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October in Aviation History

100th Anniversary of First Emergency Free Fall:

October 20, 2022 represents the 100th anniversary of the first emergency bailout from an aircraft using a freefall parachute. Lt. Harold Harris, Chief of McCook Field Flying Section, whose Loening PW-2A Monoplane was disabled while testing new ailerons in combat practice was forced to jump. He landed in a grape arbor in the backyard of a house on Troy Street in Dayton, while his plane crashed nearby on Valley Street.

Near the end of WWI the US Army put together a parachute research group that came under the Engineering Division at McCook Field in Dayton. Their job was to develop a practical parachute for in-flight escape from fixed wing aircraft. The Type A parachute rig was based largely on Floyd Smith’s concept for a manually operated free-fall parachute. The pilot would wear the chute, climb out and jump away from the airplane, then manually operate the parachute once safely away from the plane. It provided the first practical system for inflight escape from fixed wing aircraft, avoiding the dangers of a tethered system. The chute was initially live jumped in testing by Leslie Irvin in April of 1919 and was soon standardized and eventually required for use by Army pilots. Lt. Harris' 1922 jump was the first instance of an emergency use of the system.

CLICK HERE to read more about Lt. Harris' first hand account of the event in a 1925 Parachute Manual published by the Air Service Engineering Division at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio.


A dramatic video presentation of "The Harold Harris Story" can be seen on the Parachute Museum Theater using this link:

(Scroll down to video #1 at the bottom of the page. Also of interest on the Parachute Museum Theater page is video #2 which has a dramatization of the Floyd Smith and Leslie Irvin story).


Learn more about Parachute History: CLICK HERE to download a copy of a Speaker Series presentation on the history of the parachute that was produced by the Aviation Trail Parachute Museum team. And be sure to explore the Parachute Museum page on this ATI website.

Aviation Trail, Inc. Parachute Museum

16 South Williams Street

Dayton, OH 45402


The Aviation Trail Parachute Museum is Site #1b on the Aviation Trail


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