In sixth grade my teacher gave us a scenario. We were stuck in the desert and could only have one item for rescue- what would we use? He gave us a list, from which I believe I picked a broken radio (I was optimistic-maybe I could fix it?). But the right answer was a mirror. A mirror could be used to signal your location when it reflected sunlight. That idea has always stuck with me and I always keep a mirror nearby in case….I’m ever stuck in the desert, or have something stuck in my teeth.
But what if you only had a parachute? While cataloging items in our collection I found this booklet printed by the US Army Air Forces in February of 1945. Titled “Emergency Uses of the Parachute” it details just that. Inside are some ingenious uses for something every aviator has, the parachute!
Here are some examples:
1. Trade some of your chute for food: Many people value the quality of the silk. But be thrifty, don’t give it all away for a small meal!
2. Use it as a signal: tie parts of the parachute over a stream to show your location if you are in an area with a lot of trees.
3. Make a slingshot: a portion of the harness of the chute is used as the sling which is tied to the elastic cord from the parachute pack, which is then tied to a single bent rod from the pack frame wire.
4. And my favorite, the Improvised Shade Hat: Using the metal frame and canvas from the cover of the pack make a brim, then make the crown of the hat with the cloth. And for extra comfort, “to promote coolness, stuff wadded grass or cloth in the crown”.
These are just a few of some of the clever ways that aviators were trained to survive should they find themselves in an emergency situation.