Peter Hearns Skyhigh Irvin

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Excallent book (shoddy research) Peter Hearns Skyhigh Irvin is a fine book on the life of the greatest manufacturer and marketer of parachuting equipment ever. With a coveted 'sole Source' Military Contract, L. Irwin was the master of the world at parachuting production and marketing: unequaled genius.

Was Les Irving a Designer of the Freefall parachute system? Irvin? Nope. Never happened. Total BS.

Hearns and others shallow research replicates baseless U.K. gibber that Irving "Invented" and/or "Co-Designed" the US Air Services' Parachute, emergency bail-out" system at McCook Field in 1919. Horsefeathers.

FACT: Camp-follower, L.Irvin made the 1st Jump there & then on that rig in the Spring of 1919 at the conclusion of the US Military Development Program for a high-reliability emergency bail-out high-speed parachute rig at McCook Field, Ohio.

Designers forbidden to jump: As Military Contractors, Parachute Board members were forbidden to jump.

OK, FACT: Irvin designed and developed his own S/L-only rig in parallel with the McCook Field Parachute Board's concurrent development of a free-fall-capable rig. So what? Irving's rig was tested. It failed in-test and was rejected.

FACT: Smith is da man! The USA's adopted rig was designed and developed by Floyd Smith and his team. Irvin was not a player.
FACT: Esteemed aeronautical engineer & designer, F. Smith had patented the basic design prior to his start-work contract commissioned by Gen. Billy Mitchell in Summer 1918. Once hired, Smith and Guy Ball started work in the Fall of 1918 at Wright Field then moved to McCook after Armistace when Congress funded the effort.
LATER: Maj. E.L. Hoffman, Military lead, joined the team late in January 1919 and added 3 members to "The Parachute Board". All civilian contractors, except for Sgt Ralph Botreill, they declared all 'Automatic' static-line systems unacceptable, including Irving's.

Based on extensive tests, they then adopted Smith's free-fall design (Source: US Air Force Musem, Gold, Kancke, Smith, Starnes, Ball, Russell, Botreill, history, historians, et al)....

FACT: Irving jumped when all assumed he'd die in the process due to dread 'Fear-of-Falling' (A Barnstormer, Les beleived none of his dead fellows died from the act of their falling; instead, all died from impact, and all kicked and screamed all the way.

YEP: The Type -A was adopted by the military. Irving scored a sole source for that USA order of 350 units. The UK then awarded Irving Parachute Company an order for an additional 3,600 units. Within 18 months L. Irving dominiated parachute sales worldwide with his "Irving Type-A" that Smith & Ball designed.

Good thing happen: Subsequently Smith provided Irving with 4-6 additional patents. Smith also founded the Pioneer Parachute Company of America. So Irving is the master of parachute production and marketing. Floyd Smith is your freefall father.

Remember Floyd Smith. Yo! DaddyO! Yo!

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Hi Pat,
Yup, you got it!! I recall down at Otay, Don Whilldin used to mention that about the Floyd Smith-Les Irvin connection. A relative of Floyds', Prevost Smith (I believe he was Floyds' son but am not sure??) had a shop out by Santee. Whilldin also had his shop near by. Otay? remember Otay, back in the day of Jim McDonald's "Borderlands Air Sports Center!!"
SCR-2034, SCS-680


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Yes, I also have a copy of "Skyhigh Irvin."
Yes, the book is biased.
I see it is a fine example of "corporate history." Major corporations: Boeing, Bombardier, Martin-Baker, etc. allow "tame" historians or journalists to interview company founders and rummage through company archives to write history books that paint the corporation in a favourable light.
For example: a scion of the Molson (Brewery) family became an historian, curator of the (Canadian) Aviation Museum. I chatted with him once. He wrote a book that said that the first parachute jump - in Canada - was made near the family seat. And when archeologists wanted funding to excavate the wreckage of the first steamship built in Canada (with Molson money), underwater archeologists were housed in a comfortable hotel and ate steak on a regular basis.
This formed of biased history book is a form of advertising to make the corporation look good. If you want to understand the complete story, you need to read a half-dozen books written specifically about their competitors, customers (e.g. "The Yorkshire Birdman" about RAF jumper Simon Ward), etc.

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