James F. Smith

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James Floyd Smith invented the first parachute to use a ripcord. His invention was the predecessor of the modern parachute.

Smith was born on October 17, 1884, in Illinois. He usually went by the name J. Floyd Smith. As a youth, he became fascinated with flying. By the time Smith was twenty-eight years of age, he had constructed his own airplane. He spent most of his early life in California, but during World War I, he worked for the United States Navy at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio. While in Dayton, Smith developed his parachute. It was twenty-eight feet in length, and Smith deployed it from a backpack by pulling a ripcord. He tested the parachute on April 28, 1919, successfully parachuting from an altitude of 1,500 feet.

Following World War I, Smith worked for several companies, designing new parachutes. He eventually formed the Pioneer Parachute Company in Connecticut and the Smith Parachute Company in San Diego, California. Smith died of cancer on August 18, 1956.

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