The January issue of Parachutist made a big deal about celebrating 100 years of freefall skydiving and Leslie Irvin’s key role in it. I’m not saying he didn’t play a key role, but a recent article in AOPA Pilot and a letter to the editor in its February issue by Bruce Smith, grandson of James Floyd Smith, suggests there is more to the story. According to Smith’s letter, Irvin was issued a patent for a static-line parachute in 1918, but Smith’s grandfather owned the patent for the free-type manually operated ripcord, which was issued the same year. Also, according to Smith’s letter, his grandfather sued Irvin for patent infringement after claims that Irvin invented the ripcord. Smith apparently won the lawsuit, but that fact was lost to history. The actual parachute with credit to Smith is on display at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.
Dave Rosenau | D-4739
Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Editor’s note: Although Irvin was a longtime parachute designer and made the first intentional freefall jump, the credit for the design of the manually operated ripcord that Irvin used for the jump belongs to Smith.