Sunday, March 04, 2012
Franz Reichelt was an Austrian-born French inventor who made a living as a tailor but spent his free time working on a flying parachute suit designed to be worn by airplane pilots. Airplanes were a relatively new invention when Reichelt was working on his design, having only been flown for the first time in Kitty Hawk in 1903, and the mechanics of how a pilot would escape a damaged plane were still being worked out. Reichelt's first tests were performed using dummies and were successful enough for him to test the suit himself, which he did by jumping off the lower level of the Eiffel Tower. The 187-foot fall onto frozen ground killed him instantly.