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So You Want to be a Parachute Rigger

This article is reprinted here with permission from Derek Vanboeschoten (derek@skyventurecolorado.com), Parachute Rigger, the Author. Thank you Derek.

So, You Want to Be a Rigger?

Parachute rigging can be a rewarding and educational experience. The more you know about your gear and understand how it works, the safer you are and can make better-educated gear decisions. Parachute rigging is serious business and is not to be taken lightly. Earning the Senior Parachute Rigger's Certificate is no easy task and symbolizes a tremendous achievement. The following is an explanation of the process to becoming an U.S.A. FAA Certificated Senior Parachute Rigger, from the minimum requirements to how to complete them.

Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 65 lists the requirements and privileges of a Senior and Master Parachute Rigger. Also, the, Airworthiness Inspector's Handbook 8300.10 , is the FAA's guide to Part 65 pertaining to Parachute Riggers and is a good source of information. Also AC 65-5B is available.

To be eligible to be a Parachute Rigger, you must be 18 years of age and be able to read, write, speak, and understand the English language.

The requirements to become a Senior Parachute Rigger are:

1. Present evidence satisfactory to the Administrator that he has packed at least 20 parachutes of each type for which he seeks a rating, in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and under the supervision of a certificated parachute rigger holding a rating for that type or a person holding an appropriate military rating;

2. Pass a written test, with respect to parachutes in common use, on --

(1) Their construction, packing, and maintenance;

(2) The manufacturer's instructions;

(3) The regulations of this subpart (Part 65)

3. Pass an oral and practical test showing his ability to pack and maintain at least one type of parachute in common use, appropriate to the type rating he seeks.

Completing these requirements will take commitment, time, and effort. The following is a guide to accomplishing each of the requirements.

Military riggers or former military riggers.

Special certification rule:

In place of the above, an applicant for a senior parachute rigger certificate is entitled to it if he passes a written test on the regulations of this subpart and presents satisfactory documentary evidence that he --

(a) Is a member or civilian employee of an Armed Force of the United States, is a civilian employee of a regular armed force of a foreign country, or has, within the 12 months before he applies, been honorably discharged or released from any status covered by this paragraph;

(b) Is serving, or has served within the 12 months before he applies, as a parachute rigger for such an Armed Force; and

(c) Has the experience outlined in #1 above.

In short, as long as they meet the requirements, they are only required to pass a written test covering FAR's Part 65 and Part 105.

Another option for completing the requirements and earning the Senior Parachute Riggers license is attending a rigging course. They vary in length and cost, but are usually 7-14 days long. The pass rate is generally very high at these courses, but they can be expensive. Usually there is a Designated Parachute Rigger Examiner, (DPRE) on staff. These courses are advertised in Parachutist and Skydiving Magazine. United States Academy of Parachute Rigging , Para Concepts , Action Air Parachutes , and Skydive Marana , are a few that offer a complete course.

1. Pack 20 approved parachutes-

The best place to start is with your rigger. Ask them if they are willing to take you on as an apprentice. You will need to order a logbook ( Para Gear , $9.75, Item #S7290, on page 165 of catalog #67) in order to keep the records required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Watching your rigger inspect and pack a couple reserves and studying the packing instructions will make it less painful when you inspect and pack your first reserve. Be sure to pack several different types and sizes of reserves and harness/containers.

It is a good idea to learn from a couple of different riggers too. Each rigger has different techniques and tips. Do your homework. Review packing instructions beforehand. Take full advantage of the time spent in the loft.

Don't buy any tools until you have inspected and packed several reserves into different containers. This will give you the knowledge to either decide which tools to buy and which tools to make yourself. Not only is making your own tools cheaper, but also you can make them to your exact specifications.

Begin collecting rigging information. Download manuals from manufacturers web sites. (A list of web sites is at the bottom of the page.) You will need the manual for every reserve canopy and the manual harness/container you pack. Also begin to collect Service Bulletins (SB's) and Advisory Directives (AD's) for gear. They can be found on manufacturer's web sites, the FAA's web site , the Australian Parachute Federation maintains a great list of SB's, and AD's. Parachute Industry Association contains links to manufacturers and SB's/AD's, and once you have your rigger's ticket, PIA has a Rigger's Forum . You can also e-mail, write to, or call a manufacturer and request a SB or AD be mailed or faxed to you. A must have for any rigger is Dan Poynter's Parachute manual , Volume I and II. They are considered the 'bible' of rigging. Also have a copy of Advisory Circular 105-2C .

You should also learn how to pack rounds, as you may be required to pack one for the practical test. Once you have your certificate, you can pack round reserves, found in most pilot bail out rigs. In addition to the 20 inspections and repacks, you will need to learn how to sew a patch, finger trap and sew hand tack, set grommets, perform maintenance, and know the FAR's pertaining to parachutes, Part 65 and 105.


