History Lesson

The first time a parachute was used for anything besides slowing your fall was during World War 1. The navy recruited brave souls to be towed by parachute behind a submarine to see what they could see on the horizon. During the 1950s the Paracommander was invented. The canopy was more oblong and it had vents in the back of the chute to produce some glide and better directional control. In 1958 Francis and Gertrude Rogallo invented the Rogallo wing for NASA’s rocket recovery. Francis Rogallo is credited for his innovative development of both rudimentary hang gliders and paragliders. In 1964 Domina Jalbert of Florida invented the Ram Air canopy. This double surfaced canopy has an open leading edge and a sewn trailing edge. The air rams in and fills the sail, creating a wing shape. In September of 1965 David Barish, who was working with NASA took his first flights with a “Sail Wing” from Hunter Mountain in New York. He is considered the probable inventor of the Paraglider. In the early 70’s towing ram air parachutes became the passion of the British Association of Parascending. Both ram air canopies and paracommanders were towed behind a vehicle and then released. The early airfoils or squares were relatively fast and offered tricky landing characteristics. The quest for better performance and more gentle characteristics was on. In 1978, French parachutists Jean-Claude Betemps, Andre Bohn and Gerard Bosson refined the technique of running and launching from a slope at Mieussy, France. The practice soon attracted attention and Mieussy became the first Mecca of Paragliding. In 1979 Gerard Bosson introduced paragliding at the hang gliding world championships. Ten years later the first Paragliding World Championships occurred in Kossen, Austria. In the mid 1990s, NASA developed the X38 as a primary means of returning astronauts in event of a catastrophe on the International Space Station. In January of 2000 the largest parafoil ever constructed was tested over the Mojave Desert. The X38 glider was released from a B52 and glided for a bit before releasing a drogue round parachute that slowed the load to a vertical airspeed of 62 mph. The X38 then released from the round chute and deployed a parafoil in a 5 stage process as the parafoil expanded. The parafoil reduced the vertical speed to 8 mph for a soft touchdown.