Sunday, April 27, 2008

Parachutist puts faith in Da Vinci design

A 36-year-old Swiss amateur parachutist has made a successful 650-metre drop using a replica of a parachute designed more than 500 years ago by Leonardo da Vinci.

"I came down... smack in the middle of the tarmac at Payerne military airport," Olivier Vietti-Teppa said. "A perfect jump."

Mr Vietti-Teppa is the first person to have made it safely to the ground with the Leonardo model.

In 2000, Britain's Adrian Nicholas tried it but had to pull the ripcord on a modern backup parachute to complete his descent safely.

Mr Vietti-Teppa jumped from a hovering helicopter and the Leonardo parachute opened at 600 metres, he reported.

The parachute he used was made using modern fabric along lines designed by the Renaissance genius.

The specifications were found in a text dating from 1485.

The parachute consists of four equilateral triangles, seven metres on each side, made of parachute fabric, Mr Vietti-Teppa explained.

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 on the model.

But Mr Vietti-Teppa said it is impossible to manoeuvre or steer the Leonardo parachute.

"You come down at the whim of the wind," he said.

Mr Vietti-Teppa carried out advance tests using a scale dummy model launched from a remote-controlled model helicopter.


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