A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through
an atmosphere by creating drag (or in the case of ram-air parachutes,
aerodynamic lift). Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong
fabric, originally silk, now most commonly nylon. They are typically
dome-shaped, but vary, with rectangles, inverted domes, and others
found. A variety of loads are attached to parachutes, including
people, food, equipment, space capsules, and bombs.
A drogue chute is used to aid horizontal deceleration of a vehicle
such as fixed-wing aircraft and drag racer); provide stability, as to
certain types of light aircraft in distress, tandem free-fall;
and as a pilot triggering deployment a larger parachute.
1.2 18th and 19th centuries
1.3 Eve of World War I
1.4 Post-World War I
2.3 Annular and pull down apex
2.4 Rogallo wing
2.5 Ribbon and Ring
2.6.2 General characteristics
7 See also
10 External links
The oldest known depiction of a parachute, by an anonymous author
The earliest primitive form of the parachute was made some 4,000 years
ago when the Chinese noticed that air resistance would slow a person's
fall from a height. The
Western Han Dynasty
Western Han Dynasty writer
Sima Qian in his
book Historical Records recounts the story of Shun, a legendary
Chinese emperor who ran away from his murderous father by climbing
onto the top of a high granary. As there was nowhere to go, Shun
grabbed two bamboo hats and leaped off and glided downward to
The earliest evidence for the modern parachute dates back to the
Renaissance period. The oldest parachute design appears in an
anonymous manuscript from 1470s
Italy (British Museum Add.
MSS 34,113, fol. 200v), showing a free-hanging man clutching a
crossbar frame attached to a conical canopy. As a safety measure,
four straps ran from the ends of the rods to a waist belt, marked
improvement over another folio (189v), which depicts a man trying to
break the force of his fall by the means of two long cloth streamers
fastened to two bars which he grips with his hands. Although the
surface area of the first design appears to be too small to be
effective and the wooden frame is superfluous and potentially harmful,
the basic concept of a working parachute is apparent.
Shortly after, a more sophisticated parachute was sketched by the
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci in his
Codex Atlanticus (fol. 381v) dated
to ca. 1485. Here, the scale of the parachute is in a more
favorable proportion to the weight of the jumper. Leonardo's canopy
was held open by a square wooden frame, which alters the shape of the
parachute from conical to pyramidal. It is not known whether the
Italian inventor was influenced by the earlier design, but he may have
learned about the idea through the intensive oral communication among
artist-engineers of the time. The feasibility of Leonardo's
pyramidal design was successfully tested in 2000 by Briton Adrian
Nicholas and again in 2008 by the Swiss skydiver Olivier
Vietti-Teppa. According to the historian of technology Lynn White,
these conical and pyramidal designs, much more elaborate than early
artistic jumps with rigid parasols in Asia, mark the origin of "the
parachute as we know it."
Fausto Veranzio's parachute design, titled Homo Volans ("Flying Man"),
from his Machinae Novae ("New Machines", published in 1615 or 1616)
The Venetian polymath and inventor
Fausto Veranzio (1551–1617)
examined da Vinci's parachute sketch and kept the square frame but
replaced the canopy with a bulging sail-like piece of cloth that he
came to realize decelerates a fall more effectively. A now-famous
depiction of a parachute that he dubbed Homo Volans (Flying Man),
showing a man parachuting from a tower, presumably St Mark's Campanile
in Venice, appeared in his book on mechanics, Machinae Novae ("New
Machines", published in 1615 or 1616), alongside a number of other
devices and technical concepts.
It was once widely believed that in 1617, Veranzio, then aged 65 and
seriously ill, implemented his design and tested the parachute by
jumping from St Mark's Campanile, from a bridge nearby, or
from St Martin's Cathedral in Bratislava. In various
publications it was errantly claimed the event was documented some
thirty years later by John Wilkins, founder and secretary of the Royal
Society in London, in his book
Mathematical Magick or, the Wonders
that may be Performed by Mechanical Geometry, published in
1648. However, Wilkins wrote about flying, not parachutes, and
does not mention Veranzio, a parachute jump, or any event in 1617.
Doubts about this test, which include a lack of written evidence,
suggest it never occurred, and was instead a misreading of historical
18th and 19th centuries
This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help
improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.
Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2009)
(Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Louis-Sébastien Lenormand jumps from the tower of the Montpellier
observatory, 1783. Illustration from the late 19th century.
The first use of a frameless parachute, by
André Garnerin in 1797
Schematic depiction of Garnerin's parachute, from an early
The modern parachute was invented in the late 18th century by
Louis-Sébastien Lenormand in France, who made the first recorded
public jump in 1783. Lenormand also sketched his device beforehand.
