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Frank Derry died August 2, 1968, in Kalispell, Montana, five days after his 64th birthday. He was a resident of Bigfork. Frank was born July 27, 1904 in Wenatchee, WA. Frank spent the summer of 1922 as a smokechaser on the Wenatchee NF. In 1934 Frank moved to California and worked for Northrop Aircraft in the Los Angeles area. Frank established the Derry Parachute Service business in 1936 and became the west coast distributor of Eagle Parachutes. In 1939 Frank, brothers Chet and Virgil, and Glenn Smith provided the professional expertise for the USFS experimental parachute project in Winthrop, Washington. All four were professional parachutists from the Los Angeles area. The USFS smokejumper program, born in 1940, was a result of the success of the 1939 experimental program. Frank is responsible for the development of the static line system in 1941 and the steerable parachute in 1942-43. The addition of "Derry slots" and guidelines allowed any standard flat parachute to be converted into one which fit the needs of a person parachuting into rugged terrain. Frank continued on with the smokejumper program until 1945. Frank's contribution to the smokejumper program can not be overstated. He was head instructor to an estimated 400 smokejumpers. His development of jump suits, harnesses, and parachute canopies was key to the new smokejumper program.



Publication Date

January 2002


Smokejumping; Smokejumpers -- United States; National Smokejumper Association; Wildfire fighters; Obituaries


Forest Management

Smokejumper Obituary: Derry, Frank M. (Winthrop 1940)