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Chester N. Derry ( Winthrop 1940 )

posted: Jan 1, 2002

Chet, 31, died April 20, 1947, when the Johnson Flying Service plane, he was piloting collided with another plane over the airport at Hamilton, Montana. He was born April 19, 1916 in Wenatchee, WA.

Chet was one of the four professional parachute jumpers to participate in the USFS 1939 experimental parachute program at Winthrop, Washington. The USFS smokejumper program starting in 1940 was the result of the success of the 1939 experimental program.

Chet made the first smokejumper rescue jump on July 15, 1940, when he parachuted to a downed Johnson Flying Service Travelair on the Bitterroot NF. Pilot Bob Maricich was on a cargo run when a wing clipped a tree. He was killed and cargo kicker Del Claybaugh was seriously injured. Chet had three fire jumps that season and two more during the 1941 season.

Chet went into the Army Air Corps in 1943 and was a pilot with the Air Transport Command in China and Burma flying the "hump." Upon his discharge from the military in 1946, Chet returned to Missoula and joined the Johnson Flying Service as an instructor and pilot. He is buried in the Missoula, Montana, Cemetery.