Children Can Fly! Ask Me.

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by Pat Works

Children Can Fly! Ask Me.

High fall landings hurt, chiefly the last inch. Worse, it's a bad trip coupling fear, falling, impact with major pain and/or oblivion. Jumping off our balcony with a bed sheet held aloft worked fine for me as a six year old. My mother's strong objections and threats discouraged me. Hurt my feet some too. Of course, boy-child, I'd tried the same thing with the kitty Cat. ALWAYS landed feet-first; agile too. Ran away like the wind. Magic animal.

For me, the very same jump involved wearing my blue jammies (with feets); underpants on top of course. Importantly, a BRIGHT red bath towel clipped to my neck with Safety Pins. … Well, pink or white worked just as well too. I mean that I am (was) Superman. Shades of cape color mattered not. I jumped with what I'd got. Pale blue sleep suit with stocking feet and button-down trapdoor rear end. … probably equal to a Level 3 Armor vest. Or, not. Depending.

Umbrellas' sucked. Inverted. Useless. However, big bath towel capes and bed sheet parachutes worked great. Right up to impact. Ouch!. Time to recalibrate. Cat-Check retest works flawlessly as usual. My brazen leap of faith hurt my feet as usual. I move on… Cat approved. Mom relaxed some.

Children independently learn to steer clear of action which brings pain or Mom's wrath. Often one lesson is sufficient and deters repetition. But that's Darwinism. For example, to grab a hot pot off a stove, leaves no urge to make it a hobby. That is one-lesson learning on a single grab. "Ouch! Dang!" lesson learned. Once burnt is plenty. We back off from opportunities to retest Thanks.

This cowboy learns slow. Slow to learn, I got back to jumping about 12 years later. Exchanging bed sheet and balcony with parachute and plane provided sufficient altitude to diffuse feelings about "I'm falling!" After my senses had confirmed flight I took a longer perspective and pondered falling. The question was,

Perspective and pondered falling. The question was, classic Whuffo: Say, why for do people jump, anyhow?"
Falling can be initiated by intent or accident. Jumping, plunging, plummeting implies intent.
We still temp fate when it comes toward surviving a fall . Always have. Still do. Probably some tree dwelling proto ancestor's faults. Plausible chronic falling out of trees then sparks some Mr. fix-it drive to jump and to survive the fall. Not unlike lemmings or flying squirrels, humans are wont to jump from high places. Else it is hard to explain shy man, the one with the brain has been jumping off of objects repeatedly with enough success to refine the methods. Both shared results and stubborn persistance won out, so that today in the year AD + another two thousand fourteen years , current era we have those 2015-some years plus those several centuries before, starting with recorded history, which document in legend successful jumps from tall objects wherein the jumper landed and lived.
So, "Why Fall?" is by Keech answered: "Skies Call. That's all."
These early B.A.S.E. jumpers were restricted to parachute jumps from only buildings, towers, bridges, and cliffs. That was only until the advent of the balloon some one thousand five hundred years later when parachutes blossomed like flowers in a Spring fields. Thereafter parachutists and falls lures both the jumper and the spectators in symbiosis. Hundreds of thousands spectators flocked to and paid to witness flight culminating with a parachute descent attempt.

Successful parachutists employed round dome shaped constructs fabricated from stout cloth and stiffened with structural ribs like an umbrella secured beneath the gondola by a heavy tether when cut loose dropped the held open canopy structure into free air to probably oscillate wildly to the earth somewhere downwind . Where then, multitudes rushed afoot and horseback to retrieve the now worthy aeronaut and bear him back to his launch site for deserved acclaim. Invariably, these newly minted heroes were suitably attired in suit, vest, whites shirt, tie, and dancing slippers secured to stocking feet by a strap.

Assured fame and big pay days led to extended venues that spanned both EUROPE AND THE United States. Everyone loves a sky heroes including the hero.

Everyone loves a sky heroes including the hero themselves. Technology for Balloons, parachutes, and jumpers all improved. Hot air balloons were superseded by gas balloons. Average crowd size was reported to be more than 40,000 spectators. An understandable figure considering that electricity, motor cars, plumbing, the NFL, radio, FOX News and TV were any decades in a distant future. Then early aircraft and intrepid aeronauts captured the public imagination and attention. And, ascents and descents of any sort were fine diversion and a good show to boot.

