22nd of October 1797

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

It might be hard to believe but a modern-day life safer in aviation was first used in the closing years of the 18th century. It was on this day in 1797 that Andre-Jacques Garnerin released the hydrogen balloon at a height of 2300 feet (701 meters) and made a safe descend back to Parc Monceau in Paris. Thanks to the first frameless parachute he had strapped to the balloon basket. The first successful parachute jump was a fact.

A period drawing from the first descend with a frameless parachute.

The first frameless parachute had a diameter of approximately 23 feet (7meters) and was made of canvas, To make sure the (what is now called) the canopy would not blow open a pole ran through the canopy to which the hydrogen balloon was attached. Different sources give different altitudes, they vary from ~2700 feet (~700 meters) to 3000 feet (~1000 meters), at which Garnerin released the balloon by cutting the rope between his basket and the balloon. Without the weight from the basket and Garnerin, the balloon continued to ascend. The basket with Garnerin dropped to earth and the parachute opened as planned. As there were no brake loops (like on modern parachutes) Garnerin could not control his descend. and the basket swung violently in the air and bounced around on touch down. Garnerin was uninjured when exited the basket.

An early 19th-century drawing of the parachute and balloon as used by Garnerin. Drawing by an unknown artist.

The figures depict the following;

F.1 - shows the deployed canopy viewed from above

F.2 - shows the balloon, collapsed canopy and Granerin in the basket

F.3 - shows the canopy fully open, balloon disconnected and Garnerin waving the French flag> (although he was probably hanging on for dear life as the basket sun violently during the descend

Garnerin went on to organise regular tests and demonstrations at Parc Monceau in Paris.

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