Saturday, October 9, 2010

Parachute Service Life

There is no service life on the parachute; it may be considered airworthy as long as it meets its technical standard order. While the parachute appears to be in good condition, there are not many non-destructive tests available to the parachute rigger in the field to make this determination. It may be possible to drop test the parachute, but the cost would probably outweigh the value of the system. It is up to the parachute rigger to make the determination as to the airworthiness of the parachute system. When the parachute rigger seals the parachute and signs the data card, the rigger is saying it is ready, thereby putting the customer’s life on the line.

What should the parachute rigger do? This is not just a theoretical situation—it is one that has been experienced many times by many parachute riggers. All of the above information plus economic factors complicate the parachute rigger’s decision. If the rigger does not pack the parachute, the pilot may take it down the road to another parachute rigger for a second opinion who may not have the same standards. An added factor is liability exposure. If the parachute rigger signs off on a questionable parachute and an accident occurs later, the rigger may be exposed to disciplinary action from the Administrator in addition to civil action in the courts. There are no hard and fast rules in these situations, but instead, the parachute rigger must exercise the best judgment the rigger can summon based on experience and the information at hand.

Most professional parachute riggers would refuse to pack the parachute described in the scenario above, due to a combination of age, the size of the individual, and the potential use parameters.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pilot VS Parachute Size

With 250 pounds under a 22-foot diameter canopy, the pilot probably will drop from the sky at an excessive rate of descent. A common assumption in this situation is that it is unlikely he will need to use the parachute, but if he does, will it save his life?

Parachute Rigging Certification Specifications

The practical circumstances surrounding the above pilot's use of the parachute is at the maximum limits of the certification specifications of the parachute. If he does not eat a big breakfast or gain much weight before using the parachute, he might stay under the weight limit. The speed limitation will probably be exceeded on a regular basis during acrobatic maneuvers. If he needs to use the parachute at some point, there should be enough of a safety margin built into the design and testing of the parachute to be sufficient.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rigging Ethics

As parachute riggers gain additional experience, they are occasionally faced with situations that involve less than ideal circumstances. Some examples are: if a new jumper purchases old or damaged equipment that may or may not be airworthy, or if a pilot purchases an acrobatic plane that has a parachute that is far too small for his/her weight. These situations involve more than just the technical knowledge for a parachute rigger certificate.

In the case of the pilot above, depending on which TSO the parachute is certified, there may be a weight and speed limitation for the system. For example, TSO C23c category B has a limitation of 254-pound exit weight and a speed limitation of 150 knots. Imagine a pilot who weighs 225 pounds and his airplane regularly exceeds the 150- knot envelope during maneuvering. If this pilot brings a parachute to a parachute rigger for repacking, the first thing the parachute rigger should notice is the size of the pilot. When the parachute rigger inspects the parachute, he notices that it has a 22-foot diameter round canopy. The parachute rigger finds that with the pilot at 225 pounds, his clothes at 5 pounds, and the parachute at 20 pounds, he is at 250 pounds or just under the limit. However, in looking at the owner’s manual, the parachute rigger cannot find any information in the weight-carrying limit of the canopy. In addition, this particular parachute was made by a company that is no longer in business. The parachute appears to be in good condition visually but is 30 years old. In this situation, the parachute rigger is faced with a number of questionable areas that are detailed Rigging Ethics.


This part deals with the use of parachutes in the United States. The following areas are of interest to parachute riggers:
  • Main parachutes used for intentional jumping must be packed by the person jumping or by a U.S. certificated parachute rigger.
  • The auxiliary parachute must be packed by a certificated and appropriately rated parachute rigger.
  • If the parachute is made from synthetic materials, it must be packed within 120 days of its use. If it is made from materials subject to mold or mildew, then it must be packed within 60 days of use.
  • If a main static line is used, it must meet certain requirements as to its use and configuration.
  • An approved parachute is defined as a parachute manufactured under a type certificate or a Technical Standard Order (C-23 series), or a personnel-carrying U.S. military parachute (other than a high altitude, high speed, or ejection type) identified by a Navy Air Facility, an Army Air Field, and Air Force-Navy drawing number, an Army Air Field order number, or any military designation or specification number.


