Minds are like parachutes. They only function when they are open.

JAMES DEWAR (1842-1923)


Dangerous Business

In 1999, a team from Perth Royal Infirmary looked at five years of charity parachute jumps and found that they resulted in injuries to 174 people, costing the NHS over £600,000. The average amount raised per person for charity was £30, so every pound raised cost the NHS £13.75. Roughly 70% of the jumps were raising money for NHS-related causes.

Most injuries were down to first-timers' lack of training. Many reported that, as the ground came rushing up to meet them, they panicked and forgot everything they'd been taught. 

Parachuting Hoax

In 1945, a dog called Rob was awarded a Dickin Medal for his 20 parachute jumps while serving with the Army in North Africa and Italy. In 2006, it was revealed that his heroism was a hoax and that he hadn’t made any jumps.

Rob had been enlisted as a war dog by a couple from Shropshire, and when they requested his return, his reluctant regiment boosted his credentials to make him appear indispensable to the war effort. As one of the SAS officers remarked: 'Nobody survived 20 parachute drops, let alone a dog. You were lucky to survive three'. 

Parachuting Beavers

After World War II, spare parachutes were used by the Fish and Game Department of Idaho to drop beavers into new habitats. The beavers were placed in boxes and dropped from aeroplanes; the original idea was that they would chew their way out when they landed, but it was feared that they might chew prematurely and jump from the box in mid-air, so they were adapted to pop open on landing.

Previously they had been moved by mule, but the beavers didn’t like that, as they got too hot and had to be sponged-down.

One beaver called ‘Geronimo’ was parachuted out of planes dozens of time to test the technique. One conservation officer wrote: ‘Poor fellow! He finally became resigned, and as soon as we approached him, would crawl back into his box ready to go aloft again’. 


The custom of shouting ‘Geronimo’ when jumping from a plane is from US Army parachute training in the 1940s. It may have been inspired by the 1939 film Geronimo, or from a pop song of the same name from the same year. 

BENNY HILL (1924-92)

Just because nobody complains doesn't mean all parachutes are perfect. 

Parachuting Through the Ages

The concept of falling from the sky dates as far back as the 1100's in China when the men would jump from cliffs or outcroppings floating to the ground in makeshift parachutes.
Later, in 1485, Leonardo DaVinci sketched the blueprints for the first parachute but as far as we know it wasn’t tested until 26th June, 2000. Adrian Nicholas made an exact replica of DaVinci’s model and had a successful landing. The parachute weighed 187 pounds and was made of rope, canvas, and wood. He jumped from 10,000 feet but Nicholas cut away the contraption at 7,000 feet and used a normal parachute to complete his descent.
The actual history of skydiving starts with Frenchman Andre-Jacques Garnerin, who made successful parachute descents in 1797 using a canvas canopy and a small basket tied beneath a hot air balloon.

Crinoline Parachute

In 1885 following an argument with a boyfriend Sarah Ann Henley from Bristol threw herself from the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Beneath her billowing dress she was wearing crinoline petticoats which slowed and cushioned her fall. 

She was injured but was pulled from the mud, eventually recovered, and died in 1948 at the grand old age of 84.

The youngest person to have skydived is four year old Toni Stadler from South Africa.

Frank Moody holds the record for the oldest skydiver, at 101.

On 21 June 1913, Georgia Broadwick became the first woman to parachute jump from a moving aircraft, doing so over Los Angeles.

The first person to die in a parachuting accident was named Robert Cocking.

If cats fall from anything higher than the seventh floor they can parachute to earth and survive, much like a squirrel.