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In 1972, Bill Booth started the Relative Workshop in a Miami garage. In the late 1970s Bill made two major contributions to the world of skydiving. First he invented and patented the Hand Deploy Pilot Chute System, which soon changed the sport forever. The second invention, and perhaps his greatest contribution to the sport, was the invention of the 3-ring release system.
The company's first harness/container system was Wonderhog in 1974. This was followed by the Wonderhog Sprint and in 1980 by the Vector. The U.S. Skydiving Team wore the first Vectors at the 1981 World Meet. The Vector II followed six years later.
In 1983, Bill received the Parachute Equipment Industry Association Achievement Award. The Federation Aeronautic International awarded him the 1984 Gold Medal for outstanding achievement in parachute safety design.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, new freefall disciplines made their way into the skydiving mainstream-SkySurfing and FreeStyle were soon followed by FreeFlying. These new disciplines brought with them new concerns. In these flight modes, the container is subjected to direct, high-speed airflow from every direction. The need for more security, such as riser, pin, and bridle protection became apparent.
His invention of the 3-ring release safety device enhanced skydiving safety. The device allows the rapid release of the skydiver's main parachute in the event of a malfunction. Currently, all sport skydiving equipment and some military systems employ the design.
Bill also invented the throw-out pilot chute. A pilot chute is a small parachute used to extract and deploy a main parachute. The throw-out approach replaces the spring-loaded pilot chute which was released by a rip-cord. The throw-out system allows the skydiver to deploy his or her pilot chute directly into the air stream. Other inventions include the Skyhook RSL safety device and the "Sigma System" for tandem drogue release.
Bill founded The Relative Workshop, the sport skydiving equipment manufacturer that pioneered modern parachute systems with its introduction of the WonderHog harness/container system. The WonderHog was so named because of the 'piggy-back' design with the reserve container located above the main container on the back of the skydiver instead of the belly-mounted reserve seen on earlier systems. The Relative Workshop has changed its name and is now called Uninsured United Parachute Technologies.
Bill was also instrumental in obtaining FAA recognition of the tandem jump as a means of teaching skydiving. From 1984 to 2001, tandem skydiving was possible in the US only as an "volunteer experimental test jumper" under exemptions to FAA rules, due to the "one person, two parachutes" definition of parachuting.
United Parachute Technologies sells the Vector 3 and Vector 3 Micron Harness/Container system. The latest versions incorporate innovations like magnetic riser covers, a spectra ripcord and the Skyhook RSL system.
'Booth's rule #2', which states that "The safer skydiving gear becomes, the more chances skydivers will take, in order to keep the fatality rate constant" is often attributed to him. See Risk compensation.
- Bill Booth appears as a part of a waiver and introduction-to-skydiving video shown to first-time tandem students who jump with the Vector Tandem system.
- He acted as the seaplane pilot and bartender in the feature film The Firm, starring Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman.
- He played a small role as a bearded skydiver in the feature film Cutaway .
- He was part of several Russian skydiving expeditions to the North Pole.
- He is a recipient of the Order of Lenin.
- He has two daughters named Katie and Julie.
- He survived a single engine plane crash on August 27, 2013 after the plane he was piloting lost power.