Saturday, April 08, 2006

Tiny, the Doll Girl


"To tell the truth, I feel just as much at home jumping out of an aeroplane with my father's life preserver as I would if sitting on the front steps. Of course, one must understand aeronautics to perform a feat successfully, but I have had experience, and I know it is impossible for the device to fail." -- Tiny Broadwick, 1915.

Pioneering skydiver Tiny Broadwick was born Georgia Ann Thompson on this date in 1893 in Henderson, North Carolina.

The foster child of balloonist Charles Broadwick, 4-foot tall, 85-lb. "Tiny" Broadwick (known as the "Doll Girl") was one of Charles' band of high-altitude barnstorming performers when she made her first parachute jump from a balloon at the age of 15. This, of course, was a feat that might have been cause for a call to child welfare authorities today. At any rate, after Capt. Albert Berry's first successful parachute jump from an airplane in 1912, Tiny became the first woman to jump from an airplane on June 21, 1913, when Glenn Martin (pictured with Broadwick, above) flew her up to 2000 feet above Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Neither Capt. Berry's jump nor Tiny's 1913 jump were freefall jumps, but jumps in which their parachutes opened automatically.

While demonstrating her foster father's design for a static line parachute pack (whereby the pack was attached to a static line on the back with a breakaway tie which would open the chute automatically shortly after jumping) for the U.S. Army on September 13, 1914, however, Tiny made history again. She used the static line 4 times during the U.S. Army demonstration, but during the 4th jump the static line tangled with the airplane; so on the 5th jump, Tiny cut the static line to a length long enough to reach with her own hands, and jumped, pulling the cord herself once she cleared the Curtiss biplane and sailing safely to the ground using the risers in Charles Broadwick's parachute to steer her way to her landing target. With that, Tiny Broadwick became the first person to make a premeditated freefall jump. The tests ultimately resulted in the U.S. Army ordering its first Broadwick coatpack parachute, and Tiny had ushered in a new era of skydiving.

With a record of over 1,100 jumps, Tiny retired in 1922. She passed away in August 1978.

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