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.