Two years later, in 1785, Lenormand coined the word "parachute" by
hybridizing an Italian prefix para, an imperative form of parare = to
avert, defend, resist, guard, shield or shroud, from paro = to parry,
and chute, the French word for fall, to describe the aeronautical
device's real function.
Also in 1785,
Jean-Pierre Blanchard demonstrated it as a means of
safely disembarking from a hot-air balloon. While Blanchard's first
parachute demonstrations were conducted with a dog as the passenger,
he later claimed to have had the opportunity to try it himself in 1793
when his hot air balloon ruptured and he used a parachute to descend
(this event was not witnessed by others).
Subsequent development of the parachute focused on it becoming more
compact. While the early parachutes were made of linen stretched over
a wooden frame, in the late 1790s, Blanchard began making parachutes
from folded silk, taking advantage of silk's strength and light
weight. In 1797,
André Garnerin made the first descent of a
"frameless" parachute covered in silk. In 1804 Jérôme Lalande
introduced a vent in the canopy to eliminate violent oscillations.
Eve of World War I
Picture published in a Dutch magazine De Prins der Geïllustreerde
Bladen (February 18, 1911).
Gleb Kotelnikov and his invention, the knapsack parachute
Charles Broadwick demonstrated two key advances in the
parachute he used to jump from hot air balloons at fairs: he folded
his parachute into a pack he wore on his back and the parachute was
pulled from the pack by a static line attached to the balloon. When
Broadwick jumped from the balloon, the static line became taut, pulled
the parachute from the pack, and then snapped.
In 1911 a successful test took place with a dummy at the Eiffel tower
in Paris. The puppet's weight was 75 kg; the parachute's weight
was 21 kg. The cables between puppet and the parachute were
9 m long. On February 4, 1912,
Franz Reichelt jumped to his
death from the tower during initial testing of his wearable parachute.
Also in 1911,
Grant Morton made the first parachute jump from an
Wright Model B
Wright Model B piloted by Phil Parmalee, at
California. Morton's device was of the "throw-out" type where he held
the parachute in his arms as he left the aircraft. In the same year,
Gleb Kotelnikov invented the first knapsack parachute,
Hermann Lattemann and his wife Käthe Paulus had been jumping
with bagged parachutes in the last decade of the 19th century.
Albert Berry collapses his parachute on Kinloch Field at Jefferson
Barracks, Missouri, after his jump on March 1, 1912.
In 1912, on a road near Tsarskoye Selo, years before it became part of
St. Petersburg, Kotelnikov successfully demonstrated the braking
effects of a parachute by accelerating a
Russo-Balt automobile to its
top speed and then opening a parachute attached to the back seat, thus
also inventing the drogue parachute.
On March 1, 1912,
U.S. Army Captain Albert Berry made the first
(attached-type) parachute jump in the
United States from a fixed-wing
aircraft, a Benoist pusher, while flying above Jefferson Barracks, St.
Louis, Missouri. The jump utilized a knapsack style parachute stored
or housed in a casing on the jumper's body.
A picture of Stefan Banic's design
Štefan Banič , an immigrant in the United States, from Slovakia
patented an umbrella-like design in 1914 and sold (or donated) the
patent to the
United States military which later on modified his
design, resulting in the first military parachute. Stefan
Banic had been the first person to patent the parachute. Stefan
Banic's design was the first to properly function in the 20th
On June 21, 1913,
Georgia Broadwick became the first woman to
parachute-jump from a moving aircraft, doing so over Los Angeles,
California. In 1914, while doing demonstrations for the U.S. Army,
Broadwick deployed her chute manually, thus becoming the first person
to jump free-fall.
Kite balloon observers preparing to descend by parachute.
The first military use of the parachute was by artillery observers on
tethered observation balloons in World War I. These were tempting
targets for enemy fighter aircraft, though difficult to destroy, due
to their heavy anti-aircraft defenses. Because it was difficult to
escape from them, and dangerous when on fire due to their hydrogen
inflation, observers would abandon them and descend by parachute as
soon as enemy aircraft were seen. The ground crew would then attempt
to retrieve and deflate the balloon as quickly as possible. The main
part of the parachute was in a bag suspended from the balloon with the
pilot wearing only a simple waist harness attached to the main
parachute. When the balloon crew jumped the main part of the parachute
was pulled from the bag by the crew's waist harness, first the shroud
lines, followed by the main canopy. This type of parachute was first
adopted on a large scale for their observation balloon crews by the
Germans, and then later by the British and French. While this type of
unit worked well from balloons, it had mixed results when used on
fixed-wing aircraft by the Germans, where the bag was stored in a
compartment directly behind the pilot. In many instances where it did
not work the shroud lines became entangled with the spinning aircraft.
Although a number of famous German fighter pilots were saved by this
type of parachute, including Hermann Göring, no parachutes were
issued to Allied "heavier-than-air" aircrew, since it was thought at
the time that if a pilot had a parachute he would jump from the plane
when hit rather than trying to save the aircraft.
