"Standard Plan Parachute General Arrangement and Details
"Standard Plan Parachute General Arrangement and Details"
By S.D. Kehler for the Bureau of Construction and Repair, U.S. Navy, May 22, 1918
Ink on tracing linen
National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Bureau of Aeronautics

Science and Technology: "Standard Plan Parachute General Arrangement and Details"
The advent of aerial warfare during World War I brought with it concerns about protecting the lives of those who flew airplanes, balloons, and dirigibles. One possible protective measure was the parachute. Unfortunately, early parachutes were unreliable, bulky, and weighed up to 40 pounds. They were also thought to diminish a pilot's desire to fight, and several countries did not issue them because of fears that pilots might abandon their planes in combat. Parachutes were provided for balloonists and other lighter-than-air craft as early as 1915. After the United States entered the war in 1917, it followed Britain's lead and did not give its pilots parachutes. By 1918, however, the U.S. Army Air Corps reconsidered this stance because it wanted to preserve the airmen it had trained. The ripcords of early parachutes, like this one designed for the U.S. Navy, were attached to the aircraft; the chute would open when the attached line grew taut. The first successful test of a "free fall" parachute operated by the individual abandoning an aircraft was not made until 1919.

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