How And When Did Skydiving Start

How And When Did Skydiving Start

Published: October 26, 2022

For wingless creatures, we humans sure are fascinated with the idea of flight. And we're also quite preoccupied with pushing the limits and enjoying ourselves while doing it! Enter skydiving - a no-experience necessary, super-awesome-epic way to fly through the skies! Bonus: it's crazy fun and we can do it over and over again if we so choose!

skydiving experience

While skydiving may seem like a relatively new concept, the building blocks of modern-day skydiving are strewn throughout the history of humanity! Believe it or not, skydiving history (well, most history for that matter) isn't as cut and dried as you might think. You aren't alone if you're wondering how did skydiving start? Or when did skydiving start? Time to travel back in time.

First, You Need a Parachute

Long before we gained the ability to raise ourselves into the sky (i.e. by airplane or hot air balloon), we needed a way to descend from great heights without having to use our own two legs. Hello, parachute!

The first mention of a parachute(ish) design dates back to a fellow named Shun in ancient China. He devised a "parachute" to escape from the top of a burning barn using his hat and some cloth. While this is *probably* just a story, the concept wasn't too far from the design for a parachute that Leonardo da Vinci drew up 3,000 some-odd years later. His design, too, was just a concept - not actually tested at the time.

Early Parachute

In 1797, André-Jacques Garnerin designed a parachute (interestingly, like our friend Shun, also to escape from burning buildings) and then tested it by jumping from a hot air balloon in France. This made him the world's first person to successfully parachute! Poof - parachutes exist! And people began to use them. In 1799, Garnerin's pioneering wife, Jeanne Geneviève, became the first female to complete a parachute jump! (What a power couple, am I right?)

Then, You Need a Plane

Eeeeeeveryone knows you need a plane to skydive. *Technically* jumps from helicopters or hot air balloons are still skydives, but you have to be licensed to do that! So, you need a plane. And lo and behold - thanks to the Wright brothers - the airplane was invented in 1908 and skydiving from an AIRPLANE became a possibility!

The military quickly got involved, seeing the possibilities for getting troops into hard-to-reach places. Military jumpers used a static line, which deploys the parachute immediately after exiting the plane (no freefallin'). They used round parachutes which weren't very maneuverable, but they got the job done. The first people who jumped for fun used the same setup!

In 1919, a stuntman named Leslie Irvin completed the first jump with an intentional freefall from an airplane. Oh, the adrenaline! It was only a matter of time before the sport got its wings!

Wait, The Parachute Needs to Steer!

It wasn't long after people began jumping for fun when they realized that jumping should actually be ... fun (and not a pain-in-the-ankles situation like the round parachutes gave them).

In 1957, Jacques-André Istel designed the first parachute that could be maneuvered, making him the "father of modern skydiving." Skydivers began using these "square" parachutes (which are actually rectangular) that they could steer, and have a way more enjoyable time with the jump, deployment of the parachute, and landing.

And You Need To Land Safely

Even still, early skydivers had a pretty rocky start (statistically). According to the United States Parachute Association (which was established in 1946 to help keep track of these things, among others), there were 11.2 fatalities per 100,000 jumps. This may not sound like a lot unless you compare it to today's stats: 0.28 fatalities per 100,000 jumps in 2021.

As you can imagine, making the sport safer and more accessible was a priority for skydiving gear manufacturers and, of course, skydivers themselves. In 1983, tandem skydiving was invented by Ted Strong (when you make your tandem jump, be sure to whisper a little thanks to Ted for making it possible for you!).

In 1991, the Automated Activation Device (AAD) was created - a nifty gadget that automatically deploys a reserve parachute if it detects a too-low altitude. These sophisticated devices are used by about 90% of jumpers today.

Finally, You Need a Dropzone

The first dropzone was opened in 1959 in Orange, Massachusetts (about 4 hours north of our facility) by none other than "our father" Jacques-André Istel.

Skydiving started at Skydive Long Island in 1986. Think about it: the time between the first skydiving school opening and our dropzone opening (27 years) was less than the time between our opening date and today (36 years)! Now that's some neat Long Island skydiving history!

While there are a lot of skydiving facilities nowadays, Skydive Long Island is the clear choice for tandem skydiving for folks from all over New York and beyond! Our focus on safety combined with fun (fulfilling that core human need) is one thing that makes us stand head and shoulders above the rest!

We are also proud members of the USPA (remember that little history tidbit?). And best of all, we are dedicated exclusively to tandem skydiving, making your first "knees in the breeze" experience the most memorable moment of your life. You can (and absolutely should!) take advantage of our video services to capture your awe-inspiring adventure!

How and when will skydiving start for you? Book a tandem skydive at Skydive Long Island and carve out your own place in skydiving history! Or contact us for more details! We can't wait to see those pearly whites soaring through the New York skies. Happy jumping!

View Our Gallery

I went in to do a jump and walked out with a much greater experience than I expected and a new circle of friends.

» John H

Skydive Long Island™ Newsletter

Stay up to date on everything Skydive Long Island™!

By signing up you agree to our terms of service.