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Australia's first RAAF Parachute Jumps - 1926.

Another 3 Squadron “FIRST"

3 Squadron DH9A A1-10, modified for the RAAF's parachute experiments in 1926.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, of Saturday 29 May 1926, comes a report of the newly-formed RAAF's first parachute experiments.  These were also the very first "freefall" parachute jumps from an aeroplane ever conducted in Australia

[NB: However parachute technology itself had been used in Australia from as early as 1879, when one had been deployed to slow the emergency descent of a burst balloon, and a "static line" jump had been made from an aircraft on Boxing Day 1919 on the outskirts of Melbourne, by Captain Gordon C. Wilson MC DCM - formerly of 2AFC and 8AFC.]


Parachute Descents.


The first parachute descents to be carried out in Australia by the Royal Australian Air Force were conducted at the Richmond aerodrome this week, by members of No.3 Squadron, under the supervision of Flight-Lieutenant [Ellis] Wackett, who was sent up specially to instruct the unit in this form of aeronautics.  The first actual descent was made by Flight-Lieutenant Wackett, who was followed by Flight Officer V. H. Augerson.  He was taken up in a DH9 and climbed to a ladder on the side of the 'plane, preparatory to leaping off at 3000 feet.

A signal was given by the pilot, and Flight Lieutenant Augerson leapt into the air.  After falling about 50 feet, his parachute opened, and he made a graceful descent, finally landing in a ploughed field.  He was in the air for approximately two and a half minutes.

Interviewed, he declared that the descent was thrilling before the parachute opened.  The sensation of falling through space was a trifle weird, and when the parachute was released, his feet were over his head.  He felt no sudden jerk, and afterwards felt perfectly safe, making a perfect descent.  The equipment carried weighed 40lb., and consisted of a trainer's parachute, carried on the back, with a reserve one in front of the body.  The chute is released by a spring, which lets out a miniature parachute, which, when filled with air, automatically releases the main one.  Flying Officer Augerson said that in his descent he wriggled and fully tested out the harness.

Today, Flying Officers Sutherland and Duncan both made descents, the latter unfortunately spraining his ankle through landing in an awkward position.  

[Another first!]

Photos from the Airpower Development Centre:

The rear cockpit modified to carry a small ladder on the port side. 

Wackett later recalled: “It was a beautiful morning at Richmond and ideal for this type of exercise.  The DH9A aircraft that we were using for parachute training had to be modified.  The rear cockpit, which was the gunner’s position, [normally] had a Scarff Ring [gun mounting] around its perimeter.  This was replaced with a tubular steel ring to which a small ladder was attached, leading over the side of the aircraft fuselage. The cockpit was bare, except for a box used as a seat.  My pilot on that morning was Flying Officer Bill Duncan.  When we had reached 2000 feet I got up and stood on the box as the first step to scrambling over the side, then step by step I made my way gingerly down the ladder to the last rung.  I waited until the aircraft was over that section of airfield I gauged to be just right to jump.  Then with one hand on the rip cord and the other holding firmly onto the ladder rung I gave the pilot the nod and jumped.  My landing was without incident.  It was the blind leading the blind you know.”

Flight Lieutenant Ellis Wackett [brother of Lawrence who had served in 3AFC] making the first freefall parachute jump from A1-10 over Richmond air base, NSW.
In 1925 Wackett had been on a posting in England, spending time at the RAF station at Andover where he learned to pack and use the new life-preserving equipment.
On return to Australia, he began the introduction of parachutes into the RAAF. 

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