Paris in the 20th Century page 37

Franz Reichelt was a French tailor, who jumped from the Eiffel Tower to test a wearable parachute of his own design. As aviation grew in popularity, it became clear that there needed to be some safety measures for the pilots.  Reichelt believed he had developed a suit for aviators that would convert into a parachute and allow them to survive a fall should they be forced to bail out of their aircraft.  His first experiments, conducted with dummies dropped from the fifth floor of his apartment building,  had been successful.  However, he was unable to replicate those early successes with any of his later designs.

Instead of thinking there was something wrong with his design, Reichelt believed that the lack of a suitably high test platform was to blame for the failures.  Reichelt asked for and gained permission to conduct a test from the Eiffel Tower.  On February 4, 1912 Reichelt decided to conduct the experiment himself rather than use a test dummy.   The parachute failed to deploy and he crashed into the icy ground at the foot of the tower.  Onlookers measured the crater he made with his impact at 15 cm (5.9 inches).  Given that the ground was partially frozen, that was a powerful crash.

Part of the problem was that the observation deck from which Reichelt lept was only 57 metres (187 ft) above the ground.  That is not really enough distance for a parachute to open.  To give you an idea, the lowest height the military will deploy a paratrooper is 500 feet (three times the distance Reichelt dropped), and even then, most paratroopers will tell you that landing is not pleasant.

You can see a recording of Reichelt’s jump here.  Interestingly, or morbidly, it ends with them measuring the crater he left behind.

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