The early balloon type parachutes were rigid, varnished umbrella parachute structures gave way to limp foldable canopies stowed in a metal cone or bag. Still, balloon, jumper and canopy were tied together by an umbilical cord we call s static line for certain deployment. The reason for a solid link to the mother ship were both simple and scientific.. After all it was well known and universally accepted that any human body that fell free for several hundred feet was assured to be rendered both unconscious and incoherent… this universally held certainty would persist for several hundreds of years until the aeroplane could develop flight speeds in excess of 120 MPH. Only then did several rabid fans of Isaac Newton note that since exceeding such speeds rendered no participants neither unconscious or unfit. After all, in all cases both the pilot and his machine gunner seemed both fit , competent, and aware whilst engaging the Hun or whichever enemy in mortal air to air combat and oft had a jolly good time to boot.

Nerveless, parachutists and pilots stuck with heads in the sand with their result that there were no freefalls attempted or recorded until well after the year 1910.

The passion for parachuting did not transfer to motorized aircraft when the Wright brothers opened the sky. Parachutes, parachutists and shows stayed tethered to ballooning. The development of the airship, the pilot, and its maintenance and repair precluded such luxury. Aircraft were serious business; parachutes certainly not. After all parachutists were just crazy daredevil showmen risking life and limb to a lure of fortune and fame, both uncertain.

That is until the First World War saw air corps such as the parachute equipped Germans received a 65% pilot survival rate. Accounts are impossible to verify due to the lack of recorded data and it should be noted that most parachutes were one of a kind; there was no standardization until World War I. Further, after careful study, one suspects that many of these early pioneers confused vertical descent with horizontal flight. They probably wished to emulate the birds, not the down of a thistle.


1495 - Leonardo da Vinci’s parachute was pyramid-shaped and was held open by four wooden poles. There is no evidence that he constructed any working models; he left only a sketch.

1595 - Fausto Veranzio’s parachute consisted of a square wooden frame covered with canvas and it is claimed he jumped from a tower in Venice in either 1595 or 1617.

1687 - One of the earliest written accounts of parachuting comes from Siam. According to the French envoy, one of the king’s tumblers would jump from high places with two large umbrellas. The launch point must have been quite high as the wind sometimes carried him into trees, roof tops and occasionally the river.

1783 - Lenormand jumps from a rooftop in Montpeffier, France. Sebastian Lenornand jumped from a tower with a 14-foot diameter parachute hoping to perfect away to escape burning buildings. The Montgolfier brothers made their first balloon flight. Later, the Montgolfier brothers tested various parachute designs. In one experiment, a sheep was safely lowered on a seven-foot canopy.

1785 - J. P. Blanchard devised the collapsible silk parachute. Prior to this all canopies had been held open by a rigid framework. There is some evidence that he jumped from a balloon in 1793, and he did break a leg about this time.

1797 - Lure of fortune and fame, both uncertain. That is until the First World War saw air corps such as the parachute equipped Germans received a 65% pilot survival rate versus the Allied forces zilch. However, the military balloon observation corps quickly adopted parachutes packed in the gondolas for emergency escape. This may be traced to the hydrogen filled balloons of the period busting into a finery inferno when hit by tracer ammunition. Here, perhaps the eagerness to leave the enveloping fireball was prompted by firsthand experience with hot stoves noted previously. Such unpleasantness are best avoided where possible.

Lessons learned from the air war of WWI included the desirability of having pilots survival potential greater than zero when their aircraft is shot from beneath them. After the hard lessons learnt from "the war to end all wars" the Britts were understandably rather pleased when their parachute equipped pilots enjoyed an 85% survival rate y bailing out of their disabled air ship. Seeing as this occurred in the air battle for Brittan was at its peak, having trained pilots who could immediately reenter the fray proved both efficient and effective. Saved their ass, it did.

Albeit shrouded in the mists of time, the Chinese were certainly the first to make ‘documented’ parachute jumps. Here, some several hundred years before Jesus Christ (BC) having a written language undoubtedly helped considerably. Nevertheless, given the day to day needs of keeping rice on the table and being the largest and most advanced empire in the world likely focused their attention to other matters. Considering their several other priorities, parachuting was understandably then not amongst their top pursuits. The result was that history showed the Chinese making a successful parachute jump only once every three centuries. Most of these jumpers utilized several large umbrellas to break their fall. One instance large straw hats were utilized. Whatever and however, theirs was the only news to report until L. Da Vinci……..

