April 19th, 1919 – Man Survives Jumping Out of Airplane!


Leslie Leroy Irvin was born in Los Angeles and grew up to become a stunt-man for the fledgling Californian film industry; he had performed acrobatics on trapezes from balloons and then make descents using a parachute. Irvin made his first jump when aged fourteen. For a film called Sky High, he first jumped from an aircraft from 1,000 feet in 1914. He developed his own static line parachute as a life-saving device in 1918 and jumped with it several times, and then on April 19th, 1919, made the first premeditated free-fall parachute jump by jumping from an airplane.


Leslie Leroy Irvin (September 10th, 1895 – October 9th, 1966)

The Type-A parachute was put into production and over time saved a number of lives. This was the first premeditated free-fall parachute descent. With Smith flying the plane and Irvin making the jump, the new chute performed flawlessly, though Irvin broke his ankle on landing.

Less than two months later, The Irving Air Chute Company was formed in Buffalo, New York, the world’s first parachute designer and manufacturer. Legend has it that ‘Irvin’ was inadvertently changed to ‘Irving’ by a secretary who mistakenly tacked a ‘g’ on the end of the name, and the company never bothered to correct the mistake until 1970.

An early brochure of the Irving Air Chute Company credits William O’Connor August 24th, 1920 at McCook Field as the first person to be saved by an Irving parachute. Two years later, Irvin’s company instituted the Caterpillar Club, awarding a gold pin to pilots who successfully bailed out of disabled aircraft using an Irving parachute.

Irving Air Chute had become the largest parachute manufacturer in the world. By 1939, 45 foreign countries were using Irving parachutes, including Germany, which had confiscated an Irving plant and bought its patents in 1936. During the Second World War, Irving parachutes alone saved over 10,000 lives.

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