Swiss Man Safely Uses Leonardo da Vinci Parachute

Published April 29, 2008


He conceived of the tank, the machine gun and the helicopter, but few of Leonardo da Vinci's sketched designs have truly been tested.

Except one: The prototypical Renaissance man's famous 1485 design for a rudimentary parachute.

On Saturday, in what appeared to be a first, Swiss adventurer Olivier Vietti-Teppa proved that Leonardo's pyramidal-design parachute could carry the weight of a man all the way to the ground.

• Click here to watch video of the jump.

Vietti-Teppa jumped out of a helicopter at about 2,000 feet above the Payerne military airport and safely landed, if a bit roughly.

"You come down at the whim of the wind," noted the parachutist.

But Vietta-Teppa's chute did not incorporate Leonardo's original design, which called for four equilateral fabric triangles anchored by a wood-frame base. Instead, his parachute was made of modern fabric and mosquito netting.

• Click here for's Patents and Innovation Center.

In 2000, however, a British parachutist, Adrian Nicholas, used the pyramidal design and the wooden frame for a chute used in a jump from a hot-air balloon 10,000 feet over South Africa.

Nicholas, however, feared the wooden frame might crush him upon landing, so he cut himself free at 3,000 feet and used a modern parachute to reach the ground.

So, was Vietti-Teppa's jump the first successful test of Leonardo's design, or was Nicholas'?

• Click here for the full report from the Daily Telegraph, and here for Adrian Nicholas' Telegraph obituary.