Here too information is sketchy, sparse, and contestable. Whatever, for the first seventeen centuries everyone who jumped was perforce a BASE jumper. The French had the most parachuting activity followed by the British, Americans, and Germans. It seems that these early BASE jumpers had more luck than today’s high fatality rate indicates. Seems the era J. P. Blanchard devised the collapsible silk parachute. Prior to this all canopies had been held open by a rigid framework. There is some evidence that he jumped from a balloon in 1793, and he did break a leg about this time.

1797 - Andre Jacques Garnerin gets credit for being the first real parachutist because he made so many jumps, beginning with one from 2,000 feet (600m)over Paris. In 1802 lie made a jump from 8,000 feet over London with a silk canopy some 23 feet in diameter. It oscillated terribly, making him airsick.

1804 - A Frenchman named Bourget jumped with a collapsible canopy. Lelandes, a French astronomer,added a vent to his canopy to reduce the oscillations and it worked.

1808 - A Polish balloonist named Jodaki Kuparentomade the first emergency jump when his balloon caught fire over Warsaw. Garnerin descends over London in 1802, Robert Cocking, the first parachuting fatality Early 1800s. Sir George Cayley, an English aviation pioneer, was the first to propose an inverted cone canopy. His was very unstable. This design is being investigated again today. Lorenz Hengler, a German,made several jumps from a balloon at 30 to 120 meters.

1837 - Robert Cocking released his inverted cone parachute over Lea Green in England and fell to his death when it collapsed. It was 107 feet in circumference and weighed over 200 lbs. The release was on the balloon, not the canopy, and it is supposed that lie may have wrapped the release line around his wrist to obtain a better grip. This would have jerked him upward into the cone, breaking it.

1838 - John Wise twice permitted his balloon to explode at 13,000 feet over the U.S. Each time, the underside of the envelope inverted assuming a parachute shape amid lowering him safely.

1887 - Captain Tom Baldwin invented the harness in the U.S. He would ride up in the balloon, sifting on a trapeze bar. The apex of the silk canopy was tied to the trapeze. When ready to jump, he would simply slip off. He dispensed with the basket entirely. Kathe Paulus was the first German professional parachutist.The folded exhibition attached type was used by many of the early jumpers. Here the suspension lines were attached to a concentration ring made of wood with a tennis racket-like mesh.The lines were coiled on the mesh and the canopy was accordion-folded on the lines.Two perpendicular tie ropes secured the canopy to the ring.A ring knife was used to release the canopy and there was a breakcord from the apex of the canopy to the balloon.

1890 - Paul Letteman and Kathe Paulus are credited with being the first to use the remote automatic sack type parachute; the design is still used for cargo drops today. The apex of the canopy is tied to the inside ofthe canvas bag with break-cord. The canopy and lines are then folded into the bag and the mouth is tied closed with break cord. The risers lead out to the load and the bag is affixed to the balloon or airplane.The Broadwick Coatpack Mike Blodgett models a variation of the pack on the aircraft type parachute.The container is fined ‘with a Ford steering wheel and is laced together with string.Two thin leather leg straps are missing from the model. Newspaper is packed between the folds of the canopy and loops.

1901 - Charles Broadwick designed the pack on the aviator type parachute. His coatpack was laced together with break cord. A static line broke the lacing and pulled out the canopy. The French had the most parachuting activity followed by the British, Americans, and Germans. It seems that these early BASE jumpers had more luck than today’s high fatality rate indicates. Seems the era jumpers wouldn't be caught dead dashing themselves into the ground willy-nilly. Rather, they were more scientific about making unsuccessful attempts, dressed nicely in suit + tie in the style of the day and so departed with decorum.

1903 - The Wright brothers made the first powered flight and parachute development picked up speed.

1908 - Leo Stevens invents the ripcord in New York. Georgia Thompson (Tiny) Broadwick begins her 1,100-jump career by parachuting from a balloon over Raleigh, North Carolina. She used the parachutes designed by her foster father, Charles Broadwick.

1911 - An Italian named Joseph Pino gets credit for designing the pilot chute. He mounted it on an aviator’s cap and it was held open by a small framework. When he jumped, the pilot chute was supposed to remove the helmet and pull the canopy from the knapsack on his back. Grant Morton didn’t use any pack at all when he jumped from a Wright Model B aircraft over Venice, California. He simply rolled and folded the canopy in his arms. When he jumped, he just threw it into the air. While this was the first non-static line jump, it may not be the first freefall jump; there is a question of interpretation. S.L. Van Meter of Lexington, Kentucky, filed for a patent on a soaring type parachute. A pilot in distress could pull a ripcord releasing the canopy into the air and it would pull him free of the aircraft. G. E. Kotelnikov had his parachute designs rejected.