Section 91.307 deals with parachutes and parachuting. This section defines an "approved parachute" and states the repack time for parachutes. Both of these are of vital interest to the parachute rigger.


This part specifically deals with Airworthiness Directives (ADs). An AD is an amendment to the Code of Federal Regulations. An AD must be complied with before using an affected product. In the case of a parachute, when:
  • an unsafe condition exists in a product.
  • the condition is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type or design.
Under 14 CFR part 39, "No person may operate a product to which an airworthiness directive applies except in accordance with the requirements of that airworthiness directive."

In recent years, there have been a number of parachute ADs issued by the Administrator. These ADs prescribe certain actions to be taken by the parachute rigger in order to ensure the safety and function of parachutes that have been found in some manner to be defective. If the parachute rigger does not comply with the AD, the parachute rigger cannot pack, maintain, or alter the affected parachute. ADs are mailed to each certificated parachute rigger on the FAA listing. If the parachute rigger has moved and not complied with the requirements for an address change, the rigger may not receive the AD. This introduces an additional problem. Under 14 CFR part 65, subpart A—General, section 65.21, airmen must register their change of address within 30 days of moving or they are not able to exercise the privileges of their certificate.


A Technical Standard Order (TSO) is issued by the Administrator and is a minimum performance standard for specified articles, such as parachutes. It is important that the parachute rigger understand the TSO process and the various levels of TSO approval under which parachutes are manufactured. Every parachute rigger should read and become familiar with the technical standard orders for parachutes, the 23 series (C23b, C23c, C23d). This is important to the parachute rigger in determining certification compatibility when he/she is assembling approved components.


This part provides legal definitions for words and abbreviations under this title. One of the more important terms in this part is that of the Administrator. The Administrator is the administrative head of the Federal Aviation Administration or any employee of the Federal Aviation Administration to whom authority has been delegated. The parachute rigger is most likely to come in contact with two individuals who may act on the Administrator’s behalf.

The first is the Aviation Safety Inspector from the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) or International Field Office (IFO). This employee of the Federal Aviation Administration is responsible for enforcement of the Code of Federal Regulations in aviation matters. The Aviation Safety Inspector (airworthiness type) has jurisdictional responsibility in such matters as: compliance with the rule, approving data for major repairs or alterations, investigation of accidents, overseeing airshows and demo jumps, or any aviation related matter. The second is the local Designated Parachute Rigger Examiner (DPRE). This private person is empowered to conduct practical tests for the Administrator.

Parachute Rigger Regulatory Compliance

As with other airman certificates, there are additional parts of 14 CFR that are of direct concern to the parachute rigger in addition to those already mentioned. It is important that the parachute rigger have a thorough understanding of these parts in order to avoid any inadvertent non-compliance:

Responsibilities of A Certificated Parachute Rigger

Parachute riggers have a broad range of responsibilities that include facilities and equipment, performance standards, records, and use of their seal. The following describes the responsibilities of a certificated parachute rigger.

Issuance of a parachute rigger certificate is just the first step toward becoming a professional parachute rigger. As the uncertificated person gains experience packing, he or she should also begin to acquire an inventory of tools and manuals necessary to exercise the privileges of a certificate. In compliance with 14 CFR, section 65.127, there are several items necessary before the parachute rigger can exercise the privileges of his/her certificate. One of these requirements is a smooth table top that is at least 3 feet wide by 40 feet long; however, this is necessary only if the parachute rigger is going to pack round parachutes. With square reserve parachutes gaining widespread use in the skydiving community in recent years, some parachute riggers are specializing in packing only square reserve parachutes. A table can be used for packing this type of parachute, but the manufacturer may specify any smooth, clean surface with a size that accommodates the canopy. In this case, a clean, carpeted floor will do the job and a table may not be necessary. According to 14 CFR, subsection 65.127(b), the parachute rigger needs suitable housing that is adequately heated, lighted, and ventilated for drying and airing parachutes. This is subject to interpretation by the parachute rigger and the Administrator since the standards fluctuate based on location and time of year.

A parachute rigger must have enough tools and equipment to pack and maintain the types of parachutes for which he/she is rated to service. This may include only the basic tools of a packing fid, temporary pin, and pullup cord if this is all that the manufacturer says is necessary to pack its product. However, there is a broad selection of tools necessary for a well-equipped parachute rigger to possess. These are covered in detail in Hand Tools, Sewing Machines, and the Parachute Loft.

