Caterpillar Club story
The Irvin Air Chute
Co. started the Caterpillar Club in 1922 and the
awarding the tiny gold Caterpillar Pin to anyone
who saved his life byparachuting
from a disabled or flaming aircraft. Each
recipient of the Caterpillar Pin is living
testimony to the life saving ability of the Irvin
Type Air Chute. The Caterpillar is symbolic of
the silk worm,
which lets itself descend gently to earth from
heights by spinning a silky thread to hang from.
Parachutes in the early days were made from pure
In 1919 Leslie
Irvin, a 24-year-old stuntman from California,
demonstrated the first
"free drop" parachute. He had made the
chute himself on a borrowed sewing machine.
Flying safety experts were so impressed that the
American Air Force and British R.A.F.
promptly adopted the parachute as standard
equipment. Later the same year,
Irvin established his first factory for the mass
production of parachutes in Buffalo, New York.
In 1926 the first European factory was
established in Letchworth, England.
the height of World War II, production of
parachutes at the Irvin Air Chute Co. factory
in Letchworth, England reached a peak of nearly
1,500 parachutes per week.
By late 1945 there were 34,000 members of the
It is estimated that at least 100,000 peoples
lives have been saved by Irvin parachutes.