Airplane cockpits at that time also were not large enough to
accommodate a pilot and a parachute, since a seat that would fit a
pilot wearing a parachute would be too large for a pilot not wearing
one. This is why the German type was stowed in the fuselage, rather
than being of the "backpack" type.
Weight was – at the very
beginning – also a consideration since planes had limited load
capacity. Carrying a parachute impeded performance and reduced the
useful offensive and fuel load.
In the U.K., Everard Calthrop, a railway engineer and breeder of Arab
horses, invented and marketed through his Aerial Patents Company a
"British Parachute" and the "Guardian Angel" parachute. Thomas
Orde-Lees, known as the "Mad Major," demonstrated that parachutes
could be used successfully from a low height (he jumped from Tower
Bridge in London) which led to parachutes being used by the
balloonists of the Royal Flying Corps, though they were not available
Solomon Lee Van Meter, Jr. of Lexington Kentucky, submitted
for and in July 1916 received a patent for a backpack style parachute
– the Aviatory Life Buoy. His self-contained device featured a
revolutionary quick-release mechanism – the ripcord – that allowed
a falling aviator to expand the canopy only when safely away from the
Otto Heinecke, a German airship ground crewman, designed a parachute
which the German air service introduced in 1918, becoming the world's
first air service to introduce a standard parachute. Although many
pilots were saved by these, their efficacy was relatively poor. Out of
the first 70 German airmen to bail out, around a third died,
including aces such as Oberleutnant
Erich Löwenhardt (who fell from
3,600 metres (11,800 ft) after being accidentally rammed by
another German aircraft) and Fritz Rumey who tested it in 1918, only
to have it fail at a little over 900 m (3,000 ft). These
fatalities were mostly due to the chute or ripcord becoming entangled
in the airframe of their spinning aircraft or because of harness
failure, a problem fixed in later versions.
The French, British, American and Italian air services later based
their first parachute designs on the Heinecke parachute to varying
In the UK
Sir Frank Mears
Sir Frank Mears who was serving as a Major in the Royal
Flying Corps in
Balloon section) registered a patent in
July 1918 for a parachute with a quick release buckle, known as the
"Mears parachute" which was in common use from then onwards.
Post-World War I
The experience with parachutes during the war highlighted the need to
develop a design that could be reliably used to exit a disabled
airplane. For instance, tethered parachutes did not work well when the
aircraft was spinning. After the war, Major Edward L. Hoffman of the
United States Army
United States Army led an effort to develop an improved parachute by
bringing together the best elements of multiple parachute designs.
Participants in the effort included Leslie Irvin and James Floyd
Smith. The team eventually created the
Parachute Type-A. This
incorporated three key elements.
storing the parachute in a soft pack worn on the back, as demonstrated
Charles Broadwick in 1906;
a ripcord for manually deploying the parachute at a safe distance from
the airplane, from a design by Albert Leo Stevens; and
a pilot chute that draws the main canopy from the pack.
In 1919, Irvin successfully tested the parachute by jumping from an
airplane. The Type-A parachute was put into production and over time
saved a number of lives. The effort was recognized by the awarding
Robert J. Collier Trophy
Robert J. Collier Trophy to Major Edward L. Hoffman in
Irvin became the first person to make a premeditated free-fall
parachute jump from an airplane. An early brochure of the Irvin Air
Chute Company credits William O'Connor as having become, on August 24,
McCook Field near Dayton, Ohio, the first person to be saved
by an Irvin parachute. Another life-saving jump was made at McCook
Field by test pilot Lt. Harold H. Harris on October 20, 1922. Shortly
after Harris' jump, two Dayton newspaper reporters suggested the
creation of the
Caterpillar Club for successful parachute jumps from
Gleb Kotelnikov of Russia became the first parachutist to
apply the soft packing of a parachute instead of a hard casing.
Italy in 1927, several countries experimented with
using parachutes to drop soldiers behind enemy lines. The regular
Soviet Airborne Troops
Soviet Airborne Troops were established as early as 1931 after a
number of experimental military mass jumps starting from August 2,
1930. Earlier the same year, the first Soviet mass jumps led to
the development of the parachuting sport in the Soviet Union. By
the time of World War II, large airborne forces were trained and used
in surprise attacks, as in the battles for Fort Eben-Emael and The
Hague, the first large-scale, opposed landings of paratroopers in
military history, by the Germans. This was followed later in the
war by airborne assaults on a larger scale, such as the Battle of
Crete and Operation Market Garden, the latter being the largest
airborne military operation ever. Aircraft crew were routinely
equipped with parachutes for emergencies as well.
