Military Parachute

The History of the Military Parachute

The majority of people think of the military when asked about the history of parachutes, but the idea of the parachute, and even military parachute, starts with one of history’s most important figures, Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo da Vinci is known across the world for his drawings of many surprisingly mechanically advanced devices including the helicopter, the hang glider and the parachute. Some sketches date back to the 1400’s. According to Popular Mechanics (see source info below), approximately 150 years after da Vinci, an inventor named Venetian Fausto Veranzio was inspired by da Vinci’s sketch and developed a new version with a new canopy shape. The shape he envisioned is extremely similar to the parafoil shape that, 350 years later, became popular in the modern era parachutes and military parachutes.

The Military Parachute – Born from the Magic of French Balloonists and the Science of French Astronomers

French balloonists not only influenced the history of the parachute, but of aviation as well. Much of the innovations created by balloonists were born out of a need to develop a reliable way to deal with emergency situations in the air. Popular Mechanics reports that Frenchman Louis-Sebastian Lenormand is credited with naming the parachute. He made the first official successful parachute jump in the late 1700’s when he jumped off of the Montpelier Observatory. The word parachute comes from the Greek “para” meaning “against”, and the French “chute” meaning “fall”. Popular Mechanics also notes that Jean-Pierre Blanchard proved that silk parachutes were stronger, more lightweight, and a viable option for parachutes when his own hot-air balloon ruptured and his silk parachute saved his life. Then in 1802 Andre-Jacques Garnerin crossed the English Channel by air using a balloon parachute combination. Jerome Lalandes, a French astronomer, witnessed Garnerin’s, and a small suggestion he made led to the vented parachute, which became very popular. In the 1900’s three major developments occurred in the design of the parachute: 1. Parachutes were kept in an individual backpack 2. Parachutes had a ripcord 3. Parachutes had static-line deployment

How the Military Parachute Came to Be

In 1912 in St. Louis U.S. Army Captain Albert Berry became the first person to jump out of a plane and land using a parachute. As the son of a balloonist Berry grew up jumping from balloons and hanging from trapeze bars in the air. Contrary to popular belief the military took quite a while to accept and begin to use the parachute regularly. Once the Airforce started to use parachutes they quickly began to have significant tactical value. According to Popular Mechanics, by World War II’s end parachutes were used for safety, as well as cargo drops. The modern era also brought the parafoil parachute, created by Domina Jalbert in the 1960’s, which became well known for its rectangular design. As time moved forward, NASA also began to use special, heavy duty parachutes for landing space shuttles and dropping rovers. Currently round parachutes are typically used for mass troop deployment. Mills Manufacturing specializes in manufacturing these types of parachutes. Square canopies are generally used for sport and special forces and are manufactured by other companies for these purposes.

Mills Manufacturing – Experts on Military Parachutes

Mills Manufacturing has been in the business of manufacturing military parachutes since not long after it was founded in 1935. Originally started in NYC, the company relocated to Asheville, North Carolina in 1952 after Mills received a large government contract for the United States at the beginning of the Korean War. Quality is one of Mills Manufacturing’s top commitments so all manufacturing, inspection, testing, and packaging of a military parachute is managed in house. Mills specializes in Airborne Troop Parachutes, Cargo Parachutes, Extraction ParachutesDeceleration Parachutes and a variety of related products.

Source: Popular Mechanics “A Brief History of the Parachute” By Byron Kerman (

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