Our history and legacy began in 1919, when Leslie Irvin, the founder of the Irvin Airchute Company, made the first ever recorded freefall parachute jump with a parachute designed to be manually releasable in freefall. Through Irvin Airchute Company, we have well-established roots in North America and the United Kingdom. Para-Flite was founded in 1969 and led the development of ram air and gliding parachutes. Our roots in the United Kingdom date back to 1926 with Irvin Air Chute and 1932 when GQ Parachutes was established by James Gregory and Sir Raymond Quilter. Aircraft Materials (AML) was later founded in 1953.
As the world’s first parachute designer and manufacturer, we have hundreds of man-years of experience with parachute design. When we started in 1919, our designs and plans were developed using pencil and paper. We now have and apply the latest state-of-the-art technology. But our services still revolve around the experience, commitment, and pride of the people who make Airborne Systems the company that it is today.
1919 Leslie Irvin makes the first freefall parachute descent; Irvin Airchute Company is formed.
1922 Leslie Irvin forms the “Caterpillar Club” for airmen saved by a parachute.
1925 The UK Government orders Irvin Air Chutes for the Royal Air Force aircrew.
1932 Raymond Quilter and James Gregory set up GQ Parachutes in the United Kingdom.
1933 Irvin Parachute officially adopted by 37 air forces worldwide.
1940 Irvin and GQ collaborate to produce the X-type Paratroop Parachute Assembly to meet the need for a safe and
reliable static line assembly for the new and rapidly expanding Army Airborne Forces. This assembly, with minor
modifications, is used throughout WWII and for 20 years beyond
1944 D-Day, the largest liberation force in human history is launched with the Allied airborne forces using Irvin designed parachutes.
1946 The first "live" ejection is made from an aircraft using a Martin Baker ejection seat fitted with an Irvin parachute assembly.
1950 Irvin brake parachutes first fitted to aircraft of the USAF and Royal Air Force.
1951 Martin-Baker, in collaboration with Irvin, develops the first autonomous pilot seat ejection system.
1960 First aerial recovery of a space capsule launched from an orbiting satellite (Discoverer 13) uses an Irvin
parachute recovery system.
1963 Landing brake-parachute developed by Irvin for SR-71.
1965 Irvin’s first mortar deployed Spin/Stall Parachute Recovery System used on DC9 development aircraft.
1969 Para-Flite founded to develop, manufacture and market gliding parachutes.
1976 Irvin develops and qualifies the parachute system for the NASA Pioneer Venus program.
1976 Goodyear, in collaboration with Irvin, uses a parachute decelerator system to safely land the Viking spacecraft on
1978 Irvin flight termination & mid-air recovery system used on the Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM).
1991 Space Shuttle Endeavor successfully lands using an Irvin brake-parachute.
1996 Irvin designed and tested a cluster of 3 Ringsail parachutes to recover the Boeing EELV concept’s 20,000 lb. propulsion module demonstrating the technology to successfully return the first stage rocket engine to a water landing for subsequent recovery, refurbishment and re-use.
1998 World-record largest parachute cluster flight for the Kistler K-1 development. Irvin advanced the state-of-the-art of large spacecraft recovery systems.
1999 F-22 development aircraft successfully conducts flight tests with Irvin’s self-monitoring, pilot-actuated Spin/Stall Parachute Recovery System.
2003 NASA Pad Abort Demonstrator program flies 156ft diameter Ringsail cluster—recovery system test, demonstrating technology for a future manned spacecraft crew.
2004 Cassini-Huygens mission—Titan moon of Saturn exploration. Irvin provided parachute design and manufactured the parachute system.
2005 SpaceX - Irvin developed the parachute recovery system for 1st stage recovery of Falcon I commercial launch vehicle for low cost transport of satellites to low earth orbit.
2006 Para-Flite successfully tests the "Mega-Fly", breaking the world record with the largest ram air canopy ever flown.
2007 Airborne Systems combines the legacy and core technologies of Irvin Aerospace, GQ parachutes, Para-Flite,
Irvin Canada and AML into one single company.
2009 Airborne Systems GPADS Systems FireFly and DragonFly seected as part of the US Army 2k and 10k JPADS program.
2010 Airborne Systems T-11 parachute systems starts fielding as a replacement ot the legacy T-10 parachute.
2010 Airborne Systems Entry Descent and Landing System (EDLS) soft lands the SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft’s highly successful maiden flight.