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.