In 1937, drag chutes were used in aviation for the first time, by
Soviet airplanes in the
Arctic that were providing support for the
polar expeditions of the era, such as the first manned drifting ice
station North Pole-1. The drag chute allowed airplanes to land safely
on smaller ice-floes.
Today's modern parachutes are classified into two categories –
ascending and descending canopies. All ascending canopies refer to
paragliders, built specifically to ascend and stay aloft as long as
possible. Other parachutes, including ram-air non-elliptical, are
classified as descending canopies by manufacturers.
Some modern parachutes are classified as semi-rigid wings, which are
maneuverable and can make a controlled descent to collapse on impact
with the ground.
An American paratrooper using an MC1-1C series "round" parachute.
Round parachutes are purely a drag device (that is, unlike the ram-air
types, they provide no lift) and are used in military, emergency and
cargo applications. Most have large dome-shaped canopies made from a
single layer of triangular cloth gores. Some skydivers call them
"jellyfish 'chutes" because of the resemblance to the marine
organisms. Modern sports parachutists rarely use this type. The first
round parachutes were simple, flat circulars. These early parachutes
suffered from instability caused by oscillations. A hole in the apex
helped to vent some air and reduce the oscillations. Many military
applications adopted conical, i.e., cone-shaped, or parabolic (a flat
circular canopy with an extended skirt) shapes, such as the United
States Army T-10 static-line parachute. A round parachute with no
holes in it is more prone to oscillate and is not considered to be
steerable. Some parachutes have inverted dome-shaped canopies. These
are primarily used for dropping non-human payloads due to their faster
rate of descent.
Forward speed (5–13 km/h) and steering can be achieved by cuts
in various sections (gores) across the back, or by cutting four lines
in the back thereby modifying the canopy shape to allow air to escape
from the back of the canopy, providing limited forward speed. Other
modifications sometimes used are cuts in various sections (gores) to
cause some of the skirt to bow out. Turning is accomplished by forming
the edges of the modifications, giving the parachute more speed from
one side of the modification than the other. This gives the jumpers
the ability to steer the parachute (such as the
United States Army
United States Army MC
series parachutes), enabling them to avoid obstacles and to turn into
the wind to minimize horizontal speed at landing.
The unique design characteristics of cruciform parachutes decrease
oscillation (its user swinging back and forth) and violent turns
during descent. This technology will be used by the
United States Army
as it replaces its older T-10 parachutes with T-11 parachutes under a
program called Advanced Tactical
Parachute System (ATPS). The ATPS
canopy is a highly modified version of a cross/ cruciform platform and
is square in appearance. The ATPS system will reduce the rate of
descent by 30 percent from 21 feet per second (6.4 m/s) to 15.75
feet per second (4.80 m/s). The T-11 is designed to have an
average rate of descent 14% slower than the T-10D, thus resulting in
lower landing injury rates for jumpers. The decline in the rate of
descent will reduce the impact energy by almost 25% to lessen the
potential for injury.
Annular and pull down apex
RAF Typhoon using a drogue parachute for braking after landing.
A variation on the round parachute is the pull-down apex parachute.
Invented by a Frenchman named Pierre-Marcel Lemoigne, it
is called a Para-Commander canopy in some circles, after the first
model of the type. It is a round parachute, but with suspension lines
to the canopy apex that apply load there and pull the apex closer to
the load, distorting the round shape into a somewhat flattened or
Some designs have the fabric removed from the apex to open a hole
through which air can exit, giving the canopy an annular geometry.
They also have decreased horizontal drag due to their flatter shape
and, when combined with rear-facing vents, can have considerable
Sport parachuting has experimented with the Rogallo wing, among other
shapes and forms. These were usually an attempt to increase the
forward speed and reduce the landing speed offered by the other
options at the time. The ram-air parachute's development and the
subsequent introduction of the sail slider to slow deployment reduced
the level of experimentation in the sport parachuting community. The
parachutes are also hard to build.
Ribbon and Ring
Mars Science Laboratory
Mars Science Laboratory descending under a ring parachute.
Ribbon and ring parachutes have similarities to annular designs. They
are frequently designed to deploy at supersonic speeds. A conventional
parachute would instantly burst upon opening and be shredded at such
speeds. Ribbon parachutes have a ring-shaped canopy, often with a
large hole in the centre to release the pressure. Sometimes the ring
is broken into ribbons connected by ropes to leak air even more. These
large leaks lower the stress on the parachute so it does not burst or
shred when it opens. Ribbon parachutes made of
Kevlar are used on
nuclear bombs, such as the B61 and B83.
All ram-air parafoils have two layers of fabric—top and
bottom—connected by airfoil-shaped fabric ribs to form "cells". The
cells fill with high-pressure air from vents that face forward on the
leading edge of the airfoil. The fabric is shaped and the parachute
lines trimmed under load such that the ballooning fabric inflates into
an airfoil shape. This airfoil is sometimes maintained by use of
fabric one-way valves called airlocks. The first ram-air test jump was
United States Navy test jumper Joe Crotwell.[citation
United States Navy
Parachute Team "Leap Frogs" jumper landing a
"square" ram-air parachute.
