Franz Reichelt

Inventor of a Parachute-Suit

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Early Years

  • Franz was born in Vienna, Austria in 1879
  • He made the move to France in 1898
  • Obtained French nationality in 1909
  • Never married
  • Rented an apartment on the 3rd floor at 8 rue Gaillon
  • Opened a dressmaking business




Aviation

  • The 1900s saw the dawn of the aviation
  • Wright brothers completed first flight in 1903
  • Flight was extremely dangerous, therefore safety measures were in demand


Competition for the prize

  • Several other individuals sought to create a deployable parachute suit for aviators
  • Louis-Sebastien Lenormand and Jean-Pierre Blanchard had created fixed-canopy parachutes
  • Andre-Jacques Garnerin had created a frameless high altitude parachute
  • Aero-Club de France offered a 10,000 franc prize for developing a parachute for aviators in 1911
  • Competition for the prize was open for 3 years with a catch that the parachute could weigh no more than 25 kilograms


Parachute-Suit

  • Franz began developing the suit in July of 1910
  • His initial design weighed 70 kilograms and used 6 square meters of fabric
  • Converting his initial design into his a workable was a difficult task
  • His final suit was a little bit bulkier than a normal aviator suit, but not by much
  • Constructed with a few rods, a silk canopy, and a small amount of rubber
  • He hoped it would be practical and efficient


Testing

  • Early tests with dummies using his initial suit design were very successful
  • He dropped dummies from the 5th floor of his apartment and they landed softly
  • He presented his workable suit to the Aero-Club de France hoping they would test it
  • They rejected his design because of the weak canopy and told him to quit
  • He tested his final suit design with dummies at his apartment with no success
  • He did a test using himself in 1911 from a height of 10 meters at Joinville
  • The parachute attempt failed, but he had a pile of straw to cushion is fall
  • A later test at Nogent from a height of 8 meters resulted in a broken leg according to Le Matin


Eiffel Tower

  • Franz believed his suit needed a suitable and grandiose format to show it's ability
  • Blamed the failures of his suit on the short drop distances and needed a higher test platform
  • Repeatedly petitioned the Prefecture of Police, Louis Lepine, for over a year for permission to test his suit from the Eiffel Tower but was denied
  • He received permission in early 1912 to conduct a test from the Eiffel tower
  • The final design had 30 square meters of material with a canopy height of 5 meter
  • Franz showed up to the Tower on February 4th at 7:00 AM wearing his parachute suit, he had only been given permission to use a dummy
  • This was his reasoning for not using the dummy as he was interviewed that day, "I want to try the experiment myself and without trickery, as I intend to prove the worth of my invention." (Translated from French)


Death Jump - Franz Reichelt jumps off the Eiffel Tower [HD]

References

1. Launet, Edouard. "Le Saut du Siecle" Summer Supplement of Liberation

2. "L'inventeur Reichelt s'est tue hier" Februrary 5, 1912. Le Petit Journal

3. "L'inventeur d'un parachute se lance de le tour Eiffel et s'ecrase sur le sol" February 5, 1912. Le Petit Parisien.

4. "Fatale experience de parachute" February 5, 1912. La Presse

5. Un inventeur de parachute s'elance du 1er etage de Tour Eiffel et s'ecrase sur le sol" February 6, 1912. La Croix

6. "Experience tragique" February 5, 1912. Le Matin. p. 1-2

7. "A Prize for Safety Parachutes" November 1911. Flight 3. (112) :965

8. "Chute mortelle d'un inventeur de un parachute" February 5, 1912. Le Temps. p. 4

9. "Une experience tragique: Un inventeur saute de la tour Eiffel et se tue" February 5, 1912. Le Gaulois. p. 1

10. "Contest Awards and New Records Passed" February 1913. Flight 3. (112): 138.

11. "The Dream of Flight": American Treasures of the Library of Congress, 2003-2004.

12. "Francois Reichelt, before his fatal attempt" 1912. Agence de presse Meurisse.

13. "Death Jump- Franz Reichelt jumps off the Eiffel Tower [HD]" British Pathe.

Note: I cannot read French, these references were translated into English