A number of performance standards are defined in 14 CFR, section 65.129 to guide the parachute rigger’s performance of the duties that fall under the certificate. The parachute rigger may not:
  • Pack, maintain, or alter any parachute unless he/she is rated for that type.
  • Pack a parachute that is not safe for emergency use.
  • Pack a parachute that is not thoroughly dried and aired.
  • Alter a parachute in a manner not specifically authorized by the Administrator or the manufacturer of the parachute.
The last item in this list is one that has been abused by many master parachute riggers over the years. The master parachute rigger must have Administrator or manufacturer approval, in writing, to be in compliance with this regulation.

Aside from the necessary tools, 14 CFR, subsection 65.129(f) states that parachute riggers may exercise the privileges of the certificate only if they understand the current manufacturer’s instructions for the operation involved. This means that parachute riggers must possess a copy of the instructions or have access to them during the operation. If they do not have a copy, but the owner of the parachute provides them, then the parachute rigger may pack or maintain the parachute.

A variation on this theme is accessing the packing instruction via the Internet. Many manufacturers provide manuals via their Web sites. If the parachute riggers do not download the actual instruction, they must show that they had access during the packing of the parachute. For example, a laptop computer may not have a printer attached, but could still meet this requirement.

Parachute riggers are not necessarily required to download the instructions to a hard drive or disk as long as they are able to access the manual in real time. However, if a problem is identified with the parachute rigger’s pack job at a later date, the parachute rigger would need to prove to the Administrator that he/she had access to the instructions. Without a hardcopy or downloaded computer files, it would appear that the parachute rigger had not met the rule requirement.

Once an individual obtains a parachute rigger certificate, it is valid for life unless surrendered, suspended, or revoked. If the individual intends to work as a parachute rigger and not just have the certificate, it is necessary that he/she maintains currency as a practicing parachute rigger. These currency requirements include at least one of the following.
  • Performing parachute rigger duties for at least 90 days within the preceding 12 months.
  • Demonstrating to the Administrator the ability to perform those duties.

Maintaining proper records of parachute rigger activities is an important responsibility. This is necessary for the protection of the parachute rigger, the user of the parachute, and the satisfaction of the Administrator. Under 14 CFR, section 65.131, certificated parachute riggers must document the packing, maintenance, and alteration of parachutes they have performed or supervised. These records normally are documented in a parachute rigger’s logbook. The following information must be documented:
  • Parachute type and make.
  • Serial number.
  • Name and address of the owner.
  • Kind and extent of work performed.
  • Date and location of work performed.
  • Results of any drop tests.
These records must be kept for a minimum of 2 years. Figure 1-7 shows a sample of a logbook page. In addition, each parachute rigger must note on the parachute packing record or data card [Figure 1-8] the following information.
  • Date and location of packing.
  • A notation of any defects found on inspection.
  • Parachute rigger certificate number.
  • Parachute rigger name and signature.

While not required on the data card, it has become commonplace for the parachute rigger to note the work performed as well. This is usually noted as A & P for assemble and pack or I & R for inspect and repack. Professional parachute riggers often use an ink stamp on the data card that indicates name, certificate number, seal symbol, and provides an area for signature. This allows the customer or other parachute riggers to read the name (some signatures are illegible) and to correlate the last entry with the seal on the parachute.

As noted previously, each certificated parachute rigger is issued a seal symbol with which each parachute is sealed once he/she packs it in a manner prescribed by the manufacturer. This ensures that no one tampers with the parachute and the owner knows that it is ready for use.

Alternate Means of Qualifying for A Parachute Rigger Certificate

Active duty military personnel and civilian personnel, who work for the military as parachute riggers, may qualify for a senior parachute rigger certificate under 14 CFR, section 65.117, Special Certification Rule. If they meet the practical requirements, they need only take a special 25-question test.

A senior parachute rigger applying for a master parachute rigger certificate only needs to take the oral and practical test. A person with 3 years’ experience as a parachute rigger, but not holding a senior parachute rigger certificate, must take both the knowledge test and the oral and practical test. Any parachute rigger, senior or master, who wishes to add additional ratings to his/her certificate, needs to take only a practical test for the type rating sought. No additional knowledge test is necessary.


