Landing strip: why the parachute was created only in the XX century

Landing strip: why the parachute was created only in the XX century

As people have learned to come down from heaven.

Exactly 235 years ago, on 26 December 1783, was the first documented successful parachute jump. Made it to the French physicist Louis-sébastien Lenormand, in the eyes of the astonished audience stepped into the void with a tower in Montpellier and with the help of his device safely descended to the ground.

His invention called the parachute — from the Greek para — “against”, and French chute — “fall”.

But this was only the beginning of a long journey. “Izvestiya” about the irresistible human desire to come down from heaven to earth.

The dream of the sky

The first written evidence about the development of devices for the slow descent through the air refers to 1485, and was the idea of Leonardo da Vinci. We’ve got a plan and description of the model.

If a man will take plain stretched the dome, each side of which is 12 cubits wide and 12 cubits in height, it can safely be dumped from any height.Leonardo da Vinci

12 cubits is about 5-6 metres — the standard size of the modern parachute. However, to implement the ideas from the greatest thinkers of the Renaissance did not reach his hands.

A hundred years after Leonardo Croatian scientist Faust Vrancic has collected design of stretched on a wooden frame of matter, which he kind of jumped from 85-metre high bell tower in Bratislava. There is a tradition that something like the scientist had done in Venice, where he was known under the name of Faustino, Veranzio, or Veranzio. The model image is in the treatise “the New car”, but it is absolutely exact data about the jumps not preserved to the same frame structure can hardly be fully considered the prototype of a parachute — in concept is closer to modern hang gliders.

Another similar episode belongs to the XVIII century and it occurred in France. Professor Devontae designed a “flying Cape”, but to experience it feared. He then appealed to the judicial authorities to those offered to some sentenced to death the offender to serve the science. The idea seemed funny. Dare to risk the robber and murderer Jacques Dumee: he was wearing a “raincoat” and he really jumped from the tower. As written in the papers, escaped with minor injuries, after which he was pardoned and awarded. It was in 1777.


This legendary period in Aeronautics begins and ends with a meaningful — and, importantly for the historian, documented the stage of its development. The turning point was in 1783, when the Montgolfier brothers took to the sky filled with hot air balloon, and Louis-sébastien Lenormand for the first time tried them designed parachute.

Lenormand was born in the South of France in Montpellier, in a family of watchmakers. Studied chemistry and physics in Paris, studied at the famous Antoine Lavoisier. Upon returning was forced to continue the family business, but science is not dropped, and continued dragging his experiences with a device to slow the free fall, which he called “parachute”. First Lenormand experimented with animals — dumped tied to the dome of cats and dogs. Then, counting the load and increasing the dome, decided to jump himself. Accomplished this milestone on 26 December 1783 in St. Stephen’s day that follows Christmas.

The experimenter when a large crowd of people jumped from the top of a 50-metre city towers, which housed the Observatory Babote, and landed safely in the square.

Parachute Lenormand consists of a rigid cone-shaped dome with descending from the perimeter loops, as is clear from the surviving drawings. Although some engravings he looks more like the umbrella that parachutist holds in his hands, — we can assume that the artists were not present at the jump and speculation some details.

The next page in the history of the parachute associated with the name Jean-Pierre Francois Blanchard, who first thought about the practical application of the invention. Blanchard is known as one of the pioneers of Aeronautics — he was the first on 7 January 1785’t filled with hydrogen balloon (these were called “Charlier” in honor of their inventor Jacques Alexander Cesar Charles) just across the channel. Soon, his friend Jean-Francois pilatre de Rozier tried to do the same flight in the opposite direction, but crashed.

A tragic accident forced Blanchard to think about security, and he decided to adapt the Lenormand invented the parachute for emergency evacuation from the balloon.

For lightness and compactness is a linen cloth he used was silk. At first, Blanchard experimented with his dog, himself to not jump in a hurry, but in 1793 his balloon exploded in the air, and the aeronaut Willy-nilly had to use the parachute (at least, if you believe him — other witnesses of the crash were not). All ended well.

The first person who voluntarily and publicly made the jump with a parachute from the cockpit of the balloon, was Andre-Jacques Garnerin. This desperate Parisian in the second half of 80-ies of the XVIII century was one of the first enthusiasts of Aeronautics, and after the revolution, proposed the use of balloons for military purposes, primarily for reconnaissance. It even appointed technical inspector at army aeronautical parts. In one of the flights he landed badly and ended up in captivity. Three years in the Austrian dungeons garnered dreamed of flying, and when he returned, he continued the experiments on the introduction of the flying balloons in the military. 22 October 1797 at Parc Monceau in Paris Garnerin made the first ever parachute jump from a balloon from a height of about 700 m. He went up in a balloon with his brother, having attached to it a parachute, then climbed across the Board, and his brother cut the rope. By the way, the Park Avenue, on which he landed, to this day bears the name of this brave aeronaut.

In 1803 garnered visited Russia together with the ball. In Saint-Petersburg in the eyes of Emperor Alexander I, the French rolled over the city of General Sergei Lvov, then lifted into the air and Princess Praskovia Gagarin, who became the first Russian vozdukhoplavatelnaya. Garnered with his wife (she, too, was flying and skydiving) is gone, but the passion for the sky in Russia remained. The newspaper “Moscow news” in 1806 reported that the one Alexander made a flight in a balloon and jumped out with a parachute, but more precise data, unfortunately, has not survived.

