We’ve scoured the internet looking for answers to who invented tandem skydiving and what we found was surprising. While most people would consider Bill Booth to be the founder of what some would consider the most popular method, we uncovered some additional stories about tandem skydiving that we had never heard before.
You’ll see fans of Booth’s that swear by his invention of many of the parts and equipment that skydivers use today, it is also a well known fact that he was instrumental in the FAA’s recognition of tandem skydiving as a sport, but did he invent it? Another name we have often seen is Ted Strong. Strong invented the Dual Hawk Tandem and the 2k and 10k SCREAMER Precision Delivery System. But do either of these well-known inventors answer our question of who invented tandem skydiving? Let’s take a closer look.
Bill Booth is often considered one of the pioneers for what we currently see as commercial skydiving today. Bill’s involvement in obtaining FAA recognition of the tandem jump as a means of teaching skydivers is nearly 100%. He also invented a rig in 1984, prior to this, tandem skydiving was only recognized by the FAA a “volunteer experimental test jumper” under their exemptions. He is also recognized as the inventor of both the Hand Deploy Pilot Chute System and the 3-ring release system.
What we can conclude of Mr.Booth creating tandem jumps is that while he was involved in the creation of one of the first dual-rigs and he was the biggest influence in the FAA recognizing tandem skydives, he did not initiate the first official jump.
Ted strong was instrumental in the development of both the Dual Hawk Tandem and the 2K and 10K SCREAMER Precision Delivery System. In 1983, tandem skydiving is said to have been created by Mr.Strong in an effort to test his new equipment that would later be included in the exemption issued by the FAA. Strong Enterprises still creates these dual harness rigs to date.
As far as Ted Strong goes, we can say that his dual harness invention was the first in tandem jumping and while he did complete a test jump during that time, he is not the first.
However, there were more stories in our research that lead us to finally answer the question of who invented the tandem skydive.
Now here is where we will blow your mind. In the research done on this article we found several stories of people claiming to have been there for the first tandem skydive or have heard about it. Some claim to not know who the first person was because paratroopers in the military probably did it all of the time and never told anyone…hm, probably. But, we need a name so we are going to review the next two mentions and you can see for yourself.
- Mike “BeanPole” Barber:
We’ve written about Mike before. One account of his historical influence to the tandem skydive is that he created a dual harness capable of holding another person so that he could take the son of his girlfriend up on a ride for his 11th birthday. This would have been around 1977 which would pre-date both Bill Booth’s and Ted Strong’s tandems.
- Jacques Menget and Pierre Raphael:
On March 20, 1937 in Guyancourt, these men performed a tandem skydive and are known (to some) as having completed “the first successful two-down run in the world“. This will be a static jump and both men will begin by jumping side by side out of the plane with a tandem parachute created by Mr.Menget, creator of the type M 30 parachute and EFA company founder.
- Dolly Shepard:
Chronicled in a book we had never heard of before “As the chute went up” by Dolly Shepard (with Peter Hearn) is the story of Dolly’s first time completing a tandem. What she recounts is that she started off assisting the famous Buffalo Bill Cody in some of his death defying stunts over the years including dangling from a hot air balloon and parachuting down from it as well. However, what caught our attention was one story she recalled in 1908 when her and another assistant took to the sky in a death defying feat. Both her and the other female assistant (a friend of Dolly’s) were over 10,000 feet above the ground when the chute of the other girl’s jammed. She was stuck and there was only one thing Dolly could do to save her. Dolly pulled her friend close, asked her to wrap her legs around her and both jumped from the balloon under Dolly’s parachute. Dolly was paralyzed from the waist down after that, which was lucky given the fact that her parachute was made for only one person. She then submitted to electroshock therapy (which was more accepted at that time) and surprisingly it worked. Dolly went on to accept a Guinness World Record for that save as the first mid-air rescue. And that ladies, and gentlemen, put her first on our list.
So Who Invented Tandem Skydiving?
Tandem skydiving is the most popular and widely recognized form of skydiving as well as the safest and most often “first skydive” option. In our conclusion, with the addition of historical accounts we have determined that the first person to do a tandem that anyone knows of was Mrs. Dolly Shepard in 1908. While she may have been the first to complete the tandem (unknowingly given the circumstances) we can conclude that the other mentions in this article were important in the tandem becoming what it is today, a world recognized sport and popular choice for many skydivers all over the globe.