If the applicant fails the knowledge test, he/she may retake the test under the following conditions: An applicant may apply for retesting by presenting his/her failed test report-

(a) 30 days after the date the applicant failed the test;


(b) before 30 days have expired if the applicant presents a signed statement from an airman holding the certificate and rating sought by the applicant, certifying that the airman has given the applicant additional instruction in each of the subjects failed and that the airman considers the applicant ready for retesting.

It is also possible for candidates who pass the test, but receive a marginal score, to retake the test with the anticipation of getting a higher score. In this case, the candidate must wait a minimum of 30 days from the date the last test was taken to retake a passed test. Prior to retesting, the individual must give his/her current airman test report to the proctor. The most recent test taken will reflect the official score.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Earning Parachute Rigger Certificate

When an applicant meets the requirements and demonstrates sufficient knowledge and skills as outlined in 14 CFR part 65, subpart F, the supervising parachute rigger (either a senior or master parachute rigger) "signs off" the trainee's logbook and provides a letter to the FAA, which will allow the applicant to take the necessary tests.

The applicant should take a letter similar to the one depicted in figure 1-2, the applicant's logbook, and any other necessary identification to the nearest FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) or International Field Office (IFO). An FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (airworthiness) will examine these documents for completeness and eligibility. The applicant will be asked to fill out FAA Form 8610-2, Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application. When the inspector has determined that the applicant is eligible to take the test, he or she will sign the FAA Form 8610-2. [Figure 1-3] Once this is done, the applicant may then go to any of the designated FAA airman knowledge testing centers to take the airman knowledge test.

The knowledge test consists of 50 multiple-choice questions that are not designed to be tricky or misleading. They cover all basic rigging and packing subject areas in addition to 14 CFR part 65 regulations. A minimum score of 70 percent is required to pass the test. The test is scored immediately on conclusion of the test and a certified airman knowledge test report is issued to the applicant. [Figure1-4 on page 1-4] After passing the test, the candidate may then make an appointment for taking the oral and practical portion of the test with a Designated Parachute Rigger Examiner (DPRE).
Under 14 CFR part 183, DPREs are master parachute riggers who have attended an FAA course and are authorized to conduct oral and practical tests for the Administrator. In many cases, these individuals are full time professionals who work in the parachute industry. Upon the successful completion of the oral and practical tests, in most cases, the DPRE will issue a temporary parachute rigger certificate [Figure 1-5 on page 1-5] and a seal symbol to the candidate. In some FSDO jurisdictions, the district office may issue the temporary certificate and/or seal symbol. The seal symbol consists of three letters or numbers or a combination of both.[Figure 1-6 on page 1-5] The seal symbol is very important; it will serve as the identifying mark for that individual parachute rigger, and is used to seal any parachute that he/she packs.

Eligibility and Requirements

To be eligible for a parachute rigger certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), individuals must be at least 18 years of age; be able to read, write, speak, and understand the English language; and comply with other requirements of 14 CFR part 65, subpart F, which governs the certification of parachute riggers.

There are two parachute rigger certificates available in the United States: senior and master. The senior parachute rigger candidate must pack a minimum of 20 parachutes of one type and be able to demonstrate the ability to maintain and make minor repairs. The master parachute rigger candidate must have 3 years of experience as a parachute rigger and have packed at least 100 parachutes of two type ratings in common use. There are four type ratings that may be placed on a parachute rigger certificate: back, chest, seat, and lap. Of these, the first three are used today. The lap rating applies to parachutes that are basically obsolete. A senior parachute rigger is considered a journeyman technician, and the master parachute rigger is considered an expert.

The two types of certificates differ in the level of experience and responsibility. A senior parachute rigger may pack, as well as maintain, a parachute by making minor repairs. A master parachute rigger has all the privileges of the lesser certificate plus the ability to make major repairs and alter parachutes according to approved data. A major repair is one that, if improperly done, can appreciably affect the airworthiness of the parachute. An example of this might be replacing a damaged canopy panel or altering a harness by changing the size of a main lift web. A minor repair is anything other than a major repair, such as a small patch on a canopy or the replacement of a defective or worn connector link.

