Chapter 1 — Introduction

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. This chapter explains what parachute riggers do and what is required to earn a parachute rigger certificate. In addition, this chapter 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.


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. A sample certificate is shown in figure 1-1.


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.


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.


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