the Caterpillar Club

A  reunion of  Caterpillar  Club  members  from  Hawke's Bay  December 1991
A Caterpillar Club badge
the Caterpillar Club story
The Irvin Air Chute Co. started the Caterpillar Club in 1922 and the practice of
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 silk.

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.

During 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 Caterpillar Club.
It is estimated that at least 100,000 peoples lives have been saved by Irvin parachutes.