On April 28, 1919, Leslie LeRoy Irvin tested the first military free-fall parachute when he jumped from a de Havilland DH-9 biplane 1,500 feet over McCook Field in Dayton. The parachute - the first with a ripcord - was designed by a team working for the U.S. Air Service Engineering Division at McCook. It was the first time an American had made a free-fall jump with a manual parachute from a plane.
Born in Los Angeles in 1895, Irvin had worked as a stuntman for the film industry. He performed acrobatics and made descents from hot air balloons. He jumped from an aircraft for the first time in 1914 using a standard balloon parachute (usually held in the arms and let go after the jump) for a movie titled Sky High. From that stunt he acquired his lifelong nickname: "Sky High Irvin."
Called on to test the first military parachute, Irvin landed successfully, but suffered a broken ankle. He started Irving Air Chute Co. to manufacture the parachutes in June 1919. The misspelling of his name was a clerical error on the incorporation papers.
- Rebecca Goodman
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