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The History of Skydiving


Curtis Posted by: Curtis White 9 months ago

Skydiving history is some of the most unique, inspirational, and interesting histories out there! Just like all historical things, the whos, hows, and whys of skydiving are all a bit, shall we say, up in the air. But really, who invented skydiving? What classifies as a skydive — does it have to be from an airplane? Does it count if you thought of the idea but didn’t have the means to send it? Who knows! Nonetheless, let’s get into it! 

What is the Origin of Skydiving? 

When did skydiving begin? Most people think of American skydivers jumping into battle zones during WWII when they think back to the old days of jumping. But the truth is that skydiving was born long before.

who invented skydiving

It’s been shown that the Chinese sketched drawings of parachutes in the 1100s! It wasn’t until over 300 years later in 1495 that your man Leonardo da Vinci drew up the idea of a pyramid-shaped parachute slightly resembling what is referred to as “rounds” today. Finally, in 1797 a Frenchman named André-Jacques Garnerin made the first official parachute jump, which technically qualified as a skydive, over Paris from only 2,000 feet! 

So, who invented skydiving? Well, the concept of skydiving was a rough idea, that was modified to become a better idea, which was ultimately executed by Mr. Garnerin, making him the first skydiver in the world. Much like skydiving today, successful jumps require many people working together towards one goal in order to conquer it!

Parachute History Timeline

This skydiving history timeline will let us see the variations of the sport throughout centuries, what and who enabled its growth, who invented tandem skydiving, and so much more! 

The Way, Way Back

  • 1100s: The Chinese beat everyone to the punch by drawing something that looks like a parachute. 
  • 1495: Da Vinci comes onto the scene with the idea of a more scientifically correct parachute that is round. 
  • 1797: Garnerin jumps from a basket dangling from the underside of a balloon (jealous!). 
  • 1799: Jeanne-Geneviève Labrosse (Garnerin’s wife!) prizes herself as the first woman to make a leap from the sky, also from a balloon. 

Modern-ish Day

  • 1911/1912: Albert Berry or Grant Morton (told you it’s a debatable topic) is the first person to jump from a powered and forward-moving aircraft — the first modern-day skydiver!
  • 1918: The Italian military makes the first tactical skydive. In 1919 the ripcord was created by Floyd Smith and Leslie Irvin, which allowed jumpers (who have all previously used something like a static line) to start their journey of understanding freefall! 
  • 1944: The United States heroically takes to the skies during WWII. 
  • 1946: The United States Parachute Association (USPA) is established in the great state of New York. The USPA, along with the Federal Aviation Administration, is the primary governing body for us crazy skydivers. In the 40s the USPA had around 100 members, now they serve over 40 THOUSAND worldwide!

    We would like to note that we’re a proud USPA member dropzone and strictly adhere to their rules, regulations, and recommendations! 
parachute history timeline

  • 1957: Jacques-André Istel designs and develops the first sport parachute — a canopy that is not used for military purposes. 
  • 1959: The first non-military parachuting school is established in Orange, Massachusetts. 
  • 1962: The first World Parachuting Championships were held on American soil (the first one was in modern-day Slovenia!) and an American by the name of James Arender takes the gold! 

Modern Day

  • 1970s: Jumpers get bored jumping solo and start to embark on the journey of group formation skydiving — which opens the door for so many opportunities for growth!

    During the 70s, skydivers also made the transition from circular canopies to square ones that are commonly used today. This transition in canopy style was huge for the sport, it allowed canopies to be more steerable, have softer landings, and sparked advancements in canopy design. 
  • 1982: Huuuuge year for skydiving! Bill Booth invents something called the 3-ring system. Basically, three metal rings are looped through one another and act as the attachment point between the parachute and the container (the backpack part).

    In the event that the main parachute isn’t functioning correctly and needs to be cut away, the three rings will quickly release and allow for the main to get away, clearing the airspace for the reserve parachute to open up. Mr. Booth is our guy! 
  • 1983: Tandem skydiving was invented! And by whom? Ted Strong! Without tandem skydiving the sport wouldn’t have allowed the general public to experience human flight and to grow as fast as it did.  
  • 1989: Another huuuuge year in the history of skydiving! The Automatic Activation Device (AAD) was invented. The AAD is a tiny computer inside the container and is used to cut the reserve cord in the event the jumper cannot get to their reserve deployed (for example, if the jumper is unconscious).

    AADs are turned on prior to jumping and calculate air pressure and different altitudes to determine the height and speed of the jumper – if you’re too fast and too low, the AAD will fire. AADs save lives! 

More than 30 years later, the sport of skydiving is thriving! People from all walks of life, young and old contribute to the awesomeness of the sport – from being competitors, instructors, coaches, fun jumpers, and innovators. Licensed skydivers make almost 4 million skydives in the US every year! 

Are you ready to be a part of our number? Book your skydive today! We can’t wait to jump with you. Blue skies!