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Gear Regulations for Parachutists Visiting the US

Federal Aviation Regulations covering skydiving operations within the United States were updated two years ago. One of the key changes allows the use of otherwise unapproved equipment by foreign parachutists. The new rule has received very little official explanation, and has created confusion among foreign jumpers and United States drop zones. Some drop zones treat the equipment of foreign visitors with open arms and an "anything goes" policy, while other drop zones strictly apply the relevant federal regulation (105.49). United States drop zones and visiting jumpers should understand what Federal Aviation Regulations actually require with regard to foreign equipment, and should be prepared to comply with those requirements. USPA has published a paper that outlines the specific regulation covering equipment use by visiting jumpers, and the complete regulation is readily available in the USPA SIM, and in Federal Aviation Administration publications.

Based on the USPA report, and original research, it appears that in order for a foreign jumper to use unapproved equipment in the United States the following FAA standards apply:

  1. The equipment must be owned by the foreign jumper.
  2. The jumper can NOT be a citizen of the United States, or a resident alien. A dual citizen (example: Canadian/US) must comply with the United States standards.
  3. Either the reserve or container must be UNAPPROVED. If both components are TSO'd and can be used in the United States by a United States citizen, then United States standards apply. So, a French citizen jumping a Javelin and a PD reserve in the United States must comply with all United States regulations, including a 120 day repack by an FAA rigger, with a seal applied to the reserve.
  4. If the reserve OR the harness/container is NOT approved for use in the United States AND the equipment is approved for use in the jumpers home country, it can be used by the foreign jumper/owner in the United States under his home country rules.

Understanding The Regulation:

FAR 105.43 requires that a reserve parachute and the harness/container must be approved by the FAA (TSO'd), and that the reserve must have been packed within 120 days by an FAA certificated rigger. This part governs parachute systems that are approved (reserve and harness/container).

FAR 105.49 allows a foreign parachutist to use his own unapproved foreign parachute system if it is packed "in accordance with the foreign parachutist's civil aviation authority…" and if the foreign parachutist is the owner of that equipment. This part applies only to foreign parachutists, and only to unapproved equipment.

FAR 105.3 defines a foreign parachutist as "a parachutist who is neither a U.S. citizen or a resident alien and is participating in parachute operations within the United States using parachute equipment not manufactured in the United States."

FAR 105.3 defines an approved parachute as "a parachute manufactured under a type certificate or a Technical Standard Order (C-23 series), or a personnel-carrying US military parachute…"

The key term to understand is "unapproved foreign parachute system"

The regulation that allows a foreign parachutist to use unapproved foreign equipment (105.49) is based on exemptions that had been granted under a previous version of part 105. The change to allow this use without an exemption was proposed and published in the Federal Register on April 13, 1999. In the preamble to the proposal the FAA stated the following: "The FAA proposes to permit foreign parachutists to conduct jumps in the U.S. using their own equipment provided that they use single-harness, dual-parachute systems which contain a non-Technical Standard Order (TSO) reserve parachute or a non-TSO'd harness and container…" The FAA repeated this position in the section-by-section discussion of the proposed changes under 105.49, saying" This proposed section addresses equipment and packing requirements for foreign parachutists. Only single-harness, dual-parachute systems which contain a non Technical Standard Order (TSO) reserve parachute or non-TSO'd harness and container would be allowed to be used in the United States…"

The FAA received several comments about the proposed rule, but incorporated the original proposal into law with only limited changes to the specific labeling of the regulation. The final rule was published in The Federal Register on May 9, 2001, and became effective on July 9, 2001. Thus, the stated intent of the FAA is to exempt systems from 105.43 that are owned by a foreign jumper and are at least partially unapproved, but to require the 120 day inspection and repack by an FAA certificated rigger if the equipment is entirely approved for use in the United States. There is some confusion in the language between the country of manufacture, and approval (TSO), but it appears that the intent of the FAA is to require the standard 120 repack by a rigger if BOTH the harness/container and reserve are approved under the TSO process, regardless of where they were actually manufactured.

Making Sense of The Regulation:

The FAA appears to be saying that if BOTH the reserve parachute and the harness/container are approved in the United States, then the FAA has knowledge of the equipment and believes packing should comply with 105.43. If either the reserve or harness/container is NOT approved, then the FAA does not know enough about the equipment to form an opinion about maintenance or packing, and thus the FAA defers to the jumpers home county civil aviation authority, as listed in 105.49.

What it Means:

Foreign jumpers visiting the United States with a reserve and harness/container approved for use in The United States (TSO'd) should be prepared to comply with United States packing requirements, including the 120 day repack by an FAA certificated rigger.

Drop zones should adhere to the foreign jumpers home country rules only if either the reserve OR harness/container is unapproved by the FAA, and the drop zone has a solid understanding of the rules issued by the foreign jumpers civil aviation authority.

Many drop zones are not familiar with FAR 105.49, and very few drop zones have direct knowledge of the civil aviation authority requirements of other countries. Visiting jumpers can assist drop zone owners by having copies of their home country requirements written in, or translated to English. The drop zone is responsible for making sure unapproved equipment is in compliance with the civil aviation authority of the jumpers home country under 105.49(a)(3), so foreign jumpers should be prepared to explain their local regulations and show at least this level of compliance.

All skydivers and drop zones should understand that a violation of Federal Aviation Regulations can be levied against the jumper, the pilot, the drop zone, or just about any other entity involved in the parachute operation.

Information Resources:

FAR Part 105

USPA Skydivers Information Manual with all relevant Federal Aviation Regulations and USPA policies:

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Federal register):

Final Rule with Comments (Federal Register):

> USPA White Paper on Foreign Parachutes

Tom Buchanan is a Sr Rigger, S&TA at The Ranch Parachute Club and author of the book JUMP! Skydiving Made Fun and Easy.

By Tom Buchanan on 2003-07-21 | Last Modified on 2017-01-17

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