America’s iconic Thanksgiving Day Parade typically consists of thousands of participants in colorful costumes, giant balloons, and elaborate floats, bringing the country’s most die-hard Americana fans, and those who need the best vantage points, into the nation’s airspace. But this year may be especially memorable. Four balloon accidents have already occurred in less than a month.
Gulfstream Four, a balloon owned by the popular theme park Sesame Street, made an emergency landing on April 6, 2018 at the 2015 Airbus Wing Dolly balloon. The 7,000-pound balloon collided with a power line while it was being loaded on a trailer with aerial views of Tokyo Bay and Shanghai during its weeklong journey across the world. The pilot was able to correct the aircraft’s flight path to land safely. No serious injuries were reported to the balloon crew.
World’s largest helium balloon Goliath was found tangled in power lines after its part fell off the hook during the famed parade on April 3. It was one of the first incidents this season for the 6-foot-high inflatable. The balloon’s float later hit the same power lines and was slightly damaged. At a press conference following the incident, the pilot of the ship that took the balloon down, Mark Ruppert, expressed remorse. “It was a way to honor our country,” he said. “To honor our veterans and all the communities that are so dear to us.”
Video footage shows the Air Force balloon staging area’s Air Force Hood Bec., New Mexico, March 19, 2019 … and gravity decided to intervene. Screen grab from YouTube / Spirit Aerial
A U.S. Air Force balloon and inflatable passed through the wind machine in New Mexico on March 19, causing it to stall and crash into a power pole and tire fall pole, then a guardrail. The balloon’s balloon section and gondola was torn in half. After grounding the balloon from flying again, the Air Force initially believed the balloon had been deliberately tampered with, and eventually raised a $300,000 reward for information leading to the perpetrator. The Air Force later determined it was not tampered with, and the balloon was back in the air on March 24.
A train carrying balloons from Anchorage to the Fourth Annual Alberta Buskers Festival at Victoria Park was hit by a train near Bridport, British Columbia, on March 29. The driver of the train told organizers of the Canadian event they were unable to open the doors of their train, which caused the balloon’s visor to blow open, letting in a ball of hot air and causing the strap to snap. The train driver was uninjured.
North Shore Fire & Rescue at the scene of a remote incident involving a balloon near Welland, Ontario, on March 30. Justin Carter, an Aurora-area personal trainer, is presumed to have suffered an heart attack on March 30. The balloon had stopped sending signals to radio beacon when fire fighters arrived. Injuries to the balloon’s foredeck and nose were considered minor.
A balloon carrying a tugboat caught fire Friday at the Long Beach Fire Department’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, and a tugboat at the scene were able to dislodge the balloon’s helium. No life were reported, but two firefighters suffered minor burns from the flame-thrower. “It looked like a typical fuel fire — it appeared to be flames going up,” Long Beach Fire Chief Dan Stefano said. “That’s what happened in the former WWII ship yard; flames shooting up like one gigantic flame. It just blew out of control.”