Olive Oyl Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon mishap
Photo by Richard Roth Jr.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many are eagerly anticipating what kinds of diverse floats and balloons the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature. These larger-than-life balloons of our favorite characters have been a Thanksgiving tradition for more than 95 years, and while for most of those years the parade has gone off without a hitch, there have been a handful of disastrous Thankgiving Day Parade balloon mishaps in the past. It was a fun project to research vintage photographs and learn about various safety measures that resulted from the accidents. From plane crashes to deflations, read about these crazy mishaps (and hope that none happen this year).

10. A Plane Crashes Into a Tom-Cat Balloon, 1932

Tom Cat balloon, victim of an unfortunate Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon mishap in 1932
The Tom Cat Balloon from the 1932 Thanksgiving parade. Image via Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

After the Thanksgiving Parade ended, an exhilarated 22-year old aviation student crashed her small plane into a 60-foot Tom-Cat balloon in Jamaica, Queens as part of a spontaneous stunt. The student, Annette Gipson from Brooklyn, was flying the plane with her teacher at 5,000 feet when she noticed the balloon in her path and decided to fly right into it. According to the book Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, upon seeing the balloon, Gipson was reported to have said, “I think I’ll have a piece of its neck.”

After making contact, the balloon wound itself around the left wing and the plane spiraled toward the ground, causing Gipson to turn off the ignition to avoid catching flames. Below her, hundreds of people looked up in horror as they watched the out-of-control plane fall. At one point Gipson almost fell out of the plane when the cabin door flew open, but her foot got caught and she was able to heave herself back in.

Fortunately, her instructor switched seats with Gipson in time to wrestle the plane into a landing at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. An investigation by the Aeronautics Branch of the Department of Commerce found that Gipson and her instructor violated federal rules forbidding stunting over densely populated areas. Despite this mishap, Gipson eventually became an accomplished “aviatrix” who made big headlines in the newspapers.