The first ideas of freefall did not consider the evolution of human body flight that skydiving has become today. In fact, Leonardo Da Vinci, who we now consider the “Father of the Parachute,” designed the first conceivable sketch of a parachute. His original idea was to build a device to rescue people from burning buildings, not knowing what his impact may be on the sport six centuries later.
Andre Jacques Garnerin is recorded to make the first exhibition jump in Paris from a balloon on October 27,1797. However, sport parachuting began with the first recorded freefall in 1914 by a woman named Georgia (Tiny) Broadwick. Until this time, a static line was used to deploy parachutes. Broadwick was giving the first demonstration of a parachute jump to the US government. After her initial three static line jumps, her fourth resulted in a static line/aircraft entanglement. Therefore, on her fifth jump, she decided not to use the static line. After cutting the static line, she left enough to pull the parachute pack open on her own after exiting the airplane. After this feat of freefall, the US Army Signal Corps initiated a new era in aviation safety procedures. In Tiny’s career, she accumulated over 1,100 skydives, set numerous records, and set the standard for those following in her footsteps. In 1973, Broadwick celebrated her eightieth birthday at Perris Valley Skydiving in California. After watching everyone else land she commented, “Boy, I always landed in trees, swamps, rivers and mud holes. Sure is something else seeing all these kids land right where they want to!” (www.parachutehistory.com/women/broadwickt.html)
Real controlled freefall began with the French and is brought to the United States by Jacque Istel in the late 1950’s. Istel and Lew Sanborn (USPA License D-1) were the
first to introduce the idea that military airborne training was not the only way to make a parachute jump, civilians can have structure too. Originally coined the “French Frog” position, it has now morphed into what skydivers now know as the “Box Man” position. During freefall, the jumper is oriented stomach to earth, making ninety-degree angles with his elbows, shoulders, and knees. Although Sanborn and Istel introduced the first three-hour jump course in 1957, until the mid 1960’s many people still obtained parachutes and jumped with no formal training.
The physics of skydiving involve two forces acting upon the body; gravity and air resistance. When both forces reach equilibrium, the jumper has reached terminal velocity. Roughly ten seconds after exiting the aircraft, the skydiver reaches 120 mph (terminal velocity), considering he is falling in the “Box Man” position. If the skydiver changes his orientation to a sitting, head-down, standing, or any other position, his terminal velocity will adjust accordingly. After parachute deployment, the surface area is greatly increased and...