The term “loft” comes from earlier times when the area used to pack and maintain parachutes was usually situated in the aircraft hangar above the aircraft. Hence, the term “loft.” The name has continued to this day and is synonymous with the parachute workshop.

Under 14 CFR, subsection 65.127(b), a rigger must have: “Suitable housing that is adequately heated, lighted, and ventilated for drying and airing parachutes.” Under 14 CFR, subsection 65.127(d), the rigger must have: “Adequate housing facilities to perform his duties and to protect his tools and equipment.” All of this only makes sense in that the properties stipulated are those that are best suited for storing and maintaining parachutes. Although these regulations have been in effect for over 40 years and were originally intended to apply to parachutes with organic fibers in them, they still apply today. From the practical side, keeping yourself and the parachute warm promotes efficient work habits. Good lighting means that you can properly inspect the parachute. Ventilated means that the parachute is properly dried before packing. Keeping your tools clean, dry, and serviceable means that you can do the correct job on the parachute.

Most individuals have been to automotive garages where there was oil on the floor and parts strewn everywhere. In contrast, modern professional garages sometimes look like hospital facilities in their cleanliness and organization. Where would you take your car? The same is true with the loft, as depicted in figure 6-83. A clean, organized, and welldesigned loft inspires customer confidence in the rigger’s ability to work on the parachute.

The loft facility houses the sewing machines and other equipment over and above the hand tools that all riggers should have. A full-service loft will have the following areas:

  1. Packing and inspection area. A main part of the loft layout is a suitable packing area. According to 14 CFR, subsection 65.127(a), the rigger must have: “A smooth top table at least 3 feet wide by 40 feet long.” Technically this is still required, and is used primarily for round canopies. However, with today’s square parachutes, the accepted practice is to pack on the floor on a suitable covering such as carpet. If the rigger is packing round parachutes, a packing table is a necessity as it makes the rigger’s job easier and more comfortable. If there is no packing table, then there needs to be an open area big enough to lay out the square parachute. While not expressly required, most lofts will have a canopy hanger [Figure 6-84] for inspection, airing, and assembling square canopies.

Along with the canopy hanger, an assembly and inspection table [Figure 6-85] is extremely useful.

It allows the harness and container to be assembled to the canopy without laying it on the floor. The assembly table allows the correct distance from the floor to mate with the canopy and provides an ideal storage area for the packing tools, wrenches, other equipment, and materials needed for assembly.Figure 6-86 shows a complete layout of the canopy hanger and layout table.

  2. Work area including layout tables and sewing machines. The work and layout tables are ideally 4 x 8 feet for optimum space usage. Any canopy layout can be done on the packing table. The work tables should be adjacent to the sewing machines for minimum walking distance between them. Many lofts will have a small table along the walls against which the sewing machines are placed. This allows storage of materials and other items needed during the sewing operation. The right end of the sewing machine table is placed against this table so that the left, or open end, is available to lay canopies or containers on.

  3. Harness table and machines. Because of the nature of harness work, there are many specialized materials and tools unique to harness work. The table [Figure 6-87] will house the hot knife, hot glue gun, templates, and rulers. The harness machine should be adjacent to the harness table for maximum efficiency.

  4. Cutting table. The cutting table is used for cutting canopy fabric for canopy repairs, para-pak or Cordura® for container repairs, or for cutting anything for general manufacturing. Ideally, this cutting table will have a glass surface for use with a hot knife. One of the best designs utilizes a 4 x 4 feet glass surface that is hidden below a wooden cover that can be removed when needed and protects the glass when not in use. This table serves dual duty as a work table. [Figure 6-88]

  5. Metal working area. It is important to segregate the metal working area from the rest of the loft. Because of the nature of the work, metal working creates considerable contamination with metal shavings and other particles injurious to parachute fabrics. The metal working area will have drills, grinders, swaging tools, Nicopress® tools, and other tools needed for repairing or overhauling metal components. [Figure 6-89] The grommetting area [Figure 6-90] should be adjacent to the metal working area, since several of the tools used to remove grommets will be found there. The grommet machine or handsets are kept in this area. Parachute containers or other parts needing grommets are brought to this area for work.

  6. Office area. The office area will handle the administrative and record keeping functions of the loft. It will have a desk, file cabinets, library or bookshelves, telephone/fax machine, and computer. All work orders will be processed through here.

  7. Materials storage area. The storage area may be a separate room, a pegboard [Figure 6-91], or cabinets on the walls where thread, tapes, and webbing are stored. Rolls of fabric may be stored under the work or packing tables or on wall racks.

All of the above may be practical for the full-time professional loft, but for the individual rigger there may be certain space constraints. Many riggers take over their garage, which makes a perfectly suitable loft with some cleaning and remodeling.

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