Today's blog is due to a topic Myth Busters explored on one of their shows. Apparently, there were three things in the movie Point Break involving skydivers that Myth Busters wanted to determine if they could actually happen. While watching it, they showed a clip of someone from the 1940's or 1950's getting ready to step out of a plane and I wondered how long skydiving has been around because planes have only been around for just over a century.
According to historical records, the Chinese were jumping off of cliffs in 1100's, using makeshift parachutes to float to the ground, something we refer to as "base jumping" today. A few hundred years later, in 1485, Leonardo DiVinci drew detailed plans for the first parachute. These drawings remained as drawings until the year 2000 that someone actually built a parachute from those plans and they worked beautifully.
The first real parachute jump didn't happen until 1797, when a man using a basket and canvas parachute descended from a hot air balloon in France. During World War I, the men in observational hot air balloons were equipped with parachutes in case they were damaged or shot down. The first free fall jump, where people jump out of something, fall for a while before engaging their shoots only happened in 1919.
By this time, some pilots carried parachutes in planes and in 1922, one such pilot used a parachute when he had to bail out of his plane. Sometime during the 1930's competitions between skydivers began while at the same time, the Soviet Union began developing their parachute units expanding them from 62 men in 1933 to 1,800 men in 1936. In general World War II increased the number of jumpers because it was a good way to get soldiers behind enemy lines.
It was during this period that parachute technologies improved so parachutes were better and safer but due to shortages, parachutes were available to only the military. When the war ended, parachutes were available to nonmilitary personnel which meant that many of the soldiers who returned home were able to continue jumping.
The group which later would become the United States Parachute Association, the governing body for skydiving was founded in 1946 in New York but over time it expanded until it became reconized as a national body. The term skydiving was coined in the 1950's when skydiving became a national sport. Within a decade, skydiving schools began popping up across the world.
Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.