One of the first dramas associated with the Eiffel Tower is the misadventure experienced by Franz Reichelt, 33, a Longjumeau tailor. This brave man, inventor at his hours, had made a parachute suit which he wanted to prove effective. He chose the Eiffel Tower as a test site.
Before he could take off, he had to contact the prefecture of Paris, who agreed to the condition that the jump be done with a mannequin, he had not received the authorization to jump himself. However, the day chosen (February 4, 1912, a day when the temperature was 0 °), at 8am, it is without mannequin that Franz Reichelt appeared on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. He was surrounded by a few police officers whose task was not to hinder the experience, with regard to any curious. But none took the initiative to prevent the jump, planned with a manikin. The result did not wait more than 45 seconds. 40 seconds of hesitation, for our man who was probably aware of the danger, and a few more seconds for the fall that did not allow the costume to unfold normally. The man did not really fly, he fell heavily, barely slowed down, causing a ground impact of 15 to 20 centimeters. The doctor could only see the death.
That day, many people came to see the feat. The badges were at the foot of the tower. A cameraman was filming the adventurer on the first floor, while another was filming the jump from the ground. It is he who will also film the curious, after the death of Reichelt. Other members of the press were there, and it was they who popularized the jump, bringing it to the present day.
What were the defects of the Reichelt combination?
The combination used was a rubberized canvas with triangular wings with little tension, so that between each limb the air could rush and slow down the fall. This is the basic principle of jump, an extreme sport practice very dangerous. We find in his combination a certain resemblance to the bats he was inspired by.
The problem is that the air exposure surface is far too weak to actually slow the fall, but that's not all. The triangular shape of the garment is more likely to move in the air, like the base jumpers, than to descend vertically, like the paratroopers, it also explains the failure of the test. You have below the film that was made today.
Source: British Pathé