View Full Version : Worlds First Sky Diver?

22nd Feb 2015, 13:16
A friend's boss has just found some old photographs which apparently had belonged to his great grandfather. They include many interesting photographs of the RAF and civil flying between the Wars. In one photo he appears to be the pilot of a Spartan Cruiser and there are several group photos from his time in the RAF.

However, the one which caused me most interest was one of him dressed in RAF uniform and carrying a parachute. The hand written caption says, "1938, Salisbury Plain, 20,000 ft free fall from a Dragon Rapide".

I wondered if this might be some kind of record. I also wonder if there was any military use of free falling during WW2.

22nd Feb 2015, 13:44
I own a vintage DH aircraft and belong to the DH Moth club, Im sure the club would be interested in a copy of your material, heres how you contact them, they may even have the information you are seeking, [email protected], they also publish a world wide magazine read by many who might just have the information regarding the particular Dragon Rapide aircraft, keep us posted!

22nd Feb 2015, 14:19
Has to be Icarus. Pity the manual didn't suggest a parachute would be handy.

22nd Feb 2015, 17:55
I had no idea that a Dragon Rapide could climb to anything near to 20,000'.

22nd Feb 2015, 19:18
Service ceiling 16,700 apparently... says Wiki.

22nd Feb 2015, 20:46
Some that were exported to South America routinely flew throught mountain pases at 17000ft. and operated from airports at 10,600 ft, acording to a recent article in the DH Moth publication {number 168}, however I doubt that they had full payload on board.what a lovely aircraft!

23rd Feb 2015, 14:00
The inbetween war period had several daredevils jumping freefall.
One of the Danish freefallers, mentioned as world-record holder some places,
died in 1935 during an attempt on recordbreaking 10.000 meter (32.800 feet). He died during the climb at 8.500 meter presumably by heart attack, but ice-clogging of his air-supply has been mentioned as another possibility.
For the attempt was used a Fokker DXXI, however pictures claming to be the last of him shows a Biplane wich should be a Gloster Gauntlet.

Anybody who will confirm the Gauntlet on the picture on Søgeord: Bil,_b?d,_fly_m.m. Luftfart Luftfartens_historie John_Tranum | Gyldendal - Den Store Danske (http://www.denstoredanske.dk/Bil%2c_båd%2c_fly_m.m./Luftfart/Luftfartens_historie/John_Tranum#) ?

23rd Feb 2015, 16:35
Many thanks for the answers so far. I am certainly going to talk to the DH Moth Club. I have several contacts.

I have now got the photograph and the caption. The story becomes even more interesting. The jump actually took place at night!

The caption reads;

"Picture taken on Salisbury Plain 1:30 am. August 14th 1938 after baling out of a Rapide at 20,000 ft at midnight. Delayed pulling rip cord for 15,000 ft or 75 secs by stop watch and flash light."

I have always thought that skydivers, of whom my son is one, are a bit bonkers but this was a pilot for heaven sake! The family who have only just discovered these photos would really like to know more about his life, obviously an adventurous one. Other pictures suggest that, after a career in the RAF between the wars, he may have become an ATA pilot.

If people are interested I will relearn how to post pictures.

23rd Feb 2015, 16:36

"1938, Salisbury Plain, 20,000 ft free fall from a Dragon Rapide"
Probably this chap;

He is mentioned in The Times (15 August 1938) below:

He must have been bonkers doing this at night!

23rd Feb 2015, 16:52
Warmtoast, Thank you so much for posting that. It now appears that the photo I have is of Gwynne John. However, the actual photo has a message signed by Gwynne John and is addressed to the subject of my search, Ted Palmer.

The message reads, "To Ted Palmer, with best wishes for our joint survival." I wonder if Ted was flying the Rapide. That would make more sense.

joy ride
23rd Feb 2015, 17:45
If you only mean sky diving from a plane that is one thing, but if you include jumping from balloons I believe you can go back a lot further in time.