Chapter 1


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 below.


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.


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?


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.

 ©AvStop Online Magazine                                                                                                                                                       Contact Us              Return To Books

AvStop Aviation News and Resource Online Magazine

↑ Grab this Headline Animator