Parachute: History and what is a parachute
A parachute is an object that slows either vertical or horizontal motion by creating either atmospheric drag or aerodynamic lift. The construction materials of a parachute must be light and strong, and can be manufactured into a variety of shapes. The load can be anything that needs to be slowed.
Louis-Sébastien Lenormand (A French chemist, physicist and inventor) created the word parachute in 1785, two years after making the first modern, recorded parachute jump. He borrowed from the Latin's preposition "para" (against) and the French word "chute" (fall) to create a new word meaning "to avert a fall".
French-American parachutist Raymond Young wrote an article for the April 1954 issue of Flying Magazine. In this article Raymond Young used for the first time the word skydiving to describe his feeling during a free-fall.
When was the first parachute invented?
The parachute was invented 4,000 years ago, when Chinese observers noticed that air resistance slowed free-falls. Legend states that a safe jump was made from a granary using two bamboo hats.
In the 800s, Abbas Ibn "Armen" Firnas jumped off a tower in Cordova (Iberian peninsula) using a large cloak like a wing. Base jumping (parachuting from cliffs and outcroppings) began in China in the 1,100s, using rigid umbrellas, as regular stunts to entairtain the monarchy.
The oldest modern parachute was designed in the 1470s in Renaissance Italy to help people escape from burning buildings.
Just a decade later, Leonardo da Vinci created an improved pyramidal design, which was successfully tested in 2000 and multiple times later on. Fausto Veranzio made design improvements in the early 17th century that improved deceleration.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, parachutes became more compact. The knapsack/backpack parachute was invented in 1890. Next, the linen-covered wooden frame was switched to a frameless silk canopy, which was stronger and lighter.
The first drop with a limp parachute took place in 1897. A vent was then added to the canopy to add stability, and the modern parachute was born.
How has parachute evolved?
Louis-Sébastien Lenormand parachuted from a building in 1783; it was the first, modern, recorded parachute's jump.
In 1785, a dog made the transition to aerial jumps when it parachuted from a hot-air balloon. In 1793, Jean-Pierre Blanchard (A French ballon flight's pioneer) claimed to be the first human to jump from a hot-air balloon when it's hot air balloon ruptured.
André-Jacques Garnerin jumped from a hydrogen balloon in 1797; which he did for fame.
The first jump from an airplane with a parachute was around 1911-1912; controversy continues over who jumped first and when.
Georgia "Tiny" Broadwick made the first unintentional freefall (static line entanglement) from an airplane in 1914, and Leslie Irvin made the first intentional freefall (ripcord) from an airplane in 1919. In 1920 and 1922, parachutes saved the lives of pilots who jumped from disabled aircraft.
Italy did the first combat jump with parachutes in 1918. In 1927, Italy began experimenting with dropping soldiers behind enemy troops.
It was the Soviet Union which started mass parachuting in 1930, and created the first airborne unit in 1931. During World War II, airborne operations grew larger and larger in scale, peaking with Operation Market Garden in 1944.
What are parachutes made from?
Parachutes are made from different materials, depending on desired descent rates and other considerations. Weight, flexibility, windproofing, weatherproofing, density, and texture influence speed and stability. Early parachutes used canvas for durability, but lighter-weight silk added strength, flexibility, and fire-resistance. When World War II reduced silk supplies, the switch was made to nylon.
Relatively-inexpensive, lightweight, quick-drying, tear-resistant nylon adds strength, windproofing, mildew and chemical resistance, and elasticity. Nylon is also used for harnesses and reinforcing tape. Nylon alternatives include kevlar (heat/flame resistance, long-lasting tensile strength) and terylene (strength, heat resistance). Metal connectors are cadmium-plated steel and ripcords are stainless steel.
The suspension lines (aka parachute cord, paracord, or 550 cord) that connect loads to parachutes are mostly nylon (for elasticity) or polyester. These ropes have braided outer sheaths surrounding multiple fibers of intertwined strands. Paracord is so versatile that it is used in many military, civilian, and even aerospace applications. In fact, one Hubble Space Telescope repair used 550 cord!
How did parachuting become a sport?
After a parachute saved a second life in 1922, there was talk of creating a club for survivors. In 1930 or 1931, Soviet mass jumps led to parachuting as a sport. Record-keeping began in 1932 and the first title was created in 1934. Soviet national competitions began in the mid-1930s, national championships in 1949, and international regulation in 1950. Yugoslavia hosted the first world championships in 1951.
New designs allowed faster speeds (danger) or greater responsiveness (safety). Ascending designs, intended to keep parachutists aloft, led to the creation of paragliding and parasailing as sports. Improvements in maneuverability and responsiveness led to the creation of race courses. Modern parachutes can even deploy at supersonic speeds!
How has sport parachuting evolved?
"Sport Parachute Jumping" consisted mostly of former Army airborne soldiers using surplus military gear until skydiving schools began to open in the 1960s. US Air Force pilot Joseph Kittinger's altitude record helped fuel skydivers' desire for more height and more speed. Freefalling evolved into competitive disciplines, especially for acrobatics and landing accuracy.
In the 1970s, high performance gear led to more training methods and competitive disciplines. Then, in the 1990's, the use of computer designs allowed even better performance and the creation of even more disciplines. But, technology has changed everything in the 21st century. Records have not just been broken, they have been shattered. Speeds are higher and freefalls are faster. There are more disciplines than ever, plus obstacle courses.
Parachuting now involves jumping from anything that flies, hovers, glides, or floats. "Skydiving" refers to free-falling with an unopened parachute, while "sport parachuting" refers to descending with a parachute deployed. Winged suits designed for slow vertical speeds and fast horizontal speeds have changed parachuting from falling slowly to almost flying.
How did skydiving and parasailing become popular?
Early Chinese aerial acrobats influenced 18th-century France, where aerial stunts became entertainment. In the 20th century, significant numbers of post-WWII soldiers continued jumping. In 1959, the first non-military drop zone and school opened up. Then, in the 1970s, specialized equipment added safety, plus tandem jumping started. Parachuting was safer and more available than ever before.
Parasailing, also known as paragliding or parascending, was invented by French engineer Pierre-Marcel Lemoigne in 1962. He established the sport of Parascending. Lemoigne's ascending parachute has the top steering slots closed. He then added stabilizers and exhaust vents allowing the incoming air flow to be redirected so that it provides lift.
Parasailing and parascending immediately became popular as you do not need high elevation or an airplane to practice. A car, or more often nowadays boats, are used to tow the parasailist.
Parachute Researches and References
Parasailing is a very safe activity, as you can see on our video (beside or above depending your device).
Below are a few links we have used as references.
- 1. Wikipedia parachute
- 2. Parachute cord wikipedia
- 3. nylon
- 4. encyclopedia parachuting
- 5. Britannica skydiving
- 6. parachuting wikipedia
- 7. history of sky diving
- 8. history of skydiving
- 9. New Encyclopedia parachute
- 10. Sky dives website
- 11. history of sky diving long island
- 12. drop zone kensas sky diving
- 13. skydiving history
- 14. UK parachuting history
- 15. Jean-Pierre Blanchard Wikipedia
Last, but not Least
If you would like to receive interesting content like this in your email Inbox, subscribe to our newsletter.
In addition to our monthly newsletter, we will send you our weekly e-Bulletin with one fascinating topic, like today's article above. There will be no advertising nor sales pitch.
We also want to thank Youtube and Wikipedia commons for some amazing images and videos on this page!
Thanks for reading, and if you wish, see you next week!
The Research and Media Team at Scotty's.