Personal ram-air parachutes are loosely divided into two varieties –
rectangular or tapered – commonly called "squares" or "ellipticals",
respectively. Medium-performance canopies (reserve-, BASE-, canopy
formation-, and accuracy-type) are usually rectangular.
High-performance, ram-air parachutes have a slightly tapered shape to
their leading and/or trailing edges when viewed in plan form, and are
known as ellipticals. Sometimes all the taper is on the leading edge
(front), and sometimes in the trailing edge (tail).
Ellipticals are usually used only by sport parachutists. They often
have smaller, more numerous fabric cells and are shallower in profile.
Their canopies can be anywhere from slightly elliptical to highly
elliptical, indicating the amount of taper in the canopy design, which
is often an indicator of the responsiveness of the canopy to control
input for a given wing loading, and of the level of experience
required to pilot the canopy safely.
The rectangular parachute designs tend to look like square, inflatable
air mattresses with open front ends. They are generally safer to
operate because they are less prone to dive rapidly with relatively
small control inputs, they are usually flown with lower wing loadings
per square foot of area, and they glide more slowly. They typically
have a lower glide ratio.
Wing loading of parachutes is measured similarly to that of aircraft,
comparing exit weight to area of parachute fabric. Typical wing
loading for students, accuracy competitors, and BASE jumpers is less
than 5 kg per square meter – often 0.3 kilograms per square
meter or less. Most student skydivers fly with wing loading below
5 kg per square meter. Most sport jumpers fly with wing loading
between 5 and 7 kg per square meter, but many interested in
performance landings exceed this wing loading. Professional Canopy
pilots compete with wing loading of 10 to over 15 kilograms per square
meter. While ram-air parachutes with wing loading higher than 20
kilograms per square meter have been landed, this is strictly the
realm of professional test jumpers.
Smaller parachutes tend to fly faster for the same load, and
ellipticals respond faster to control input. Therefore, small,
elliptical designs are often chosen by experienced canopy pilots for
the thrilling flying they provide. Flying a fast elliptical requires
much more skill and experience. Fast ellipticals are also considerably
more dangerous to land. With high-performance elliptical canopies,
nuisance malfunctions can be much more serious than with a square
design, and may quickly escalate into emergencies. Flying highly
loaded, elliptical canopies is a major contributing factor in many
skydiving accidents, although advanced training programs are helping
to reduce this danger.
High-speed, cross-braced parachutes, such as the Velocity, VX, XAOS,
and Sensei, have given birth to a new branch of sport parachuting
called "swooping." A race course is set up in the landing area for
expert pilots to measure the distance they are able to fly past the
1.5-metre (4.9 ft) tall entry gate. Current world records exceed
180 metres (590 ft).
Aspect ratio is another way to measure ram-air parachutes. Aspect
ratios of parachutes are measured the same way as aircraft wings, by
comparing span with chord. Low aspect ratio parachutes, i.e., span 1.8
times the chord, are now limited to precision landing competitions.
Popular precision landing parachutes include Jalbert (now NAA)
Para-Foils and John Eiff's series of Challenger Classics. While low
aspect ratio parachutes tend to be extremely stable, with gentle stall
characteristics, they suffer from steep glide ratios and a small
tolerance, or "sweet spot", for timing the landing flare.
Because of their predictable opening characteristics, parachutes with
a medium aspect ratio around 2.1 are widely used for reserves, BASE,
and canopy formation competition. Most medium aspect ratio parachutes
have seven cells.
High aspect ratio parachutes have the flattest glide and the largest
tolerance for timing the landing flare, but the least predictable
openings. An aspect ratio of 2.7 is about the upper limit for
parachutes. High aspect ratio canopies typically have nine or more
cells. All reserve ram-air parachutes are of the square variety,
because of the greater reliability, and the less-demanding handling
Roadside chai shop made of old parachute in Ladakh, India.
Main parachutes used by skydivers today are designed to open softly.
Overly rapid deployment was an early problem with ram-air designs. The
primary innovation that slows the deployment of a ram-air canopy is
the slider; a small rectangular piece of fabric with a grommet near
each corner. Four collections of lines go through the grommets to the
risers (risers are strips of webbing joining the harness and the
rigging lines of a parachute). During deployment, the slider slides
down from the canopy to just above the risers. The slider is slowed by
air resistance as it descends and reduces the rate at which the lines
can spread. This reduces the speed at which the canopy can open and
At the same time, the overall design of a parachute still has a
significant influence on the deployment speed. Modern sport
parachutes' deployment speeds vary considerably. Most modern
parachutes open comfortably, but individual skydivers may prefer
The deployment process is inherently chaotic. Rapid deployments can
still occur even with well-behaved canopies. On rare occasions,
deployment can even be so rapid that the jumper suffers bruising,
injury, or death. Reducing the amount of fabric decreases the air
resistance. This can be done by making the slider smaller, inserting a
mesh panel, or cutting a hole in the slider.
