Stefan Banic

The Inventor of the Parachute and BASE Jumping

Štefan Banič 1870-1941

Stefan Banic, a Slovak inventor, constructed a prototype of a parachute in 1913 and tested it in Washington D.C. in front of the U.S. Patent Office and military representatives by jumping from a 41-floor building and subsequently from an airplane in 1914. His patented parachute became a standard equipment for U.S. pilots during the World War I. Banic worked in the United States from 1907 to 1921, with two interruptions. His name is not well-known, however, the Patent Office and military records confirm these historical facts, as you can also see, if you visit various Air Force ( and government (.gov) sites. In some sources his first name appears in the English form Stephen. The Slovak spelling is Štefan Banič, written with diacritical marks in CEE character set (Latin-2), the Slovak pronunciation is approximately Shteffun Bunnich.

Stefan Banic was born on November 23, 1870 in Nestich (Neštich), now part of Smolenice, Slovakia, what was then in Austria-Hungary. Patriotism and innovation had always been important driving forces in Stefan Banic's life. As an employee of a Hungarian Count Palffy, he was dismissed from his job for trying to improve conditons for fellow workers and the townspeople. He was also refused enrollment to the high school because of his Slovak consciousness. Stefan Banic chose to come to America in 1907 and settled in the community of Greenville, Pennsylvania.

He worked as a coal miner, stone mason and as an employee of the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company where he improved productivity through his innovative ideas. Banic also attended technical school at night. He was conversant in the English language, which is reflected in his petitions for a U.S. Patent and the technical descriptions of his parachute device.

In 1912 Stefan Banic was a witness of a tragical accident that impressed him so much, that he started to think about the construction of the parachute. In 1913 he build the prototype and submitted his invention to the Patent Office. On June 03 1914 Banic demonstrated his parachute invention by jumping from a 41-story (other sources say 15-story but there were more jumps) building in Washington, D.C., and he also successfully jumped from an Army aircraft. He was awarded the first U.S. Patent (No. 1,108,484) for such a device, on August 25, 1914. He donated his patent rights to the newly formed Army Signal Corps and to the American Society for the Promotion of Aviation. In gratitude he was made an honorary member of the Army Air Corps (now Air Force) and the Society. It must be noted that at the time when many entrepreneurs were gaining wealth and fame for their efforts he was a man who received neither money nor recognition. His invention was to become an importnant one in the history of the World War, and the entire modern aviation.

Stefan Banic returned to his homeland and Smolenice in 1921, which was now part of Czechoslovakia. He lived there until his death on January 2, 1941.

In 1970, a memorial was unveiled at the Bratislave Airport, the capital city of Slovakia.

On August 25, 1989, the community of Greenville, Pennsylvania, celebrated the 75th anniversary of Stefan Banic's invention and his contribution to the world of parachuting. It was a gala celebration with the U.S. Army and Air Force officials participating in the first such tribute to Stefan Banic in America. Proclamations were issued by Governor Bobert P. Casey, U.S. Congressman Tom Ridge, and by the General Assembly of Pennsylvania as House Resolution No.128, Mercer County, Borough of Greenville. On November 14, 1990, a bronze plaque was presented to the town of Greenville, Pennsylvania by the Slovak Museum & Archives, Middletown, Pennsylvania, honoring Stefan Banic.


No. 73 Session of 1989




Honoring Stefan Banic, the inventor of the parachute, on the 75th anniversary of the date his invention was patented.

WHEREAS, Seventy-five years ago Stefan Banic, a Slovak immigrant residing in Greenville, Pennsylvania, invented the parachute; and WHEREAS, On August 25, 1914, the same week that Germany invaded Belgium and ignited World War I, Stefan Banic received a United States patent for his invention; and WHEREAS, When no one was interested in buying his invention, Mr. Banic donated his patent to the United States Army Balloon Corps, in return for which the Army made him an honorary officer, even though he never was able to obtain United States citizenship; and WHEREAS, Stefan Banic returned to his native town of Smolenice, Czechoslovakia, in 1921, and died there at 70 years of age on January 2, 1941; and WHEREAS, Many veterans owe their lives to Stefan Banic's invention, and many military operations could never have been successful without the use of parachutes; and WHEREAS, Although a monument was erected in Czechoslovakia in honor of Stefan Banic, he has never been credited nor recognized properly for his invention's significant contribution to our nation's defense; and WHEREAS, A celebration or tribute is being planned in the Borough of Greenville on the weekend of August 25 through 27, 1989, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the day Stefan Banic received a United States patent for the parachute; therefore be it RESOLVED, That the Senate of Pennsylvania honor Stefan Banic, the inventor of the parachute, on the 75th anniversary of the date he received a United States patent for his invention, and recognize his invention's significant contribution to our nation's defense; and be it further RESOLVED, That the Senate express its support for the events and activities planned in Greenville, Pennsylvania, for the weekend of August 25 through 27, 1989, and encourage cooperation and participation in the activities.

B.A.S.E. Jumping

BASE jumping is an extreme sport, whose acronymic name derives from the four types of fixed objects that its unusual athletes leap from: Building, Antenna (tower), Span (bridge) and Earth (cliff). They say "the whole world is jumpable". Equipped with rectangular canopy chutes, toggles for steering, a knowledge of which way the wind is blowing, no reserve chutes (as compared with skydivers) and a special arrangement of brain cells, participants jump to conclusions from great and forbidden heights, or from little ones where a chute has little time to open. Until they release their chutes, they fall at 60 m.p.h. The end is often unsatisfactory.

No, Stefan Banic was not of one these crazy people. But his invention and his jump from a Washington building of 1914 are the most important in the history of this very dangerous sport.

Much later, in 1975, Don Boyles was the first person that BASE jumped the Royal Goerge Bridge. In 1976 Owen J.Quinn parachuted from World Trade Center. Modern BASE jumping started in 1980, when four guys jumped off El Capitan in the Yosemite national park with modified skydiving gear. Their names were Phil Smith, Phil Mayfield, Jean und Carl Boenish. On January 18, 1981 Phil Smith was awarded B.A.S.E. #1. In 1984 Carl Boenish, "Father of BASE Jumping", died in a leap from a Norwegian cliff...

On July 27-29 2001 the 10th Stefan Banic Memorial Parachute Boogie and the 2nd Banic-PA Sport Accuracy State Championships: will take place at Greenville Airport. The dual parachute events honor Stefan Banic, a Slovak immigrant who was living in Greenville in 1914 when he patented an umbrella parachute for military use. The Stefan Banic Memorial Boogie is an opportunity for skydivers to display their skills. Also, individuals interested in learning how to skydive may take a class and perform their first tandem skydive. The Banic-PA Sport Accuracy State Championships are for skydivers participating in individual or group sport accuracy parachuting contests. For more info, please go to the Mercer County site (click the logo below).

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P.S. In fact, Stefan Banic had a predecessor in Slovakia who is not well-known. It was Professor Faust Vrancic (Vrančič, Fausto Veranzio, Faustus Verantius), originally from Croatia, who constructed a parachute (it was a frame wrapped with linen, 6 x 6 meters in size, to which the parachutist was fastened by four ropes) and jumped with it from the tower of St. Martin's Cathedral in Bratislava in the presence of many citizens in 1603. Later he repeated the experiment in Belgrade and Venice.


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