I was recently reading a PD reserve paper and noticed that it was actually illegal to jump over the limit.
I think that is still highly disputable -- because there are different kind of limits. "Maximum weight" ON ITS OWN seems to have no legal definition and no validity as a legal limit. For a Raven 150 there are two "maximum weights", 153 lbs or 254 lbs.
Companies have generally never tried to enforce those lower kind of maximum weights, in effect encouraging jumpers to exceed suggested values. PD in the 1990s may have tried to keep Stilettos out of the hands of newbies, but they sure didn't stop anyone weighing over 125 lbs without gear from buying a PD 126. (Max weight listed in that era was 151 lbs.)
For Precision, those low Maximum Exit Weights (such as 153 lbs for a Raven 150) are actually listed on the orange warning label, making it look like it is the true legal limit. But then the wording on the label mentions TSO C23c Cat B's 254 lbs and states that "to lower the risk of death, serious bodily injury, canopy damage & hard openings, never exceed the following limitations".. after which that low 153 lbs number is listed.
That confuses the issue -- It is certified to 254 lbs but the manufacturer wants you to load it lower. But is that a legal limit or not? "To lower the risk of death", you could also keep parachute gear in the closet and not jump.
Is anything a company says about the reserve's use binding on a user, other than the TSO'd limits? They can dictate how a rigger packs it, but can they dictate what a jumper does?
PD's Reserve Manual says:
Exceeding the recommended maximum suspended weight may result in serious injury or death due to landing injuries. Exceeding the absolute maximum suspended weight is illegal, a violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations
Note the difference in terminology from the quote you found!
So there's a difference between RECOMMENDED and ABSOLUTE maximum weight. And nowhere is there an official definition for all manufacturers about maximum weight terminology. PD doesn't even use the exact same terminology from above, in the actual tables of reserves specs -- there one sees "max suspended weight" and "max suspended weight (TSO)".
In another PD document online (for PD reserve flight characteristics), there are again other words being used: Both types of weight are listed as "maximum exit weight" but with categories like Student, Intermediate, Expert -- and then "Max." for the actual TSO weight, without saying TSO.
So that shows ever for one of the top companies that puts out the most detailed info for users, there is no standardization of terminology, probably to some degree because there are no official FAA or PIA terms in use.
Conclusion: Unless someone can show that manufacturers' recommendations are legally binding on users (and I'm willing to learn about that), any statement of "maximum weight" is not legally binding unless it is the TSO'd weight.
(I'm not talking about what is smart or not, just what is legal.)
Companies have generally never tried to enforce those lower kind of maximum weights, in effect encouraging jumpers to exceed suggested values.
That my friends, is what you call "a leap".
Manufacturers placard their equipment with limits they have determined to be safe and/or maximums for TSO purposes. Enforcement of individuals who choose to exceed those limits would be impossible given the number of parachutes in use and the uncontrolled and undocumented nature of distribution among private owners.
Saying that manufacturers failing to attempt to enforce the impossible is the same as encouraging the behavior is absurd.
One problem, none of those tests would meet minimum TSO requirements. The airspeed must be at least 180 NEAS with a weight of at least 264 lbs. You can’t substitute weight for airspeed like in some of the older TSO’s.
I was seriously injured while crash-landing an air plane with "legal" seat-belts.
"Safe" refers to improving your chances of walking away from a landing.
All parachute manufacturers over-test reserves much heavier and faster than they expect them to be loaded during normal skydiving.
Then they de-rate the weights and airspeeds to those most likely to survive opening shock.
Then they further de-rate canopy placards to improve the chances of your ankles surviving the landing.
Performance Designs has two reasons to for placarding reserves. Their first motivation is to keep your ankles intact and the second is to cover-their-asses "legally" if you hurt yourself operating outside of placarded limits. As an aside, early Sabres (circa 1990) were placarded for only about 1:1 because back then, few skydivers knew how to flare canopies loaded more than 1:1.
Returning to the original poster: different generations of reserves tolerate over-loading to different degrees. If you load a Raven more than 1:1 you are "legally" exceeding placard limits AND you vastly reduce your "safety" (e.g. chances of walking away from a landing).