Since ballooning due to its unpredictability and risk have not received wide development, parachute case in the nineteenth century also progressed slowly. Although the experiments did not stop. So, in the center of the parachute invented to make the hole that helped to avoid unnecessary turbulence. In 1880, the American Ervin Baldwin has developed and made the jump with a frameless parachute, which opened automatically. He was attached to the ball on the outside, the lower part lying in the basket. To the upper lanyard knot was tied an additional rope, second end of which is fastened to the basket or the balloon. When the parachute separated from the balloon, the connecting rope under his weight broke, fabric dome first stretched at full length, and then inflated and unfolded. This principle of automatic disclosure, in principle, survived to the present day. Two years later Herman Lattemann uses a new variant of parachute deployment of an elongated bag. However, it is a new stage in the development of the parachute began when man learned to fly for real — that is, after the invention of the airplane.

Russian trace

The accident was unavoidable turmoil at the dawn of aviation, so the use of parachutes began to think almost immediately. However, space in the cockpit of the first cars was even less than in the gondola of a balloon, and put the parachute was simply nowhere. The French Herve ORS experimenting with a parachute attached to the machine body, and German Wasser designed a parachute attached to the back of the pilot’s seat: in case of danger, the pilot could jerk the rope, revealing the dome, and together with the chair fall on the “umbrella of Wasser”. But all of these options were unreliable and the pilots were not satisfied.

As they say, “there would be no happiness, Yes the misfortune has helped”. Not even a misfortune, a tragedy — 7 Oct 1910 during a demonstration flight in St. Petersburg killed a lion Makarovich Matsievich — the legend of the Russian Aeronautics, one of the members of the first group of Russian pilots.

His car literally fell apart in the air, and the assembled spectators watched in horror as the doomed pilot falls from a great height.

Gleb Kotelnikov, “the Story of the invention of”

It was the first victim of Russian aviation. It made me such a bad impression that, speaking, as usual, the evening at the theatre, I saw a terrible picture of the death of the pilot. Is it not possible to protect the pilot, I thought, to save a life if an accident occurs of an airplane? I understand that for the airplane it is necessary to create a strong and lightweight parachute. Folded, it needs to be quite small. And most importantly — air parachute should always be with the pilot. Then the pilot can jump with the wing, and from any side of the airplane.

The amazing thing is that by Gleb Kotelnikov really served as an actor in the theater. He was born in St. Petersburg in the family of a Professor of mechanics and mathematics. She graduated from high school and the Kiev military school, received the rank of officer, he served in the army, but after the mandatory three years decided to retire. Since childhood he had two passions — theatre and design. He loved to make toys and models, at the same time, playing in Amateur theatricals. In 1910 he became an actor troupe of the people’s house on the Petersburg side, under the pseudonym Karl-Kotelnikov. But the terrible death of Malevich made him think about something else.

To create parachute took 10 months. Important in the design of Nyquist — it is familiar to us today as satchel, which removed a silk parachute, and “tying” — it is mounted on the body of the pilot. This harness system of straps were placed on the pilot so that the dynamic impact arising from the disclosure of the dome is distributed evenly throughout the body in contrast to the French sample of Jukes, fastened at one point. The mass of the parachute was slightly more than 7 kg, 2 kg weighed in a metal container. The dome was made of natural silk and its edge was sewn steel cable for faster and more reliable erections. The straps were off the shoulder belt to the bottom edge of the dome, as in other structures, and the Central (pole) of the holes. This gave the canopy more stable.

27 Oct 1911 collegiate assessor Kotelnikov received patent No. 5010 to “rescue pack for aviators automatically ejected with a parachute”. He got the name of RK-1 — “Russian Kotelnikov — first.” After the test, which took place in the village Salizi at the site of the Aeronautics school, the sample was submitted to the Chief engineering Department of the Imperial army. Resolution responsible for aviation of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich was unexpected:

Parachutes in aviation generally harmful thing, as the pilots at the slightest danger threatening them from the hand of the enemy will escape by parachute, providing planes of death. More expensive machines people. We import machines from abroad, so they should be protected. And the people there, not those, the others!

Kotelnikov was upset, but did not give up. He soon patented his RK-1 in France (patent № 438 612 issued March 20, 1912) and signed a contract with a commercial firm “LOMAC and K°”, who presented his model at exhibitions in Paris and Rouen. First jump with a 60-meter bridge in Rouen committed student of the St. Petersburg Conservatory Vladimir Ossowski, and it was great.

As soon as the war began, about parachutes remembered. The famous pilot Gleb Alekhnovich, who flew on the “Ilya Muromets-5”, addressed to the war Department with the request for the acquisition of military multi-engine aircraft knapsack parachutes. The idea was supported by the command of the “Squadron of air ships”, which included “Murom” — the pilots of these machines was valued at its weight in gold. Lieutenant Nyquist, who was mobilized with the beginning of the war, called out the army to organize the production of its RC-1. Available product gave the pilots, but they were not enough and had to order in French less convenient parachutes Jukes.

According to the archives, during the First world war the Russian balloonists made 65 jumps with a parachute, and 36 of them out of necessity, and 29 in order to workout. It is believed that on all fronts of the allied countries by parachutes saved about 800 pilots and balloonists.

After the war, Kotelnikov has perfected his chute by replacing the hard case with a soft. Was released model RK-2, RK-3 and RK-4, is able to lower the load to 300 lbs. In 1926 the inventor has transferred all of its patents to the Soviet state and more this case was not engaged. Yes, however, this was not necessary — his parachute was already perfect and differed little from modern models. In 1927 Nyquist saved by a parachute test pilot Mikhail Gromov, who in tests has introduced a new model of aircraft into the spin, but I couldn’t get out of it. The pilot managed to leave the cabin and land safely. Three years later, near Voronezh was formed first in the red army airborne part, and in the 1930s, parachuting became a popular kind of applied sport. Having gone a long way, parachute began to live their separate lives.