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Published: May 14, 2019
Simply broken down, the skydiving process looks like this: an individual boards an aircraft, reaches the desired altitude, exits the plane, freefalls, and at some point, the parachute opens. As an extreme sport, each part has its individual intricacies, but have you ever stopped to wonder... who packed your parachute today? Let us explain.
Who Regulates Parachute Packing?
Your skydiving parachute is a complexity of fabric to fold and finagle. If you surmise, "surely, it's not a job just anyone can do," you'd be correct!
It's important to note that skydivers use a dual-parachute system and there are differences between each parachute. Each skydiving container contains both a main parachute and a reserve parachute. Because skydiving falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration, it is this government body who determines who may pack a parachute. The main parachute may be packed by a certified parachute rigger, a person under the supervision of a certified parachute rigger, or by the person who intends to use the parachute.
You can consider the main parachute to be the fun, fancy, and carefree of the two parachutes: its primary purpose is to provide you with a satisfying ride through the sky.
The reserve parachute's primary function is to be a lifesaving line of defense in the event of an emergency. And so, there are stringent regulations on who may pack a reserve parachute. The reserve parachute may ONLY be packed by an FAA-certified parachute rigger and must be inspected and repacked every 180 days.
Senior & Master Parachute Rigger Certifications
What qualifies an FAA-certified rigger to take on such a gargantuan task as the upkeep of a lifesaving fabric feat of engineering?
In the United States, there are two distinct rigger certifications: Senior Parachute Rigger and Master Parachute Rigger. Though a Senior Rigger is considered the "entry" version of a certified parachute rigger, their knowledge is anything but "introductory."
The designation of Senior Rigger requires an individual to complete a minimum of 20 reserve repacks on at least one type of reserve parachute. In addition to demonstrating competency with reserve parachute packing, a candidate must also demonstrate the ability to conduct proper maintenance and repair of parachutes. Finally, the would-be rigger must also complete a rigorous barrage of oral and practical tests. (Here's a link to the FAA Parachute Rigger Handbook, if you simply MUST know more.)
What is a Rigger Seal?
Once these parameters are successfully met, the FAA will issue the rigger a Temporary Parachute Rigger Certificate as well as a seal symbol. The seal symbol is a rigger-specific metal tag stamped with a combination of three numbers, three letters, or a mix of both. Each seal symbol triad is directly connected to an individual parachute rigger. Any reserve parachute that s/he packs will be marked using this seal symbol. The rigger's seal indicates that the reserve parachute beneath it has been inspected and repacked by an FAA certified rigger, and likewise, helps to instill a sense of confidence in the quality of the reserve pack job.
Even with the rigger's certificate, a rigger cannot simply rest on their laurels. The candidate will begin an apprenticeship, whereby they are watched and supervised by a Master Rigger. Through apprenticeship, the Senior Rigger will familiarize themselves with the plethora of parachute materials, constructions, and various parachuting systems. Only with three years of experience as a Senior Parachute Rigger and a total of 200 pack jobs can a Senior Rigger aspire to become a Master Rigger.
Parachute Packing at the Skydive Long Island Dropzone
As you can see, it takes a stone-cold pro to pack a parachute for a skydive. At Skydive Long Island, our seasoned and certified parachute riggers take their job seriously.
You can rest assured the parachute you're jumping has their seal (get it?) of approval! So what are you waiting for? Time to book your very own tandem skydive today!
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