Animation of 3-ring release system used by a skydiver to cut away the
main parachute. It utilizes a mechanical advantage of 200 to 1.
Reserve parachutes usually have a ripcord deployment system, which was
first designed by Theodore Moscicki, but most modern main parachutes
used by sports parachutists use a form of hand-deployed pilot chute. A
ripcord system pulls a closing pin (sometimes multiple pins), which
releases a spring-loaded pilot chute, and opens the container; the
pilot chute is then propelled into the air stream by its spring, then
uses the force generated by passing air to extract a deployment bag
containing the parachute canopy, to which it is attached via a bridle.
A hand-deployed pilot chute, once thrown into the air stream, pulls a
closing pin on the pilot chute bridle to open the container, then the
same force extracts the deployment bag. There are variations on
hand-deployed pilot chutes, but the system described is the more
common throw-out system.
Only the hand-deployed pilot chute may be collapsed automatically
after deployment—by a kill line reducing the in-flight drag of the
pilot chute on the main canopy. Reserves, on the other hand, do not
retain their pilot chutes after deployment. The reserve deployment bag
and pilot chute are not connected to the canopy in a reserve system.
This is known as a free-bag configuration, and the components are
sometimes not recovered after a reserve deployment.
Occasionally, a pilot chute does not generate enough force either to
pull the pin or to extract the bag. Causes may be that the pilot chute
is caught in the turbulent wake of the jumper (the "burble"), the
closing loop holding the pin is too tight, or the pilot chute is
generating insufficient force. This effect is known as "pilot chute
hesitation," and, if it does not clear, it can lead to a total
malfunction, requiring reserve deployment.
Paratroopers' main parachutes are usually deployed by static lines
that release the parachute, yet retain the deployment bag that
contains the parachute—without relying on a pilot chute for
deployment. In this configuration, the deployment bag is known as a
direct-bag system, in which the deployment is rapid, consistent, and
A parachute is carefully folded, or "packed" to ensure that it will
open reliably. If a parachute is not packed properly it can result in
a malfunction where the main parachute fails to deploy correctly or
fully. In the
United States and many developed countries, emergency
and reserve parachutes are packed by "riggers" who must be trained and
certified according to legal standards. Sport skydivers are always
trained to pack their own primary "main" parachutes.
Exact numbers are difficult to estimate because parachute design,
maintenance, loading, packing technique and operator experience has a
significant impact on malfunction rates. Approximately one in a
thousand sport main parachute openings malfunctions, requiring the use
of the reserve parachute, although some skydivers have many thousands
of jumps and never needed to use their reserve parachute.
Reserve parachutes are packed and deployed somewhat differently. They
are also designed more conservatively, favouring reliability over
responsiveness and are built and tested to more exacting standards,
making them more reliable than main parachutes. Regulated inspection
intervals, coupled with significantly less use contributes to
reliability as wear on some components can adversely affect
reliability. The primary safety advantage of a reserve parachute comes
from the probability of an unlikely main malfunction being multiplied
by the even less likely probability of a reserve malfunction. This
yields an even smaller probability of a double malfunction, although
there is also a small possibility that a malfunctioning main parachute
cannot be released and thus interfere with the reserve parachute. In
the United States, the 2015 average fatality rate is recorded to be 1
in 165,172 jumps.
Injuries and fatalities in sport skydiving are possible even under a
fully functional main parachute, such as may occur if the skydiver
makes an error in judgment while flying the canopy which results in a
high-speed impact either with the ground or with a hazard on the
ground, which might otherwise have been avoided, or results in
collision with another skydiver under canopy.
See also: Malfunction (parachuting)
Apollo 15 spacecraft landed safely despite a parachute line
failure in 1971.
Below are listed the malfunctions specific to round parachutes.
A "Mae West" or "blown periphery" is a type of round parachute
malfunction that contorts the shape of the canopy into the outward
appearance of a large brassiere, named after the generous proportions
of the late actress Mae West. The column of nylon fabric, buffeted by
the wind, rapidly heats from friction and opposite sides of the canopy
can fuse together in a narrow region, removing any chance of it
A "Streamer" is the main chute which becomes entangled in its lines
and fails to deploy, taking the shape of a paper streamer. The
parachutist cuts it away to provide space and clean air for deploying
An "inversion" occurs when one skirt of the canopy blows between the
suspension lines on the opposite side of the parachute and then
catches air. That portion then forms a secondary lobe with the canopy
inverted. The secondary lobe grows until the canopy turns completely
A "barber's pole" describes having a tangle of lines behind the
jumper's head, who cuts away the main and opens his reserve."
