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MANAGEMENT IN AVIATION HISTORY BENCH MARKS OF SMITHS AND PARACHUTES


BY GIACINTA BRADLEY KOONTZ


Above: Floyd sits next to Hilder, his wife, at the controls of their biplane (~1914). The couple worked for the Glenn L. Martin Aviation School at Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA, where Hilder made her solo flight. Hilder and her husband were both accomplished aircraſt mechanics. Right: Mrs. Floyd (Hilder) Smith prepares for her exhibition parachute jump from Glenn Martin’s aircraſt over Los Angeles Harbor in 1914. Photos: Authors collection.


I RECEIVED A LETTER FROM A FRIEND WHO BELIEVED THAT HIS RELATIVE, EMMETT SMITH, WAS THE INVENTOR OF THE PARACHUTE RIP CORD. HE ADDED THAT EMMETT’S “WIFE WAS AN EARLY FEMALE PILOT AND WING WALKER.” THIS SOUNDED FAMILIAR AS THERE WERE EARLY WING-WALKING LADIES WITH THE LAST NAME OF “SMITH.” HOWEVER, I KNEW THAT A PATENT HAD BEEN GRANTED TO J. FLOYD SMITH FOR PARACHUTES DURING 1918, AND THAT HIS WIFE, HILDER (WHOM HE CALLED “SIS”) HAD MADE AIRCRAFT EXHIBITION FLIGHTS.


As it turns out there are several


published claims for the first use of this important equipment which allows the parachutist to open the canopy once free from an aircraft so that the tethered lines to not tangle with the tail assembly. But who first invented the rip cord?


PARACHUTES AND DARE-DEVILS When former President of the U.S., Theodore Roosevelt was taken aloft


46 DOMmagazine.com | june 2019


October 11, 1910 by aviator, Arch Hoxey at St. Louis, MO, there were concerns regarding the balance of the aircraft due to the obvious difference in size between Hoxey, and his heavier passenger. Bulky, “TR” was perched on the open frame of a wood and fabric Wright aircraft without a seat belt, much less a parachute, and taken for a flight by a pilot he had just met. All went well, but at the time, there were already those who wondered,


“must the pilot and passenger go down with the aeroplane?” In fact, Hoxey died at the controls of his aircraft just two months later attempting to break his own altitude record at Los Angeles, CA. Hoxey was one of dozens of aviators who may have survived using a parachute. By 1910, parachute jumps had been made for decades from balloons. An entire business of entertainment flourished for men, and many


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