2. The Written Test-


The written test consists of 50 multiple-choice questions. 2.0 hours are allotted to complete the test. There are no prerequisites to taking the written, you just have to pass it prior to taking the oral/practical test. The minimum passing score is 70%, the average score in 2002 was 89.91% with 182 applicants, and a 97.8% pass rate (178/182). You have 2 hours to complete the test. The good news is all the 290 possible questions are available at: Bank: (Parachute Rigger) Airman Knowledge Test Question Bank (249k), courtesy of the FAA. The bad news is that the FAA doesn't include the answers. Para Publishing offers study guides for the written and oral/practical which include the answers and explanations to the questions. The written test was updated on 6/9/03, and the study guide may not have been updated to reflect the new questions. The Parachute Rigger Knowledge Test Guide (40.5k) (updated as of October 12, 2003), is a FAA guide to the written test and includes contact information for the computerized testing centers. AFS 630 is the one-stop shop for links to Advisory Circulars, Airman Knowledge Test Questions, Airman Knowledge Testing Sites, Airman Knowledge Testing Supplements, Airman Knowledge, Airman Knowledge Testing information, Other Testing information, Practical Test Standards, Test Statistics, Training Handbooks, and Subject Matter Knowledge Codes. A test supplement with figures will be provided for the test. If you wish to preview it, it is not downloadable from the FAA’s web page. You may purchase it from Aviation Supplies and Academics, Inc (ASA) at www.asa2fly.com for $10.00.


The Airman Knowledge Testing Center Lists , computerized test locations. Call ahead to make an appointment. One option is LaserGrade Computer Testing. Their number is 800-211-2754. Call the actual testing site first for their site number. The cost is $80.00. You can also take the written test for free at your local Flight Standards District Office, ( FSDO ), but it can take 3 weeks to get the results as opposed to immediately with the computerized test.


You will need to bring a picture I.D. and the completed 8610-2 (signed by the FAA) to take the written test.


3. The Oral and Practical Test-


To take the Oral/Practical test, you will first need to get your supervising rigger to give you a letter stating that you have packed at least 20 reserves under their supervision and are prepared to take the oral/practical. Download and print out 2 copies of FAA form 8610-2 . Fill these out, legibly and without any mistakes, and take them, your written test report (with a passing score, of course), your logbook, a picture ID, a permanent mailing address, and the letter from your supervising rigger to your local FSDO . FSDO 's have tightened their security procedures. You will have to sign in and be escorted to the appropriate office. Call ahead, as an appointment may be necessary or make your visit easier.


The Parachute Rigger Examiner's Handbook includes example forms and guidance to the DPRE , for completing paperwork and administering the exam. A new (June 2003) FAA publication, Parachute Rigger Practical Test Standards (89k) describes tasks that can be assigned and the standards for each task.


Once you have the 8610-2's signed by a FAA official, find a DPRE . Click on the "DME/DPRE Examiners" button, select the state and click "search". Contact the DPRE and make an appointment to take the oral/practical test. Be sure to ask about cost of the exam, what to bring, and what to expect. Each DPRE is different, for example, some DPRE's do not require an applicant to pack a round parachute as part of the exam. Asking new riggers about the DPRE they were examined by and will give you an idea what to expect and which DPRE you want to test you. The DPRE will review your logbook, 8610-2's , and picture ID. Then the exam will begin with the oral questions from a bank of questions. The DPRE will ask you a few questions from each subject matter category from the bank of questions. If you do not know the answer to the question, say so, but be sure to say where you would look up the answer and be prepared to do exactly that. The DPRE may wish to make sure you know how and where to look up the information, and are willing to.


For the practical, be prepared to completely inspect a reserve canopy and container and pack it. The DPRE may have you repack your rig or may have you inspect and pack a rig they supply. You may have to demonstrate packing a round parachute. Be sure have the manuals for the canopy and harness/container and use the packing instructions. Take your time and do it right.

For the canopy patch, refer to patching instructions as you work. Don't leave anything to chance and don't rush.

The DPRE may have a few sewing projects for you. Make sure you understand what exactly the DPRE wants you to do.

If you pass, the DPRE will issue a FAA Form 8060-4, Temporary Airman Certificate, which is valid for 120 days. On it, will be your 3-digit seal code. This is the code that will be on your seal press. Your certificate number will be your Social Security Number, unless you request a different number. The FAA will mail you your permanent certificate. FAR FAR 65.21 specifies that if your address changes, you have 30 days to notify the FAA of your new address. You can mail in form 8060-55 or submit the new address online . You can purchase your seal press from ( Para Gear $59.75 Item #S7330, page 165, catalog #67).


So, now you passed and are now a FAA Certificated Senior Parachute Rigger, congratulations! Now the real work begins, knowing that other people's lives depend on your workmanship.


The Rigger's Creed-


"I will be sure- always. I will never let the idea that a piece of work is 'good enough' make me a potential murderer through a careless mistake or oversight, for I know that there can be no compromise with perfection."



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