The "horseshoe" is an out-of-sequence deployment, when the parachute
lines and bag are released before the bag drogue and bridle. This can
cause the lines to become tangled or a situation where the parachute
drogue is not released from the container.
"Jumper-In-Tow" involves a static line that does not disconnect,
resulting in a jumper being towed behind the aircraft.
A jumper in Venezuela with his parachute on his back
On August 16, 1960, Joseph Kittinger, in the Excelsior III test jump,
set the previous world record for the highest parachute jump. He
jumped from a balloon at an altitude of 102,800 feet (31,333 m)
(which was also a manned balloon altitude record at the time). A small
stabilizer chute deployed successfully, and Kittinger fell for 4
minutes and 36 seconds, also setting a still-standing world record
for the longest parachute free-fall, if falling with a stabilizer
chute is counted as free-fall. At an altitude of 17,500 feet
(5,300 m), Kittinger opened his main chute and landed safely in
New Mexico desert. The whole descent took 13 minutes and 45
seconds. During the descent, Kittinger experienced temperatures as
low as −94 °F (−70 °C). In the free-fall stage, he
reached a top speed of 614 mph (988 km/h or 274 m/s),
or Mach 0.8.
Felix Baumgartner broke Joseph Kittinger's record on October 14, 2012,
with a jump from an altitude of 127,852 feet (38,969.3 m) and reaching
speeds up to 833.9 mph (1,342.0 km/h or 372.8 m/s), or
nearly Mach 1.1. Kittinger was an advisor for Baumgartner's
Alan Eustace made a jump from the stratosphere on October 24, 2014,
from an altitude of 135,889.108 feet (41,419 m). However, because
Eustace's jump involved a drogue parachute while Baumgartner's did
not, their vertical speed and free fall distance records remain in
different record categories.
According to Guinness World Records, Yevgeni Nikolayevich Andreyev
(Soviet Union) held the official FAI record for the longest free-fall
parachute jump (without drogue chute) after falling for 24,500 m
(80,380 ft) from an altitude of 25,457 m (83,523 ft)
near the city of
Saratov, Russia on November 1, 1962, until broken by
Felix Baumgartner in 2012.
Parachute landing fall
^ Ballistic recovery systems A U.S. Patent 4,607,814 A, Boris Popov,
August 26, 1986
^ Klesius, Michael (January 2011). "How Things Work: Whole-Airplane
Parachute". Air & Space. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
^ Deng, Yinke (2011). Ancient Chinese Inventions. Cambridge University
Press (published March 3, 2011). p. 132-133.
^ Beck, Charlotte; Fagan, Brian (1999). The Oxford Companion to
Archaeology. Oxford University Press (published April 30, 1999).
p. 144. ISBN 978-0195076189.
^ a b White 1968, p. 466
^ a b White 1968, pp. 462f.
^ a b c d White 1968, p. 465
^ White 1968, pp. 465f.
^ BBC: Da Vinci's
Parachute Flies (2000); FoxNews: Swiss Man Safely
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
^ Francis Trevelyan Miller, The world in the air: the story of flying
in pictures, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1930, pages 101-106
^ He's in the paratroops now, Alfred Day Rathbone, R.M. McBride &
Company, 1943, University of California.
^ a b Bogdanski, René. The Croation Language by Example. As an
example for Diachronic analysis: One of his most important inventions,
is, without doubt, the parachute, which he experimented and tested on
himself, by jumping off a bridge in Venice. As documented by the
John Wilkins (1614–1672) 30 years later, in his book
Mathematical Magic published in
London in 1648.
Parachute on askdefine.com
^ Parachute[permanent dead link] on 321chutelibre (in French)
Parachuting Archived November 17, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. (on
Aero.com): "Like his countryman's concept, Veranzio's seems to have
remained an idea only. Though his idea was greatly publicized, no
evidence has been found that there ever was a homo volans of his or
any other time who tested and proved Veranzio's plan."
^ a b Soden, Garrett (2005). Defying Gravity: Land Divers, Roller
Coasters, Gravity Bums, and the Human Obsession with Falling. W. W.
Norton & Company. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0-393-32656-7.
Retrieved 24 February 2009.
^ a b De Prins der Geillustreerde Bladen, February 18, 1911, p. 88-89.
^ a b Ritter, Lisa (April–May 2010). "Pack Man: Charles Broadwick
Invented a New Way of Falling". Air & Space. 25hioj;johhhl;:
68–72. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
^ a b c d e
Parachuting at the site Divo: The Russian Book of records
and achievements (in Russian)
^ U.S. Patent 1,108,484
^ Štefan Banič, Konštruktér, vynálezca, Matematický ústav,
Slovenská akadémia vied, obituary. Retrieved October 21, 2010.
