Kirchoff is the son of George and Reginal Marino Kirchoff of Birmingham. He got his start as an engineer by repairing the fan belt on his father's Hudson. He found a 1936 Ford at a junk yard and restored it to running condition.
After graduating with an engineering degree from Auburn University in 1955, Kirchoff went to Navy flight school, where he met his wife, Gena. After leaving the military he worked in the rocket industry. He applied some of that experience to the problem of rapidly inflating a gas-filled bag during a 35-year career as head of of research and testing for Thiokol, Inc., Morton International, and Autoliv, Inc. The products developed from his efforts are now standard equipment in consumer automobiles and have been credited with saving more than 26,000 lives.
After retiring, Kirchoff remained with the Automotive Occupant Restraints Council and served as its president. He was given lifetime achievement award from BMW AG in 2011 an was given a safety award presented by consumer advocate Ralph Nader in 1992.
Kirchoff currently resides in Montrose in Baldwin County.
- Hoffman, Roy (December 11, 2011) "Pioneer of airbags reflects on life-saving invention." Mobile Press-Register