attempted to fly his version of the “Romeo and Juliet” balloon to a nearby skating rink on top of the “American Idol” building. The load blew off course, but kept flying. At the time, the balloon was over 40 feet in diameter.
1994: A giant mechanical snake enters the air at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
This was one of the first reported crashes and almost didn’t happen. It had been in the air for a few minutes before it took off when a powerful gust sent it spinning over the crowd.
2005: A “Blair Witch” balloon appears to lift off to fly a “friend” to a local performance
Upon landing at Midtown Manhattan, it was discovered that the ill-fated balloon was a fake.
2013: A balloon based on “American Hustle” snagged one of the hundreds of thousands of birds along the parade route
One of the most famous balloon sightings of the last few years, this crash was considered the work of “Bad Apple” and his “mini-mutineer” balloon — an act that cost the creators millions of dollars and forever affected the careers of those who intended to participate in future parades.
2017: Two fireworks-themed balloons get caught in the power lines
This would be the first crash on a parade day, and it’s the only one to be fatal. It was followed by a massive cleanup effort, which included 11 shelters that were set up for the balloon-fleeing community.
1984: The Clown character crashes into the bay at Coney Island, killing two people
The clown was flying from south to north in the day’s breeze, and its level wasn’t high enough to reach the sweet spot for landing. The crash occurred shortly after the parade in the midst of a storm, and one of the pilots eventually bailed out of the balloon, which had landed near a church. The city gave the family $50,000 for the crash.
2015: Two gondolas of a flying star trip off course during the parade
The manager of the float said they had started at about the 43rd floor, but lost the map above the Coney Island promenade. The New York Post quoted the manager as saying “it was just an embarrassment.”
We wanted to hear from anyone with a good one, so we asked the Huffington Post to share their own stories of balloon blunders. Here are some of their fun memories:
Read the full story at The New York Times.
Photo of the day: Holland Tunnel spill
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