Harold Harris vs. Jim West
The Aviation Trail, Inc. Dave Gold Parachute Museum, in the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center, Dayton, was the center for visits from some area skydivers. Jim West, owner of Skydive Greene County (SGC), Xenia, Ohio, and some jumper friends, for the first time, toured the Dave Gold Parachute Museum last week.
Jim has been skydiving from the early days of the sport and has accumulated over 16,000 jumps…at least. He also did tests on ejection seat parachutes for the U.S. Air Force. He noted that he has 70 reserve rides. That is when the parachute doesn’t work like one would like and the jumper has to resort to the reserve chute. Scary.
And talk about scary. Lt. Harold Harris of the U.S. Army Air Service was stationed at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, and in 1922 had to leap from a disabled airplane using a free fall parachute. He was the first one to do so.
Prior to this, Leslie L. Irvin made the first premeditated free fall parachute jump in 1919. Where? In Dayton, of course. Irvin had joined the Army Air Service parachute research team at McCook Field, following some stunt parachute work he did in movies. He immediately began a parachute equipment company which developed into Airborne Systems today.
McCook Field was located north of downtown Dayton where there are now baseball fields at Island Park. McCook was the beginning of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
In the meantime, Skydive Greene County became one of the first skydiving clubs, producing many known skydivers today. The skydiver-visitors to the museum last week included Steve Marcum, now airline pilot, originally from Huber Heights; Kelly West, Jim West’s daughter and manager; Sam Palumbo, retired, U.S. Treasury; Randy Zuercher, alumni of SGC and curator of the museum; and Ann Armstrong-Ingoldsby, former jumper at SGC and volunteer at the museum. Casey Huegel, National Park Ranger at the museum, who is also on the Parachute Museum committee, also led the tour.
The Dayton Air Show, June 24-25, will feature other skydiving wonders, Misty Blues all-woman Skydiving Team. One of their jump suits are featured in the Parachute Museum, which the team plans to tour that week.
So the legacy of Harold Harris lives on in people like Jim West…jumping out of perfectly good airplanes.
Photo below: Parachute Museum Curator Randy Zuercher speaks to the group.
Photos courtesy of Ann Armstrong-Ingolsby
CLICK HERE to see more photos from the visit.