Would An Actual Golden Parachute Work?

I know gold can be woven into cloth and beaten into foil. Obviously, you could make a parachute of gold. But would it be able to take a person’s weight and would it successfully slow a fall?

I doubt it. Gold is soft. I would not think it would have the strength to act as a parachute.

Of course the weight of the thing would be horrendous too.

All that’s important will be cross sectional area, weight, and the yield strength of gold. I ought to be able to run the numbers tomorrow, but I think Whack-a-Mole is right; it will have to be too thick, and therefore have too much weight to be able to substantially slow the terminal velocity of a person.

Yeah, I realize gold is heavy and soft. This makes a working golden parachute unlikely. But I need the brains of the SDMB to crunch the numbers and tell me whether it’s actually impossible.

It might be important to distinguish between an already deployed parachute and gently letting someone go and see if that works and jumping out of a plane and pulling the rip cord.

I think an undeployed (eg folded) parachute would never work. The metal would bend and crease in a parachute pack for one thing. I cannot see it unfolding properly from that state. For another the violence of deploying will see the greatest stresses at that moment. To make gold strong enough to put up with the forces exerted when deployed I think would make it all essentially unworkable.

The Mythbusters got a lead balloon to fly, perhaps they should test this.
Is pure gold required, or can a lower karat number, like 10k, be used?

Could one use actual golden handcuffs to restrain an executive?
Are there actually gnomes living in Zurich?
Would shark repellant ward off actual sharks?
Will a dead cat actually bounce?

You didn’t say “need answer fast”, I figured tomorrow would be good enough.


Tomorrow, eh? If there’s no response from you in 24 hours, we’ll assume the answer was a definitive “no” and send flowers to your loved ones.

Gold is heavy and soft, but does the heavy part really matter? Gravity makes everything fall at the same speed, so the trick is really if the gold parachute can withstand the force of the air beating into it right? In other words, I always thought terminal velocity is more a function of wind resistance than the weight of the original object.

If you had something like a cloth or (steel) wire mesh built into it so that the force of the air against any square of gold foil wasn’t so strong as to tear it, then yeah, if you make it big enough you’ll be able to compensate for the weight.

In Ye Olden Days, parachutes were made of silk. Cloth of Gold is made from gold wrapped silk thread. I don’t think a gold lamé parachute is out of the question (except, possibly, on grounds of taste).

Gravity accelerates everything at the same speed, but the force of gravity is proportional to mass. In the terminal velocity equation I found on wikipedia, mass is a listed factor, about equal in significance to area. ‘wind resistance’ isn’t listed as such in the math, but it probably amounts to the whole ‘area * fluid density * drag coefficient’ section. So a change in more than one of those elements would be more important than an equal change in mass… but I don’t think you can change the density of air, and I’m not sure about the drag coefficient.

So, roughly, if the weight of the parachute were equal to that of a man, it would need to have twice the surface area, or about a 30% increase in radius. (Which might make it heavier yet, and so on.)

The “lead balloon” episode (one of the coolest things they’ve ever done, BTW) showed that lead foil is waaay too delicate for serious work. I would think gold foil wold be similar.

the canopy of a BASE-jumping parachute is around 200 square feet in area (185,806 sq cm).

The density of gold is 19.3  g·cm−3.

If you make the chute 0.1 mm thick, it’ll weigh 35.9 kg

A gold parachute would never get to be used as somebody would have it away long before then and if you DID take proper precautions to prevent this then in an emergency situation the bloke would still be unlocking it when the plane ploughed in.

I’ve done quite a bit of skydiving in the past, out of a wide variety of aircraft, and I think it would be possible to make it work under certain conditions. If I were in a large helicopter that’s hovering (so no air speed) with a large cargo door, and had the parachute laid out behind me (not packed into a container on my back), I could hop out and drag the canopy out with me. I wouldn’t be at terminal velocity so the stress on the canopy wouldn’t be too great. When I landed, however, I would get out of the way of the canopy in a big hurry!

I would imagine that the extra weight of gold would lead to much unpleasentness, when you hit the ground and the gold landed on top of you.

Dear og look, it’s the Pointer Sisters Airbourne Division!

I guess I didn’t really answer your question. I don’t think a parachute made of pure gold, packed into a container, worn on the back while diving out of a moving airplane, and deployed at terminal velocity, would work. The weight of the canopy and the softness of the gold would prevent it.

There are ways to slow the deployment of the canopy. Modern ram-air canopies have “sliders”- a rectangular piece of nylon with a grommet in each corner. The line groupings go through the grommets, the slider is pushed up the lines when packing so it is against the canopy. When the parachute opens, the slider slides down the lines, slowing the deployment. Otherwise, opening shock would be too great for even a regular nylon canopy. Parachutes have been torn apart, and people have been seriously injured and even killed by opening shock without a slider, or by not pushing the slider to the top of the lines.

Getting back to the original question, maybe a reinforced gold canopy would handle opening shock, but not pure gold- unless it was so thick (and heavy) that only Chuck Norris could wear it.