This Day in History – April 19, 1919

One hundred years ago today, Leslie Leroy Irvin successfully tested the Type-A parachute by jumping from an airplane. The new chute performed without issue, but Irvin broke his ankle upon landing.

During WWI, Irvin joined the Parachute Research Team of the Army Air Service. The expanding aviation industry created a need for parachutes in the event of aircraft failure. Irvin helped develop the Airplane Free-Fall Parachute Type-A. This parachute incorporated 3 elements:

  • Parachutes needed to be stored in a pack on the user’s back
  • A ripcord, to manually deploy the parachute a safe distance away from the plane.
  • A pilot chute that would draw the main canopy out of the main pack.

Irvin was so confident in this product that he volunteered to test it himself. With pilot James Floyd Smith at the controls, Irvin jumped. As a result of his jump, the new parachute was put into production. Months later, Irvin formed the Irving Air Chute Company in Buffalo, New York.

A popular story is that the company was intended to be named the Irvin Air Chute Company, but a secretary spelled Irvin’s name wrong and he never bothered to correct it. According to the company, the earliest man to be saved by an Irving Parachute was William O’Connor at McCook Field.

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