What do parachutist Adeline Gray and Amazon have in common? Well, you'd be surprised.
75 years ago, on June 6, 1942, Adeline Gray made the first human jump with a nylon parachute. It took place at Brainard Field in Hartford, Connecticut.
The Pioneer Parachute Company developed the parachute and described the material as "compact with lightness, resiliency and strength." Up until this point, manufacturers utilized silk.
The Nylon Test
Gray jumped for the first time at age 19 and performed the test, her 33rd jump, at age 24.
The only licensed female parachute jumper in Connecticut worked at Pioneer Parachute as a senior rigger; she eventually became head of the rigging department.
Parachute riggers are trained or licensed to pack, maintain, or repair parachutes. A deep understanding of the device is crucial-- fabrics, hardware, webbing, regulations, sewing, and packing directly relate to maintenance. Packing the parachute makes for a reliable way to land. Riggers must ensure the parachute unfolds properly.
When a parachute unfolds, several things must happen: the parachute must unfold correctly, consistently, without twisting, without tangling the lines, and unfold at the right place. If the unfolding process happens a different way, the jumper could be injured or the material damaged.
The jump test was done in front of 50 military officials. Once the material was proven safe, the Federal Production Specification allowed all parachute manufacturers to use nylon fabric.
Since silk was not readily available because of the war, nylon became the popular material. It is cheap, elastic, and mildew-resistant. It is also lightweight and dries quickly.
Manufacturers invented a way to prevent an entire parachute from tearing. Ripstop Nylon was woven in a special way with thicker than normal threads. The overall design was a small pattern of squares. The squares prevent any tears in the canopy from becoming larger and tearing the entire parachute.
Gray performed jumps at airshows across the country. Camel Cigarettes established Gray as the face of their brand, and LIFE magazine featured photographs of the famous jump.
And now, believe it or not, parachutes could change consumers receive items ordered online forever.
Amazon Changed Retail
In the heart of Seattle, Washington sits Amazon headquarters. The company is the largest private employer in Seattle with about 25,000 employees and its campus houses several unique buildings.
The e-commerce company changed the way we shop. Its continuous innovation changed retail forever, especially through features such as 1-Click Shopping and having accounts people sign into. Consumers loved not needing to enter payment information more than once when making an online purchase.
It also introduced the concept of the endless aisle through a transparent integration of products.
Amazon changed the publishing industry dramatically, as well. They sold independent e-reader products, the Amazon Kindle, and then marketed e-books through their website. They also have contracts with authors who are exclusively published through e-books.
Pricing is more affordable for certain items, and you can even qualify for free shipping. The company offers an Amazon Prime membership where free, two-day shipping will apply for certain products, unlimited streaming of music, television, and movies, and books can be borrowed from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library for a monthly or yearly payment.
All of these perks attracted millions of people, and the company has at least 65 million Prime subscribers.
Safe enough for people, safe enough for products
Amazon takes it one step further with their drone delivery project for Prime members, Prime Air.
Up until this year, Amazon has depended on delivery trucks to get their products to consumers. However, in late 2013, Amazon announced Prime Air and began theorizing on whether products can be delivered by drone.
This past week, Amazon filed for a patent shipping label that contains a built-in parachute. They want to have deliveries drop from the sky and the parachute will ensure nothing breaks.
Grey's discovery that nylon was a sufficient material to safely get humans back on the ground ensures it is safe enough to deliver products in one piece.
The first drone delivery took place in December 2016 and took 13 minutes between click and delivery. The parachute will only make this process more efficient.
The company's first step to making this a reality, and the norm, will be to meet necessary regulations. The Federal Aviation Administration still needs to establish rules for autonomous drones, and at that point, they can potentially bring a parachute into the picture.
In the meantime, we can thank Gray for proving nylon is safe. And don't worry, you can still order your artichoke measuring scale-- you'll just have to depend on a truck to deliver it.