Parachute Rigger Certificates

Parachutes intended for emergency use in civil aircraft in the United States, including the reserve parachute of a dual parachute system to be used for intentional jumping, must be packed, maintained, or altered by a person who holds an appropriate and current parachute rigger certificate. The certificate is issued under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 65, subpart F. These regulations do not apply to an individual who packs the main parachute of a dual parachute pack to be used for intentional jumping. These regulations also do not apply to parachutes packed, maintained, or altered for use of the Armed Forces.

Any person who holds a parachute rigger certificate must present it for inspection if requested by the Administrator or an authorized representative of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), or any federal, state, or local law enforcement officer.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Regulations and Human Factors

A parachute rigger has a critical responsibility to anyone who uses a parachute. For many, a special meaning can be attributed to ensuring the safety of a piece of equipment that may save their life or that of a friend. For others, attention to detail may keep a stranger safe during recreational activities, such as sky diving or other sport parachuting events. The Regulations and Human Factors explains what parachute riggers do and what is required to earn a parachute rigger certificate. In addition, the Regulations and Human Factors covers relevant human factor issues and ethical standards.

The term "parachute rigger" originally came from its use in rigging ships and sails. Those individuals who organized and repaired the sails, lines, and ropes of the ships were called riggers. When parachutes were developed in the early 20th century, the term came to refer to those who sewed the canopies and lines. The term eventually became used in conjunction with parachutes. In the early days, anyone with the knowledge of sewing and materials could make or repair parachutes. As the aviation industry grew and matured, the need for trained individuals to pack and maintain the parachutes grew as well. In order to protect the pilots and public who flew in airplanes and relied on parachutes, the Government began to license these individuals. Rigging then, in reference to parachutes, came to mean: the final adjustment and alignment of the various component sections to provide the proper aerodynamic reaction.

Parachute Rigger Handbook

The parachute rigger operational handbook introduces the basic skills necessary for acquiring a parachute rigger certificate. It is developed by the Flight Standards Service, Airman Testing Standards Branch, in cooperation with various aviation educators and industry.

The parachute rigger handbook is primarily intended to assist individuals who are preparing for the parachute rigger airman knowledge test and the oral and practical test. The material presented in the parachute rigger handbook is appropriate for senior and master parachute riggers. The parachute rigger handbook contains information on regulations and human factors, design and construction, materials, operations, inspection and packing, hand tools, sewing machines, the parachute loft, repairs, alterations, and manufacture.

The parachute rigger handbook conforms to training and certification concepts established by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). There are different ways of teaching, as well as performing specific rigging procedures, and many variations in the explanations of repairs, alterations, and manufacture of parachutes. The discussion and explanations reflect commonly used practices and principles. The parachute rigger handbook provides a basic knowledge that can serve as a foundation on which to build further knowledge. Occasionally the word "must" or similar language is used where the desired action is deemed critical. The use of such language is not intended to add to, interpret, or relieve a duty imposed by Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR).

It is essential for persons using the parachute rigger handbook to also become familiar with and apply the pertinent parts of 14 CFR and appropriate technical standards. Performance standards for demonstrating competence required for parachute riggers are prescribed in the appropriate practical test standard.

The parachute rigger handbook is available for download from the Flight Standards Service web site at The current Flight Standards Service airman training and testing material and subject matter knowledge codes for all airman certificates and ratings can also be obtained from the Flight Standards Service web site, as well as information about availability of printed copies.

The FAA greatly acknowledges the valuable assistance provided by many individuals and organizations throughout the aviation community whose expertise contributed to the preparation of the parachute rigger handbook. The parachute rigger handbook contains material and pictures of various products often used by industry. It is presented here as a means of communicating information to be used for training purposes only. The FAA neither endorses nor recommends any specific trademark item in the parachute rigger handbook.

The parachute rigger handbook is published by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Airman Testing Standards Branch, AFS-630, P.O. Box 25082, Oklahoma City, OK 73125. Comments regarding the parachute rigger handbook should be sent in e-mail form to AFS630comments' @ '

AC 00-2, Advisory Circular Checklist, transmits the current status of FAA advisory circulars and other flight information publications. This checklist is available via the Internet at