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Other WWI Aviation Airfields, equipment, tactics, training, uniforms and all other WWI aviation topics

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Old 18 January 2012, 06:04 AM   #1
edujusto
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Parachutes

Hi everyone. This is my first post.

There is one subject in aerial combat that I really canīt understand, and
itīs related with parachutes.

The parachutes in WW1 were introduced in the final months of the war, saving the life of great aces, like Ernst Udet. After loosing some many aces during the four years of war, since Max Immelmann in 1916, why they did not provide parachutes to their pilots ? This simple gesture could save the lives of thousands of precious pilots, including maybe Oswald Boelcke. Why they "let" them die ?
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Old 18 January 2012, 08:01 AM   #2
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Welcome to the Aerodrome Edujusto !

I'm no specialist in parachutes, but there are several possible answers to this:

1. parachutes were not invented yet on a general basis, they were reserved for balloon observers though some Zeppelin crews were outfitted with them.

2. They were relatively big and heavy, so they hindered free movement in a plane (like looking around etc.), and also were so heavy that the small engines were not able to cope with the extra load.

3. Most pilots and even airship crews actively denied to take parachutes with them as to be able to carry more bomb loads, and(or be able to gain more altitude with the lesser weight.

4. The english military denied parachutes to their pilots, because they thought it would make them give up their expensive flying machines too easily ..

The latter is not quite right though, since it was "only a recommendation" by the high brass, to their subordinate officers to tell the pilots, but it may have well have been understood as a direct order. Some pilots refused voluntarily to get more performance out of the planes, but certainly "cowardice" was not an option.
There also were too few parachutes, but with some energetic demand it might have been no problem to produce more of those.

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Kai
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Old 18 January 2012, 08:11 AM   #3
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What ho.

Two key implications for not having parachutes available early on were weight and space. Until about 1917, there simply was not enough spare engine power available to lug a heavy parachute around that might never get used. It would have meant reducing either the fuel or ammunition loads to maintain performance. Early parachutes were not the sleek, light objects that they are now and cockpit space in many, if not most, of the earliest fighter/reconnaissance types would not have allowed the extra burden of a parachute. Later on, additional weaponry was still considered preferable to pilot safety.

It is with questions like this that the deep technical knowledge of Dan San Abbott is missed.

I acknowledge that this is only a partial answer and look forward to someone with a better one to correct me as appropriate.

Cheer ho

John
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Old 19 January 2012, 10:52 AM   #4
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parachute use

I agree with both previous posts,also the fact that parachute science was even newer than airplane science. As a result parachutes were not very reliable, and many pilots felt them only slightly safer than doing without.
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Old 19 January 2012, 01:02 PM   #5
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What ho Missouri Mule.

It's true that the self contained personal parachute was new technology but a parachute pulled out of a fixed bag or box - such as used in observation balloons - wasn't. The first successful descent by parachute was made from a balloon over Paris by Andre-Jacques Garnerin on 22nd October 1793. A number of experiments were made with those 'Guardian Angel' type parachutes by several airforces.

Hope this helps.

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Old 19 January 2012, 01:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by missouri mule View Post
I agree with both previous posts,also the fact that parachute science was even newer than airplane science. As a result parachutes were not very reliable, and many pilots felt them only slightly safer than doing without.
I'm afraid that these comments do not stand up to examination. Prior to the war parachute jumps were often made from 5000-6000 feet or even higher with 'chutes weighing as little as 30lb. In New Zealand and Australia, at least, even triple 'chute jumps were being made from balloons - i.e. the jumper began his descent with a free fall while opening 'chute number one, descended for a while then cut it away, free fell again then opened chute number two before cutting it away also, then free fell again before opening 'chute number three. Some of these parachutists in Australasia suffered the occasional injury but none were killed here jumping. The 'chutes themselves in the multi-chute descents were bundled, not packed, and descent was made by hanging on by one's hands. There was none of this sissy stuff of being attached to the 'chute through the wearing of a harness!

The transformation of the bundled to a packed and harnessed 'chute did not require 'new technology' so much as a little bit more of applied thought and minor development. No new materials were required, only a lack of determination by the non-flying, seat-warming powers that be to proceed delayed improvement of the device for use by aircrew.

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Old 19 January 2012, 03:47 PM   #7
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Question

There is a recording of Cecil Lewis on the IWM site where he gives his opinion that it was very tight in the cockpit (and presumably therefore no room for a parachute) and I'm sure I've read someone's account expressing a similar sentiment.

Everyone seems to like to quote the RFC hierachy for not approving the use of parachutes (which seems to go against these thoughts) -but what were the reasons/excuses for the other nationalities' non-use thereof: the French, the Belgians, the Italians, the Russians and, of course, the Germans?
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Old 19 January 2012, 06:14 PM   #8
William
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There are images of the Sopwith Snipe modified for experiments with the "Guardian Angel". It was contained in a large nacelle of sorts added to the turtledeck and looks really awkward albeit may just be for a feasibility study rather than one involving the pilot. It looked so large that at first I wondered if it were meant to recover the entire aircraft.

Ironic in a way as if my memory is correct it was the appearance of a German flier descending via parachute from Barker's first kill of his most famous dogfight that distracted him long enough to receive his initial wound of the day.

I suspect that the hesitance to use them was based on bulk and the "common sense" of the day that it was not feasible... until someone proved that it was. Off topic but my father reported that even during the second world war he was more afraid of bailing out than he was of being shot at. Way off topic but that may have been nothing compared to the fear of the early ejection seats. I had a client once who was shot through the canopy of his Sabre jet and survived in Korea (I saw the scars and his medical record). At least back then pilots were slow to trust even when the results were in their best interest.

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Old 19 January 2012, 11:20 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by errolmartyn View Post
the jumper began his descent with a free fall while opening 'chute number one, descended for a while then cut it away, free fell again then opened chute number two before cutting it away also, then free fell again before opening 'chute number three. and descent was made by hanging on by one's hands. There was none of this sissy stuff of being attached to the 'chute through the wearing of a harness!



Errol
They cut their hands off ?
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Old 20 January 2012, 01:08 AM   #10
errolmartyn
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"They cut their hands off ?"

What?

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