In the “old days” when military surplus equipment was
common, there were a number of alterations available to
make the surplus equipment suitable for sport use. Since
then, however, the sport has progressed and purpose-built
sport equipment is now the rule, so most equipment does
not need any specialized alterations for use. Most alterations
now deal primarily with harness size adjustments
for individuals, or they are designed to enhance the performance
of the parachute.
In the past, alterations were often done by well-intentioned
individuals who knew how to do them but in most
cases did not have the authority to perform them. The
common attitude was, “I’m a master rigger; I can do anything.”
As long as the work was done reasonably well and
no one got hurt, this was an accepted practice. While there
may be a few individuals who still adhere to that philosophy,
as a whole, the rigging profession is much more
aware of limitations in regard to alterations. Under Title
14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR), subsection
65.129(d), “No certificated parachute rigger may –
(d) Alter a parachute in a manner that is not specifically
authorized by the Administrator or the manufacturer.” In
today’s world, manufacturers are much more concerned
with the alterations being performed on their products.
With the advent of the Internet and other means of highspeed
communications, riggers have much more access to
the manufacturer and are more likely to communicate
with them as to what can be done. Also, due to liability
issues, many riggers are reluctant to undertake alterations
without the manufacturer’s approval.
What constitutes the manufacturer’s approval for an alteration?
To be safe, the rigger should always have something
in writing that specifically addresses the alteration
the rigger wishes to perform. There should be a two way
line of communication for this. One, the rigger should
specifically request from the manufacturer the authority
to perform the alteration. This should include serial number,
make, and model of the product involved, and a
description of the alteration. Two, in return, the rigger
should receive, in writing, authorization to perform the
alteration. The manufacturer specifies the form of this
authorization, but it should have the date, the rigger’s
name and certificate number, and a reference to the rigger’s
original request. This fulfills the requirements of the
regulations and protects both parties involved.
In certain cases, a rigger might want to perform an alteration
on a product for which the manufacturer is no longer
in business. This is commonly known as an orphaned
product. If this occurs, the rigger should obtain approval
from the Administrator. Refer to Advisory Circular (AC)
105-2—Sport Parachute Jumping. Alterations to
approved parachutes must be performed only by a certificated
and appropriately rated master parachute rigger, a
parachute manufacturer, or any other manufacturer that
the Administrator considers competent. To receive
approval from the Administrator, a person qualified to
alter a parachute would first contact the FAA Flight
Standards District Office (FSDO) to discuss the proposed
alteration with an FAA inspector. The inspector requires a
description of the proposed alteration along with a sample,
technical data, and proposed test data to ensure that
the altered parachute meets all applicable requirements.
After discussing the proposed alteration, the two parties
agree on a suitable plan of action. The individual then
drafts an application, in letter form, addressed to the local
FSDO. Along with the letter, the following information
needs to be attached:
1. A clear description of the alteration.
2. Technical information that includes drawings and
photographs, materials used, stitch patterns, and
location of altered components.
3. A means of identifying the altered parachute such as
model and serial number and identification of the
person having performed the alteration.
After the inspector reviews the application, if he/she is
satisfied, he/she indicates approval by date stamping,
signing, and placing the FSDO identification stamp on
the letter of application. Upon receiving this approval, the
master rigger can then perform the alteration.
7.5 The following are alterations found in Section 5
of this chapter. (* Denotes approval needed by the
Administrator or the Manufacturer)