BUFFALO, N.Y. - The parachute is a device that has saved thousands of lives and gave U.S forces a major advantage during the invasion of Normandy. It is also a device that was perfected by a company right here in Buffalo.
"All the parachutes used in the D-Day invasion were Irvin parachutes." says Roy Lindberg of the Niagara Aerospace Museum.
Yes, Irvin Air Chutes, based in Buffalo, New York produced them all for both US and British forces. that was more than 13-thousand men on the American side alone.
After World War One, the Army Air Service led an effort to develop an improved parachute for pilots, Leslie Irvin was a member of that team. They came up with a few major developments including a soft backpack to carry the chute, the ripcord, and a smaller pilot chute to draw the main chute out of the pack. In addition to all of that, a top vent that allowed air to flow through, making it somewhat steerable.
The new design worked flawlessly and less than three months later Irvin opened the Irving Air Chute Company in Buffalo. One of the early factory buildings still stands today on Florida Street. Legend has it that the "G" in the corporate name was the result of a typo, and they never changed it back, so Irvin became Irving.
They concentrated more on their craft, and soon became the largest parachute manufacturer in the world. They opened factories in Canada and the UK. By 1939, Irving parachutes were used by 45 countries including Germany.
In 1970, they finally took the G off Irving and went back to Irvin Air Chute, and in 1996, changed its name again to Irvin Aerospace Inc. The company is no longer in Buffalo, still in business under the name AIrborne Systems.
Airborne System produces, among other things, parachutes, equipment for the space program and defense department.