One of my heroes is Leonardo da Vinci, without doubt history’s most creative individual. But alas, out of honesty, I am forced to say in my talks about him that most of his great inventions – helicopters, submarines, parachutes – were never implemented, even in prototypes.

Well, an intrepid Swiss man (Swiss??? Intrepid??) named Olivier Vietta-Teppa built a version of da Vinci’s parachute (see the original sketch below), leaped out of a helicopter with it and… landed safely. This was after a Brit tried the same thing, in 2000, but had to use his reserve parachute (OK, I admit it – Olivier had one too… but he did not use it).  

I doubt there are many examples of innovations that wait for 523 years before being implemented. Now – what about da Vinci’s helicopter? Submarine? Aircraft?  
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Parachute that Da Vinci drew is made to work… after 523 years
By Ian Sparks- 28th April 2008, Daily Mail

Parachutes have come a long way in the last few decades. They’re easier to steer and a great deal less likely to go wrong. So it takes a certain amount of nerve to plunge 2,000ft relying on a “chute designed more than 500 years ago. However a Swiss daredevil has done just that, trusting to the genius of Leonardo da Vinci.  Olivier Vietti-Teppa, 36, jumped at the weekend using a parachute based on sketches made by the Italian Renaissance artist in 1485. He said after the jump in Payerne, near Geneva: “It worked perfectly. I was unable to steer it, but I just glided gracefully to the ground.

Used da Vinci’s parachute: Olivier Vietta-Teppa
“I came down smack in the middle of the tarmac at Payerne military airport. A perfect jump.” He admitted he had been wearing a modern reserve parachute in case da Vinci’s design – made out of four triangles of fabric and with a pointed top – had failed to open. Mr. Vietti-Teppa is the first person to have made it safely to the ground with the da Vinci model. In 2000, Briton Adrian Nicholas tried it but had to use a back-up parachute to complete his descent. Mr Vietti-Teppa’s parachute was made using modern fabric along lines imagined by da Vinci. The specifications were found in a manuscript dating from 1485.

The parachute consists of four equilateral triangles of fabric, seven yards on each side. The base of the pyramid is a square of mosquito net, which enables the parachute to open. A wooden frame originally conceived by da Vinci was not used. It has one drawback – it is impossible to manoeuvre. “You come down at the whim of the wind,” said Mr Vietti-Teppa.

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