Most of the members of the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society wear with pride the tiny gold
Caterpillar Pin which is awarded by the Irvin Air Chute Company to anyone who saves his life by parachuting 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 upon which to hang. Parachutes in the early days were made from pure silk.
About 1920, Leslie Irvin, a 24 years old stunt man 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. Irvin then opened factories in the USA and in
The Irvin Company started the Caterpillar Club and the practice of awarding the gold Caterpillar Pin in
1922 because each life saved was the result of Leslie Irvin's invention, symbolizing Irwin's dedication to safety in the air.
It is estimated that at least 100,000 persons have saved their lives by Irvin parachutes.
This came from the home page of the Royal Air Force Escaping Society,
now disappeared from the net. (4-22-04)