Franz Reichelt was an Austrian-born French inventor who worked tirelessly in his free time on designing a flying parachute suit for airplane pilots. Airplanes were a relatively new invention at the time, having only been flown for the first time in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, and the logistics of how a pilot would escape a falling plane were still being decided.

Reichelt’s first prototype tests were performed from a fifth floor balcony using dummies and were successful enough for him to progress his invention to the next stage of testing. From a higher drop point, the tests, which he decided to do himself by jumping off the lower level of the Eiffel Tower, would prove to be disasterous.

The 187-foot fall onto frozen ground killed him instantly. You can view British Pathé footage of Franz Reichelt standing on the platform and performing the jump in the video below. The footage is old and grainy but be advised that it is still disturbing.

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