Parachuting History

Come check out the History of Parachutes!

Charles Lindbergh about to take Flight


No matter what era you were born in, parachuting, also known as skydiving, evokes the same response — awe. Those who lived during the time of World War II, and those who watched the black and white footage of our armed forces parachuting out of an airplane, still feel the pride and respect for our men who had the courage to take death-defying leaps to ensure the world stayed free from tyranny.

Superman might defy gravity, be faster than a speeding bullet, leap tall buildings with a single bound, and stop a locomotive, but our parachuting armed forces were the true flesh and blood supermen heroes.

Throughout the years, parachuting has evolved technically, and militarily, and, incredibly, in its accessibility to the public. With public accessibility, parachuting has become one of the most in-demand extreme adventure sports in the world today. Years ago, who would have thought that almost anyone could experience jumping out of an airplane and the exhilaration of freefall? And, if it is one of the extreme sports of today, what was it like for those that tried parachuting before it was safe?

Parachuting begins in China..

The tale begins in China, before 90 B.C. with the story of Emperor Shun fleeing his homicidal father. Taking shelter in a granary, his father found him and set it ablaze. What's an emperor to do? He luckily, so the story goes, had a bunch of straw conical hats, which he attached together. He then jumped out of one of the tower windows and lived to tell the tale, citing how his hats acted as a parachute, providing him with a safe landing. Later, in 1214, another story from China emerges about an Arab who stole a leg of a golden lacquered table from a mosque and narrowly escaped capture by jumping out of the mosque's minaret. He luckily happened to have two umbrellas, which acted as parachutes. He also landed safely.

The undisputed genius of Leonard da Vinci once again shows itself from the sketches of parachutes he drew in 1514. He never got a chance to build one, but he is still credited with the title of "The Father of Parachuting," because he was the first to consider the principle of "drag" in flight.

Hot air ballooning became all the rage in 18th century, but unfortunately there was a plethora of fatal accidents. Frenchman Joseph Montgolfier created one that actually worked and saved lives. Many others created various parachuting designs. Some failed and some didn't. A lucky Polish hot air balloonist, Jordaki Puparento, is reportedly the first person whose life was saved when his hot air balloon caught fire in 1808.

The Modern Parachute

Modern parachuting came into its own in 1911, when Grant Morton, using a silk parachute, jumped from Wilbur and Orville Wright's Model B airplane in California and safely landed. This brings us to World War I and II with continuing improvements made to the parachute. After the end of WW II, our supermen paratroopers still loved the parachute jump. Since there was no more use for the military parachutes, there were plenty to use for what became the precursor of the extreme sport of parachuting. Competitions were created and skydiving evolved into what it is today – a crazy thing to do for just the right person.

The evolution of parachuting design continues today, with changes made to keep up with advanced understanding of aeronautics and advanced technology. Wherever these advances take us, there will always be a person like the Chinese emperor willing to jump from a height and dare to try what no one else has ever done before.

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