^ "Banic: The inventor of the parachute", osobnosti.sk (Slovak)
^ "Inventions That Shook The World: 1910s". dcmp.org. Retrieved
^ "Inventions That Shook The World: 1910s". dcmp.org. Retrieved
^ Ritter, Lisa (April–May 2010). "Pack Man". Air & Space. 25
^ May 1931, Popular Mechanics photo of observation balloon gondola
with external bag parachutes used by British Royal Navy
^ Lee, Arthur Gould (1968). No parachute. London: Jarrolds.
ISBN 0-09-086590-1. (?); Harper & Row 1970,
^ , page 68, "The Journal of the New Zealand Antarctic Society" Vol
23, No. 4, 2005
^ "ROYAL AIR FORCE HISTORICAL SOCIETY JOURNAL, #37", 2006, Page 28
^ Aviatory Life Buoy, U.S. Patent 1,192,479, July 25, 1916, awarded to
inventor Solomon Lee Van Meter, Jr.
^ Kentucky Aviation Pioneers – Solomon Lee Van Meter, Jr.
(1888–1937), KET Aviation Museum Of Kentucky
^ a b Guttman, Jon (May 2012). "Heinecke Parachute: A Leap of Faith
for WWI German Airmen". Military History Magazine. p. 23.
^ Mahncke, J O E O (December 2000). "Early Parachutes, An evaluation
of the use of parachutes, with special emphasis on the Royal Flying
Corps and the German Lufstreitkräfte, until 1918". South African
Military History Journal. 11 (6).
^ Archives, The National. "The Discovery Service".
^ Collier 1920–1929 Recipients,
National Aeronautic Association web
^ Cooper, Ralph S. "The Irvin Parachute, 1924". Earthlink.net.
Retrieved October 22, 2013.
^ Russian parachute of Kotelnikov (in Russian)
^ Dr L. de Jong, 'Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede
Wereldoorlog', (Dutch language) part 3, RIOD, Amsterdam, 1969
^ Dr L. de Jong, 'Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede
Wereldoorlog', (Dutch language) part 10a-II, RIOD, Amsterdam, 1980
^ Pierre Marcel Lemoigne, U.S. Patent 3,228,636 (filed: November 7,
1963; issued: January 11, 1966).
^ Palau, Jean-Michel (February 20, 2008). "Historique du Parachutisme
Ascensionnel Nautique" (in French). Le Parachutisme Ascensionnel
Nautique. Retrieved October 22, 2013. Includes photo of
^ See also: Theodor W. Knacke, "Technical-historical development of
parachutes and their applications since
World War I
World War I (Technical paper
A87-13776 03-03)," 9th Aerodynamic Decelerator and
Conference (Albuquerque, New Mexico; October 7–9, 1986) (New York,
N.Y.: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1986), pages
^ Mitcheltree, R; Witkowski, A. "High Altitude Test Program for a Mars
Subsonic Parachute" (PDF). American Institute of Aeronautics and
Astronautics [permanent dead link]
^ "Skydiving Safety".
Parachute Association. Retrieved
May 17, 2017.
^ a b c d Scott Royce E. "Bo." Jump School at Fort Benning (originally
published in a column called DUSTOFF in the July - August 1988 Issue
of the Screaming Eagle Magazine) Archived November 30, 2010, at the
^ Jeffrey S. Hampton (December 15, 2003). "'Hero of Aviation' speaks
about record-setting free fall". The Virginian-Pilot.
^ Tim Friend (August 18, 1998). "Out of thin air His free fall from 20
miles (32 km) put NASA on firm footing". USA Today.
^ "Data of the stratospheric balloon launched on 8/16/1960 For
EXCELSIOR III". Stratocat.com.ar. September 25, 2013. Retrieved
October 22, 2013.
^ "Faster than the speed of sound: the man who falls to earth".
January 25, 2010.
White, Lynn (1968). "The Invention of the Parachute". Technology and
Culture. 9 (3): 462–467. doi:10.2307/3101655.
Look up parachute in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Parachute
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Parachutes.
CSPA The Canadian Sport
Parachuting Association—The governing body
for sport skydiving in Canada
First jump with parachute from moving plane - Scientific American,
June 7, 1913
Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier
The 2nd FAI World Championships in Canopy Piloting - 2008 at Pretoria
Skydiving Club South Africa
Parachute Association—The governing body for
sport skydiving in the U.S.
Parachute History Collection at Linda Hall Library
"How Armies Hit The Silk" June 1945, Popular Science James L. H. Peck
- detailed article on parachutes
NuméroLa Revue aérienne / directeur Emile Mousset First female