Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Irvin Air Chute

From Graces Guide
August 1943.
November 1944.
Oct 1962.

Irvin Airchute Company of Canada, Ontario, Canada.


The Caterpillar Club

The Caterpillar Club is an informal association of people who have successfully used a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft.

The club was founded by Leslie Irvin of the Irvin Airchute Company of Canada in 1922. (Though Leslie Irvin is credited with inventing the first free-fall parachute in 1919, parachutes stored in canisters had saved the lives of observers in balloons and several German, Austro-Hungarian pilots of disabled military aircraft in the First World War.) The name "Caterpillar Club" simply makes reference to the silk threads that made the original parachutes thus recognising the debt owed to the silk worm. Other people have taken the metaphor further by comparing the act of baling out with that of the caterpillar letting itself down to earth by a silken thread. Another metaphor is that caterpillars have to climb out of their cocoons to escape.

"Life depends on a silken thread" is the club’s motto.

In 1922 Leslie Irvin agreed to give a gold pin to every person whose life was saved by one of his parachutes. At the end of World War II the number of members with the Irvin pins had grown to over 34,000 though the total of people saved by Irvin parachutes is estimated to be 100,000.

The successor to the original Irvin company still provides pins to people who have made a jump. In addition to the Irvin Air Chute Company, other parachute manufacturers have also issued caterpillar pins for successful jumps.

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